Sunday, July 21, 2013

Back to Essay Writing

One of my goals for this year is to spend some of my writing time on essays. I've spent the last few years focused on poetry only, but essays (particularly memoir/narrative pieces) have always been my other area of interest as a writer. I took creative non-fiction classes in both undergrad and graduate school and always enjoyed them.

My goal is going pretty well at the halfway point in the year. I've generated various ideas for essays and I've completed one and I'm halfway through a second. My first one was just published last week at The Rumpus.

I'm very proud of this piece for so many reasons. The essay is called "Surviving a For-Profit School" and discusses my experience teaching at one for four years in Orlando, Florida. I spent my four years at the school not publicly discussing it. I never posted on my blog, on Facebook, on Twitter, or in any of my bios where I worked. Mostly because I was embarrassed. I had to put it on my resume, but, other than that, I've kept where I worked fairly private.

This essay has given me freedom from that experience. It truly felt good to write it and share the truth about what so many of these schools are doing, but the essay is also about what so many of us face in the humanities. The job market is grim and I had little choice but to work somewhere that I didn't believe in. I felt forced to be part of the problem. I know I'm not alone. There are many good people who work at that school and at others like it.

I know there are probably some people out there that are very angry that I wrote this essay and I'm glad if they are. I'm not the only voice out there talking about for-profit education, and I'm not the only one speaking out about the school I worked for, but more people have to be willing to join the conversation and address the effect these schools are having on the overall education system.

I've been gone for nine months and I feel like my old self again. I'm happier. I'm not angry all the time. I'm not depressed. I'm making a whole lot less money, but I don't care. I like where I work and I believe again that I'm helping students.

Since the essay was published, I've gotten a lot of messages from people who either attended a for-profit school or have taught at one. The messages have been great and have all thanked me for writing the piece. I've never had such a reaction like this one to something I've written (at least not this quickly). I'm glad the piece is connecting with people and informing them. This gives me a boost to keep working on essays.

-Stephen (Survivor)

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