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Five Down: My first week and a half as a TA

September 3, 2009

by Rick Raab-Faber, CF

So here’s the sweet part of being in The Program. I’m getting paid to get a degree. The rub? I have to teach classes in freshman English. Me. The guy who, when standing up in front of the assembled 8 peers in my C&J class to read a paragraph I’d written, did not breathe the entire time and almost blacked out. The guy who nearly projectile vomits at the thought of public speaking. That guy. Yet, the powers that be in UNM’s English Dept. thought I could stand up in front of 20 or so kids who I knew would all be way hipper than me and would totally mock me for the poseur I am.

poserWorse yet, I agreed. I figured, what the hell. They know better than me, right? I mean they’re all PhDs and MFAs.

I started the first class by fessing up to my imminent apoplexy and kept on trucking. And I’ve done it for Five sessions now at eight o’clock in the morning and it’s gone well. I threw in a little writing exercise where the students had to write a paragraph describing me. They almost all used words like “Confident” and “Knowledgeable” and “Caring.” (Suckers! My evil plot is working.) Despite the ungodly — and I use that term in its most demonic sense — hour, the students are well-behaved and (mostly) alert. The two bits of advice people have given me have certainly paid off: “Remember that you know more than them” and “Always check your fly before class starts.”

That being said, I’ve really enjoyed it. Our orientation team was great and left us well-prepared. Plus I’ve got none of the slackers I’ve heard about in the afternoon classes. I could see myself doing this after graduation — in between writing my third novel and doing rewrites on the screen adaptation of my life story, of course.

The trick, it seems, is to remember we are here, as MFA students, to write. I guess I do envy the kids who don’t have to rely on a TAship to afford the program. Oh the things that I could do, I think to myself. But, like reading slush for Blue Mesa, or taking a lit class, immersing yourself in the teaching of writing opens up new ideas about the process of writing. In short, telling others how do do something makes it more concrete in my mind. And, oddly enough, I think you come away from each day’s class with this one thought, “Holy Crap! I really did learn something as an undergraduate!”

I’ll be interested in seeing how my time-management skills hold out. (As well as my enthusiasm for teaching!)

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3 comments

  1. I too envy any snot nosed kids with a trust fund who don’t have to work, or TA… where are they anyway? I am funding my own MFA with a job.

    Great update! thanks for sharing!!! –Jenn


  2. By “snot-nosed”, we, of course, mean “brilliant, sensitive, and the ‘voice of their generation’.”


  3. Hey Rick! Great to read of your new life as a teacher! I suppose your history of other creative ventures prepared you well for this new angle. Best of luck to you (in keeping your Freshmen awake! I remember those days!!).



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