Name: Callie Kitchen
College & Majors/Minors: B.A. in English, M.A. in Rhetoric and Teaching Writing
Current Location: Merced, CA
Current Form of Employment/Job Title: Full-time Lecturer and Adjunct Professor
Where do you work and what is your current position? Please elaborate on your responsibilities, too!
I am a full-time lecturer in the Merritt Writing Program at the University of California, Merced and an adjunct professor at both California State University, Stanislaus and Columbia Junior College.
I prepare curriculum, teach various writing courses, grade essays, then grade more essays, attend committee meetings, and attempt to ignore social media so I can do all of it over again the next day.
Teach. Write. Repeat.
Tell us about how you found your job! How many places did you apply? What was the application process like?
After receiving my Master of Arts from CSU Stanislaus, the job application and interviewing process began. During this time, I began to experience an extreme allergic reaction to some unknown allergen. When I was called into my first interview, my eyes were bloodshot and after introducing myself I nervously made a joke about my red eyes and a certain recreational drug. You can imagine how much I regretted that statement. Apparently the interviewing board did not find my awkward comment to be too inappropriate and we continued the interview.
During the interview process, my interviewers asked several questions that I expected:
- What experiences have prepared you for this job?
- Describe your teaching philosophy.
- How would you handle an unruly student in your classroom?
Once the question and answer portion of the interview was finished, I began my teaching demonstration: a paragraph rearrangement activity. In another teaching demonstration, I used old advertisements to demonstrate how to effectively analyze an argument. In another interview, I was asked to grade and comment on a sample student paper in a short period of time. This particular activity was the most stressful experience I had during my interviewing process. You can prepare and practice for a teaching demonstration, but when called upon to assess an assignment that you are unfamiliar with, you must demonstrate composure and confidence.
Even though I am semi-secure in my current position, I continue to interview for other teaching positions as a form of self-assessment. The application and interviewing process forces you to constantly think about who you are as an instructor and what you can do to improve.
I was hired at five different college campuses the fall semester after my graduation. I accepted the teaching offers from four of those five. Before interviewing, I had taught three college English courses (each one during a different semester) at my Alma mater. I went from teaching one class a semester to teaching eight. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?
At the beginning of my first graduate class, my professor asked each of us to explain why we were there and what it was that we were working toward. I remember panicking. Everyone seemed to have well-thought-out answers, while all I could think of was how I probably should have brought a pen to class so I could actually write in my notebook. When my turn came, I was honest and explained that I had no idea what I was doing with my life or what I was working toward exactly. The professor moved onto the next student without comment.
After that class meeting, I felt humbled by my lack of self-direction and decided it was time to remember who I was and what it was that I wanted. Over the course of the next two years, I reconnected with my creativity and love of learning to implement unique and innovative teaching methods into my classrooms. In addition to building my curricula vitae by conferencing and attempting to publish, I made sure to stay true to myself by trying out new ways of teaching when they came to me.
One semester as a teaching associate found me taping fake leaves to the trees around campus. I had had students write fall-themed haikus on these leaves a few days before. We then walked from tree to tree reading one another’s creations. That moment, meandering back and forth on the grass with my students, solidified what exactly it was that I was working toward: more moments like that one.
Take risks and don’t worry if other people think you are crazy.
What has been the most surprising thing about being a teacher?
The most surprising thing about being a teacher is how many mistakes I make in front of my students. Whether it is tripping in front of my class while lecturing (I am up to twenty-two trips, but only one actual full-on-all-the-way-to-the-floor falls) or forgetting how to spell a word like physics (P-S-Y-H -No, that’s not right. Erase. Begin again. P-S-Y- No. Erase. Puts pen away. Pretends it never happened.) while writing on the board in my classroom, I have accepted the fact that I am human and that I am not always going to be the “professional” I once thought I was going to be. I should have learned this lesson on my very first day of teaching as a teaching associate when I wore two completely different shoes to my class and didn’t realize it until a student pointed it out at the end of the class. I have learned that being able to laugh at these mistakes is the difference between having an awesome teaching day and crawling up into a ball because you never want to face your students again. Don’t take yourself too seriously and definitely write down the unexpected things that seem to happen when you teach.