“I majored in English and Theater. That means I know how to communicate.”
That’s what I told one of the vice presidents of the bank when I applied for their innovative, fast-track management training program. Picture me: twenty-two years old, recently graduated from college and surrounded by two hundred other hopefuls vying for one of the eighteen slots that would guarantee us a supervisory position at one of the largest and fastest growing banking chains in the Washington D. C. area. As I looked around me at the other applicants, I felt fairly sure that I was the lone English major there among those who had chosen to specialize in practical subjects like business and economics. Casual conversation with those sitting next to me seemed to confirm my worst fears. I felt like slinking out of the room.
In this week’s Recommended Reads post, Prof. JoAnne Ruvoli recommends My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff.
Come for the Salinger, stay for the squalor When pre-law English majors graduate, their families often give them Scott Turow’s One L as a gift and a preview of their future life in law school. English Education majors might receive one of the numerous memoirs about the first year of teaching in secondary schools such as Lou Ann Johnson’s The Girls in the Back of the Class, Samuel Freedman’s Small Victories, or Gregory Michie’s Holler if You Hear Me.
Joanna Rakoff’s My Salinger Year is a book for the rest of us who graduate with English degrees and seek meaningful work among books and literature. Set in the year 1996, Rakoff details the twelve months after she finishes her degree and moves to New York City to find fame and fortune as a writer. She lands a job at a literary agency, as a clerk who is tasked with answering the mail that arrives for The Agency’s biggest client—J.D. Salinger. It is an extremely low paying job, but somehow glamorous, except that it is the 1990s and the office does not have a computer. Those form letters that she sends in reply to the enthusiastic readers of Catcher in the Rye have to be typed. On a typewriter. If you have forgotten what the world was like before computers and email correspondence or if you wax nostalgic for the hum of the IBM Selectric, Rakoff’s memoir time travels to the era when the world was transitioning from analog to digital, from cream-colored stationary to pixels on a screen. The Agency operates as it has always operated—with typewriters, Dictaphones, and expensive letterhead. Rakoff’s desk sits in the dark, paneled office, lit only with table lamps, and each day she stares at the shelves lined with first editions of books—some of which are worth more than double Rakoff’s salary. The names on those books sitting just across from her are synonymous with American literature. Continue reading →
Teaching is part performance. To be an effective teacher, you need to be able to perform in front of people in a way that engages them and keeps them interested. Effective teaching requires skilled presentation, quick thinking, and frequent adjustments.
If you can think on your feet and work with diverse audiences, and if you can develop public speaking skills that help you maintain an audience’s attention, then you’re helping yourself as a teacher. A dash of humor doesn’t hurt, either.
Improvisational comedy works the same way. That’s why “The Upright Citizens Brigade Comedy Improvisation Manual” is so useful to my strategies in the classroom. Continue reading →
Morgan Aprill is an English literature student at Ball State University with minors in Spanish and professional writing. She is entering her senior year as an undergraduate at the university in the fall. In addition to her work on the “Digital Literature Review,” she currently works as a tutor at the English Department Writing Center. She is conducting a research fellowship with two of her professors about tutoring and composition in second languages, with hopes of publishing the findings in a peer-reviewed research journal. She is a recent recipient of the Carol S Chalk Memorial Scholarship awarded to outstanding tutors in the Writing Center.
I was approached by Dr. Kuriscak, one of my previous Spanish professors, and Dr. Grouling, the Director of the Writing Center, at the end of the 12-13 school year. As a Spanish minor, I took Dr. Kuriscak’s Spanish 202 class at the end of my sophomore year. Both professors knew I worked as a tutor in the Writing Center and that I was also in the Honors College, so they thought I was the perfect candidate for the research they were interested in pursuing concerning alternative tutoring methods. Dr. Grouling had been in conversation with Dr. Kuriscak about ways the Center could aid students who were working on writing for their foreign language classes. The professors came up with the idea of trying out a writing fellow who would work with Dr. Kuriscak’s Spanish composition classes. That’s where I came in.