Teaching Assistant

I had this kid at TCC (remember TCC?!  JEEZ, it feels like AGES ago!)…

I adored this kid (who I’ll call Will here; I can’t seem to find any previous reference to him on the blog in which I gave him a pseudonym, so Will it is).  When he was my student at the college, he was great.  He’d sit in the back of the room, but he was not hiding or goofing off back there; in fact. he was someone I could always call on when the discussion came to a screeching halt and know for sure that he’d have something good to say.  He had this sort of quiet charm about him; he had a sense of humor that was sharp and quick and quietly riotous, and I remember smiling a lot when he was around.  He’s the inspiration for one of my favorite teacher stories*, and I’ll never forget the day he worked out why my email address was Mrs. CHILI**.

(Chili, Honey, you’re drifting… c’mon back….)


Will friended me on facebook a while ago, and I knew he was working in the slam poetry scene, so I invited him to come and talk to my students last semester as we prepared for the Poetry Out Loud competition.  He frickin’ RockedTheHouse.  I was incredibly, inordinately proud of him.  I also saw that all of those wonderful things that make Will Will are still firmly in place and have, in fact, gotten better over time.

Fast-forward four months.  During April break, my cell phone rang.  Will was calling, and he told me that he was interested in doing more than he was doing with himself (he supports his poetry habit by being a pizza guy).  The time he spends in classrooms (both mine and in other schools) running poetry presentations and workshops totally hooked him, it seemed, and he was interested in seeing if he could get a gig in a school.  He was essentially asking if he could shadow me for the rest of the year.

I jumped ALL OVER that.  I drove immediately to Carrie’s house – completely disregarding the fact that we were on vacation and taking enormous advantage of the fact that she and I are friends – and asked her if it would be okay for me to take Will in as a TA for the rest of the school year.  She thought that was a great idea, and was agreeable to the thought of trying to get him a poetry class in September, teaching as an artist in residence.

Will’s been in my classroom since the Monday we got back from vacation, and it’s been a blast.  He’s an absolute natural with the kids – he’s young, so they are already pretty comfortable with him, but he also commands a respect from the students that I envy because he doesn’t really seem to have to work at it much.  He’s articulate and observant, creative and thoughtful, and he’s got a solid-gold work ethic that I’m desperately hoping the kids notice – he does the homework and completes the reading assignments and shows up every day even though we can’t pay him (though we are trying to throw as many substituting gigs his way as we can).  We are still working hard to get him that poetry class next term, and Carrie mentioned to me that she’s trying to make a part-time position for him on top of that where he monitors kids as they take computer classes (we have no language teachers, for example, so the kids get their foreign language credits through Rosetta Stone, and there needs to be a grown-up keeping track of all that; we want that to be Will’s gig in September).

I want nothing more than to get this man into a teacher certification program.  He needs to be in the classroom.

* Will was in one of my first composition classes at TCC and, at the end of the course, I required that the students turn in 10 pages of their writing, along with a reflection, that demonstrated their growth as writers over the course of the semester.  As I’m explaining this, Will’s hand goes up in the back of the room.  “Yes, Will?”

“Mrs. Chili, there are 22 kids in this class.  If we all give you 10 pages, that’s 220 pages for you to read.  Are you telling me you’re REALLY going to read all that?

“Will, Honey; if you write it, I’ll read it.”

(incredulously) “Okay.”

Around about page 6 of Will’s portfolio, there’s a sentence that went something like, “The theme of the – Mrs. Chili, are you still reading this? – story is a combination of keeping and letting go…”  I couldn’t finish grading that night because I was worn out from laughing so hard.

**at that time, that’s the email address I was giving kids because the TCC mail system sucked and I wanted to be sure they could reach me.  I’ve since opened a new account, though, because I don’t really want my students figuring out I keep a blog because, you know, I mostly write about them, and I often write about their stunning displays of dumbness, and even when I disguise their identities, they still know who they are…).



Filed under admiration, colleagues, fun, I love my boss, I love my job, success!, Teaching, the good ones

9 responses to “Teaching Assistant

  1. OK, that’s just cool. It’s weird the way some people get into teaching. And honestly, I think the weirder reasons for getting in pretty much do a good job.

  2. It’s completely awesome, Chris, and I know, without even a hint of a question, that this guy is going to be an amazing teacher. Honestly? He already is…

    I’ve got a post brewing about how grateful I am to be his mentor; about how I feel like I’m able to balance some energy in the Universe because I was so ably mentored, and I’ve wanted to be able to pay that forward. Will’s giving me that opportunity, and it feels really, really good.

  3. Kiki

    Ms. Chili, hold on to him. I’ve talked to him a few times and he seems really great. Too bad I haven’t had any time with him in the class room. You can bet on the fact that I will be harassing you next year (depending on my college schedule) to sit in on some of your classes.

  4. Kiki, you’d BETTER come back! I’m not ready for you to go yet…. ; )

  5. Darci

    I so wish we were on the same coasts as I would love to sit in your classes. Your style and passion is to what I aspire.

  6. I love this story; it is strange how paths are set. You just set one.

  7. Pingback: Fourteen « The Blue Door

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