Dear Hamline MFAC friends,
I’m writing you from HU 211 where I now teach English 101 twice, two days a week. The inner city campus of the local community college has somehow decided to welcome me on board. Just four blocks from my former art studio, the campus is one large system of buildings with a view of uptown from where I park my Soul in the back lot every Monday and Wednesday. My classroom is filled with the slim table desks and chairs, four posters of Frida Kahlo, a twenty-foot white board, and an ad from the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art exhibit from 1992. The lighting isn’t too terrible. The carpet is a nice gray check, and as they said when I first came in, I’m “exactly the kind of person they are looking for.” I have no idea what that means.
For six hours a week, I have to find something to say, something about writing. Looking into the vast subject of words and how we use them, I’m searching for all the unspoken things from my undergrad classes. What I say from week to week must build a bridge to a place that students may care to go. Students who overwhelmingly chose to write their first essays on why college is not really that important to getting a great job. Students who catch up on sleep outside the adjunct office, or watch TV by phone in between classes. Students who have said, they really like my class.
So every time I prepare for class, I ask myself what I’m going to say that’s worthwhile. Because I’m someone who loved to skip class, sneak out when the professor’s back was turned, write all my assignments at 2 am the night before without revising. There was the time I left class because the professor touched the end of his nose too often. A couple of times I skipped Ethics because the rather overheated professor like to raise his arms a lot. Once I even spoke loudly about a teacher’s pedagogy as he came up behind me on the sidewalk. If there is one thing I’ve come to recognize the last few years, is what youth really means. The hilariousness of it. The wonderful bliss of ignorance. The amazing aptitude for discovering something new.
Every time I prepare for class, I ask myself what I’m going to do to make it interesting. I remember the professor who introduced me to poetry. Writing a paper about that poem, changed the entire course of my life, made me who I am as a person, and continues to effect each and every thing I do: how I think, how I process, and how I chose to pursue my creative life. I remember the lectures that brought me to tears, made me wonder about the universe, or helped me understand just how little I really knew about the world.
Every time I prepare for class, I ask myself where I want these students to go. My answer: I want them to fly into the future on wings made of words, words made into sentences – sentences formed into a path they can walk on; into the place they were meant to be.
I guess I’m surprised to suddenly become an English Professor. I think I like it.
Polly Alice author and illustrator, opened New Thing Art Studio in 2015 back home in Kansas City– where she paints, illustrates children’s books, and teaches college writing. Her work is often mixed media. “I create my art to be more like poetry: to have symbolic meanings
layered from dream images and memories.” Her work centers on healing, small loves, and the every day. Polly is a proud Hamline MFAC alumna. She won the 2014 Ernest Hartmann award from the International Association for the Study of Dreams from Berkley CA for her research on self awareness for writers and artists through dreamwork. She loves letters. Write her anytime and you’ll be sure to get one back.