It is good for blog posts to have images. Here’s a LOLcat meme I made. I’ll explain more about this later.
Five years ago I stepped down from chairing the ERWC program and officially retired. However, I enrolled in what CSU calls the “Faculty Early Retirement Program” or “FERP.” This allowed me to teach half-time for five years, but those five years are up. I thought that I would spend those years teaching fun courses like Science Fiction and Fantasy. I also thought that I would be teaching face-to-face. However, the rhetorician we hired to replace me left after less than two years, so I ended up teaching writing courses and seminars, whatever the department needed. And then there was the pandemic. I learned how to teach online, in Blackboard and then Canvas. I got pretty good at it. All in all, not what I expected, but interesting.
I have done a lot of things. I have washed dishes in a convalescent hospital, delivered newspapers, worked as a shipping and receiving clerk, driven a delivery van, worked for an insurance company, and loaded trucks for United Parcel Service. My first teaching job was at Cal State L.A. teaching ESL in the American Culture and Language Program (ACLP), an Extended University program started by a Lithuanian married to a Korean. I’ve tutored writing and taught Basic Writing, Freshman Composition, and Professional Writing courses. I started two University Writing Centers, one at Cal State L.A. and one at Cal Poly Pomona, and directed each of them for nine years. I was Secretary, Composition Coordinator, and then President of CSU English Council. I chaired the ERWC task force and then the Steering Committee for 15 years. In 2010, I stepped down from the writing center and began teaching full time in the English and Foreign Languages Department.
In the English Department I taught 16 different courses, including some that I took over in emergency situations. I took over the myth course when the professor had to go in the hospital. I learned a great deal about Ovid’s Metamorphoses and the Norse eddas, staying about one or two myths ahead of the students. Near the end of my last semester, one of my colleagues who is in the Navy Reserve was called up for deployment and I was asked to take over his “Bible as Literature” course. That course was about as far out of my area of expertise as it could be, but I agreed. Fortunately, they had already finished the Old Testament. The instructor found some audio files of lectures he had recorded in spring 2020, when we all had to suddenly go online, so I edited these and turned it into a flipped classroom with online lectures and in-class discussion. It was actually fun.
What to Do Now?
I have been teaching for forty years or so. Now I am not. So what do I do?
I have been writing science fiction stories. I actually sold one. I will continue to do that.
I have been playing guitar since I was in high school. I also play cajon and banjo (a little). I will continue to do that.
I intend to keep posting to this blog. My intent from the beginning on this site was to demystify theory and turn it into usable concepts and strategies for teachers and students. I want to continue to do that. Right now, I am interested in applying the theories of Mikhail Bakhtin, particularly his concept of “heteroglossia” or “multi-voiced discourse,” to 1) issues in quoting, paraphrasing, and using sources and 2) related issues in the creation, use, and interpretation of internet memes. Trading memes is as natural as breathing for the average internet user, but they are rhetorically complex and an interesting aspect of digital culture to explore. There are many possible projects for students. Perhaps a mini-module is in order.
I also want to work on strategies for teaching science fiction and fantasy stories.
Back to the Meme
Back to the meme, as promised above: In researching memes, I came across a description of the genre of LOLcat, so I decided to try my hand at creating one. My first effort said “You gots a problem with this?” and “I doesn’t care.” That version was pronounced “lame” by my friend’s granddaughter, so I changed the text. I fear, however, that the young lady’s judgement will be the same, if not worse. In a previous post, I created a Doge meme, another specific meme genre. It seems to me that part of being a rhetorician these days is playing with concepts and playing with technology. I will continue to do that too.
One Last Thing
When creating teaching materials, it is the classroom that keeps us grounded. I will be out of the classroom, at least for a while. Because I am not a high school teacher, I have always relied on solid feedback from high school teachers to improve my materials. I need it even more now. Suggestions, comments, complaints have always been welcome, but will be even more so now.
One thought on “What Is the Meaning of Retirement?”
Looking forward to the future posts, especially Bakhtin.
The internet is a funny place. My dad was an alum of Cal State LA. I think he would have been working on his 31 years of high school English / Reading lab / Work Experience / Math teaching before your 40 years of teaching even began. And yet, now that I have learned this, it makes me still happier to be following your blog.
Best wishes on the retirement.