Monday, September 21, 2009

Learning Who I Am in a 10 x 12 Room

"But today I realize I've never really known what it means to be Chinese. I am thirty-six years old. My mother is dead and I am on a train, carrying with me her dreams of coming home. I am going to China [...] I look at their faces again and I see no trace of my mother in them. Yet they still look familiar. And now I also see what part of me is Chinese. It is so obvious. It is my family. It is in our blood. After all these years, it can finally be let go."
--Amy Tan, "A Pair of Tickets"

The excerpt above is from Amy Tan's short story, "A Pair of Tickets," which discusses, among other things, the importance of setting, how you are and how you think can be changed, influenced, or defined by where you are.

As a first time, full-time professor, I know what Tan is referring to (to a certain degree). This may be a small thing to some, but this is my first semester where I have my own office. I do share it with an office mate, but I don't have an adjunct office that I share with a host of other people (and apparently, their students). I have my computer, my phone, and my desk.

I have a home base. And to my surprise, I am a more efficient teacher. The day is much more controlled; I rush less. And I get more work done sooner. I cannot completely attribute this to an office: I have fewer classes (but oddly enough am paid more)and am more experienced. But having somewhere to keep my stuff and somewhere to go before and after class makes teaching easier.

So, although I'm not Chinese and my office is not the city of Guangzhou, and more efficient teaching does not compare to uncovering part of my heritage, I'd like to think that what I'm learning this semester is helping me discover at least part of the identity that will allow me to become the great teacher I know I can be.

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