Attitude issue

Starting late and feeling grumpy when I began preparing for the Tuesday classes, I finally gathered the momentum and raced to the finishline.

Deep down, I hate it that I’m wasting a full day from my own writing. Then as I dived in, I learned so much, from structure to the actual delivery.  However, there is only so much time. I wish I could be more generous to my students. And yet, I have to set boundary to avoid burnout or overwork…

Last week, some students told me how they wish I were their teacher all along. Some teachers use the same deck for different classes to kill time and possibly murdered more than a few students’ future before the big launch.

That I will never do.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

 

The day after

My bones are aching. My mind is unfocused. My throat is sore. My neck is stiff…

No, I didn’t run a marathon yesterday. I taught for six hours plus the four-hour commute.

Today I didn’t do much. Although I disliked it, I had to obey the signals from my body. Maybe I just lack training. Maybe my body isn’t used to standing for long hours. Maybe my tongue is shocked to cope with the long period of talking.  Or maybe it’s just that nothing in the face of the earth is ever easy. “Step in my shoes and walk a mile.” I did and now I’m band-aiding the blisters…

I grew a new understanding of something I haven’t done before, a new sense of appreciation for the teachers out there.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

First day as adjunct

I got up at 4:50 this morning to catch the school bus in DTSH. I got there around 6:15. The shuttle was supposed to drive out by 6:50. I’ve got plenty of time. Wrong. It took me exactly 25 mins to find out exactly where the shuttle should be. One bus after another, I tried to locate the right one by asking the drivers. None of them were what I was looking for. I tried to call the driver, who can’t pick up, of course… By 6:46, I gave up. I panicked. I imagined I got fired even before I got on-site. I couldn’t reach anybody else from the college. It’s too damn early otherwise.  But lo and behold, exactly one minute later, my shuttle arrived…

By the time the school bus arrives at the building I teach. My phone reads 8:10.  I checked with one student and she pointed me the one. I’ve got exactly five minutes to dash up three floors in my medium block heels. And I did it in two. But it was the North Side. My class was on the South Side… Time was lenient on me. I got into the other side. And was still one minute before the class started. But I gotta pee. A class of students already packed the room… 

I began to work my way in… Some helper sent in the adapter for my MacBook. Then the sound didn’t work… I called IT… Then he had to pull out the desks on the first row… Then I realized that I ran out of water but I was too thirsty…  Then I realized that my body started to tremble because I decided to dress for the occasion instead of the weather. I assumed that the AC would be hot enough for my kind of LA winter wear… But no, the AC was not on and the class faces north. The sun doesn’t get a chance to sneak in…  Because of the constant chaos, I didn’t give the class any breaks. By the time the class was over, my hands were stone cold.  As for the evening class, I ran into a similar but lesser technical difficulty. But since I got my shares earlier, I developed a better coping mechanism already. These are hardly complaints, because I can’t remember being upset. I accepted the fact and tried to resolve the issue… (Maybe the meditation is working its magic dissolving my Wrath tendency.)

So what about the classes? What are the college freshmen like nowadays? We are more than a decade apart! That’s wild to think about. 

The first class: meh. The students took the class because they were told to and they have to. And they are from other departments. This is just an elective. A student even texted me that he stayed in another classroom for three hours and just realized that it was the wrong classroom. I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt earlier but I didn’t give him a easy pass earlier. But now come to think of it, the guy’s too much of a smartass in this day and age with smartphones.  And here’s the thing, even though 80% of the class wasn’t listening. They were playing with their phones during the whole time. I still had a good time with those 20%. I focus on them. I don’t waste my time on the 80%. Like a standup comic stepping into a room full of drunkards, I’m there to entertain the few sober patrons and the bartenders. And it’s a great exercise for my ego too. 

The second class: yeah! The students are there to learn because it’s part of their majors (even though China doesn’t have Screenwriting MFA so to speak). I’m getting used to the silent treatment by the Chinese students. But when asked, they engage. And now, my students (wow, how important-sounding it feels…) are starting to speak up. Bit by bit. Step by step. Apart from the screenwriting basics I shared, two things I felt struck a cord with them as I saw they nod almost in unison. a) Don’t do your homework for me. It’s for you. It’s for the benefit of your future. b) Write less. Not more. Chinese teachers are famous to assign homework that begin with “no less than xxx words.” — so that they have no more words to hide behind. 

I could have ended the class earlier but I didn’t. I remember Jiro, the sushi master’s example. So I didn’t cut my own slacks. I’ve prepared this much and I would go the distance. I asked my students not to cut corners. So I would set my own example. 

We finished right on time at 9 PM. The student applauded enthusiastically for my class. I guess I blushed a little. A sense of recognition I didn’t see it coming.  They shared and compared notes in the WeChat group voluntarily.  I confess that I underestimated these young folks enthusiasm for screenwriting. 

I got home way past 11 PM. And I still feel buoyant. I didn’t know that teaching can be therapeutic… 

 

Yours truly,
YZ

 

Dear public school teachers

Are all probably starving to death if they play by the book, and stick with the system.

So, I’m still preparing the notes for the Tuesday classes.  Again, I underestimated how much time it’s taking me… Before I agreed to teach, I already knew the pay was going to be petty and pityful. It’s basically is a joke. And the joke turns into a tragedy after the 20% tax. And I thought California’s tax was high. Boy was I wrong.

Anyway, since I’m not doing it for the money, here are my main goals:

  • To hone my skill as a presenter;
  • To refresh and enhance my screenwriting know-how;
  • To talk to more strangers and see what happens;
  • To get a repitorior of materials to reuse elsewhere;
  • To study the younger generation up close;
  • To collect new story materials.

I confess that the joy I get from this teaching gig isn’t terribly high. I have to guard my own writing time ruthlessly so I don’t lose focus.

A a writer, perspective is crucial in creating compelling characters. Right now I’m growing a new perspective as a teacher, and how she actually and really feels about her job, especially as an adjunct professor… A lot of times it’s not that the teacher doesn’t want to teach. She wants to give you all she’s got, she does, but she can’t splurge her time when she has to take on the second, or even the third job to pay bills.

First things first. A man’s gotta eat, you know.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

PS. 20%?!  Socialism my ass.