For the Love of Teaching
Chella Courington
Adele’s first teaching job after grad school was a one-year contract at Warren College, teaching women’s lit and writing. Still new to the classroom, she couldn’t believe she was being paid to do what she loved, at night lying in bed, thinking about Woolf’s “A Haunted House,” how she would start by asking students to write about their favorite ghost story then form a big circle for the question “How is Woolf’s house haunted?” Playing with images, passing around a crystal ball, flawless sphere where the students might see the apple in the loft, through the windowpane, or in the drawing room. This was interpretation, looking into the nature of imagination, holding it in their hands, entering its skewed space, the heat shaping their vision, shared with the rest of the class. And Adele would listen, their sibilants harsh then hushed, a stream of air falling at the teeth’s sharp edge.

To be a professor had been one of her dreams since college and now, thirty years later, to think of her life without teaching, without being sought by students, calling her Doc. An informal, almost affectionate title with enough suggestion to let them know she had done it, received her Ph.D. when many of her classmates never finished their dissertations. So much of her being defined by it all and to give it up, to leave students waiting outside another professor’s door, even the thought of not being there saddened her, emptied her of meaning, for she was a teacher, the very person she longed to be, someone her dad introduced as “This is my daughter. She teaches at Warren College,” and every time he said that, she felt something warm spread though her body, the joy she experienced because her father, the dad who grew up in a coal mine and struggled for a college degree, announced her to the world as his daughter, the professor. She wondered if she would be standing at a white board and just vanish into its space or would she begin to feel the pressure of ungraded essays more than the delight of being there and know then it was time.

First published: May 2015
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