by Kate Currie
Marissa and I have known each other for a few years. We met while we were both completing our BA in English and continued together in the TEACH Program at DePaul. We are both pre-service high school English teachers who will student teach this spring. We have been friends since the very first class we had together. We have relied on each other so much already and plan to continue supporting each other when we are teachers!
If you could talk with someone alive or passed that is not famous who would it be?
Kate: Can I pretend to be related to Eleanor Roosevelt? If not, I would talk to my grandparents. They all passed away before I reached adulthood, and I have so many questions for them. My mother’s mother was a teacher, and I have heard stories from her former students about how amazing she was. These stories make me miss her and feel immensely proud to be her granddaughter. I wish she were still here to see me begin my career as a teacher. My mom tells me constantly that I remind her of my grandmother, so it is fitting that we share a middle name! I think that as people embark on new journeys they want to know about their past. I know very little about my lineage and history, and I would love to talk to my grandparents again.
Marissa: I recently took at trip home to Colorado to visit my maternal grandparents. Louise and Stan Malnati were public school teachers in Denver and Golden counties throughout their respective careers, and getting their insight to my approaching year was invaluable. They both found success as teachers, but for very different reasons. For their differences and for their polar opposite advice, I relished the opportunity to be able to speak with them. My grandmother, an incredibly kind and patient woman, taught 1st grade until her and my grandfather had children of their own in 1960. My grandfather on the other hand, a quick witted and relentlessly sarcastic presence found success as a high school history teacher and tennis coach. While I was at home, my grandmother stressed the importance of structure, boundaries, and careful praise. She swears by time management and reinforcing good behavior with verbal praise (and even stickers). True to form, my grandfather insisted that humor is what saved his classroom. He told me about the many mishaps he had his first years of teaching, and he told me it was important to forgive myself for the mistakes I too would inevitably make.
K: I didn’t realize that we both came from teaching families– very cool! It is so interesting how much we have in common, but how different our experiences were.
If you weren’t going to be a teacher what would you be?
K: I think I would either go back to teaching horseback riding lessons, or I would have gone to vet school. I had to assist the vets at the farm all the time. I can give injections, remove stitches and know horse triage! I think this life experience would lend itself to vet school. I think it’s more likely that I would go back to teaching riding lessons. I am so passionate about the sport, and I love teaching people of all ages. Helping my students achieve their goals and come into their own is better than any personal victory I have ever had. My greatest memory of teaching riding lessons is watching one of my students that I had trained since she was very young win a regional championship. It was better than any ribbon I have ever won!
M: While I haven’t quite given up on the cowgirl astronaut dream, most other alternate careers seem far away now. There was a time when I truly believed that I was going to be an author. That quickly ended when I experienced the terror of not earning a steady paycheck. There was another time I was sure I would open my own cafe. This was of course before I realized that I was no good at interacting with surly customers, so I had to give that up too. I have played around with the idea of becoming a park ranger for a national park, and since I have yet to sustain a wild animal bite of any sort, I think this may still be on the table.
K: I am jealous of all of your alternate professions. They are so amazing! I think this shows both of our personalities. You are so creative and reach for the stars, I am practical almost to a fault. This is why I need you! You remind me to reach for the stars!
What is your first memory of me?
K: This is an easy one! We were both in Medieval lit and I knew that this was going to be the class that did me in! I was up to my eyes in literature I didn’t understand and you sat next to me that day. Our professor started reading in Old English, and I looked at you because I was completely lost. We had an entirely nonverbal conversation where we basically agreed we both had no idea what was happening, and that we would figure it out together. The second memory was walking into TCH 401 and seeing you there. I was so relieved that I knew and liked someone in the cohort!
M: I remember sitting in Renaissance lit and being SO THANKFUL that you were there to answer our professor’s terrifyingly long-winded and open ended questions. So many times I followed your lead with answers that were more meandering than her questions, and together, I think we did a fantastic job at filling the silence and confusion of that classroom. Same thing with Medieval lit. So many times I found myself lost and thinking about how many bathroom trips were appropriate during one class period. You acted as my translator for two classes that would’ve been unbearable otherwise. Of course when I saw that we were in the same cohort for TEACH, I was overjoyed. I was so glad knowing I would have someone with whom I could laugh and debate literature.
K: Haha! You are giving me too much credit! That was a heck of a quarter– probably one of the most challenging I’ve had. Thankfully we had each other!
They say opposites attract. In what ways do you think we are similar and different? British lit versus American lit, of course. I know who to go to with my American lit questions when I am a teacher! Our writing and reading styles are quite different, which is why I love talking about literature with you! Mostly you laugh easily and help me to keep things in perspective. I tend to take life too seriously, and you make sure I am not getting carried away. It’s like my own personal reality check! I think we are similar in the respect that we are passionate about literature and learning. We both want to learn things that are worthwhile and meaningful, which I hope will make us good teachers.
K: British lit versus American lit, of course. I know who to go to with my American lit questions when I am a teacher! Our writing and reading styles are quite different, which is why I love talking about literature with you! Mostly you laugh easily and help me to keep things in perspective. I tend to take life too seriously, and you make sure I am not getting carried away. It’s like my own personal reality check! I think we are similar in the respect that we are passionate about literature and learning. We both want to learn things that are worthwhile and meaningful, which I hope will make us good teachers.
M: Blake versus Whitman, of course, of course. Career in horses versus career in dogs. This stuff matters. Our list of differences is as long as that of our similarities. We write, speak, and analyze differently. We have different personal tastes in many things, and we have very different histories as students and people. But this is what makes our collaboration, in both a personal and professional sense, so worthwhile! Working on projects with you is fascinating because we each bring such a wonderful style to the table. I truly hope that we will be able to work together in a professional setting, because we are great at compromising and coming up with compelling and challenging material. But I have yet to ask– Backstreet or ‘N Sync? This could change things.
K: What if I said 98 Degrees? Seriously though it has to be ‘N Sync. Have you heard their Christmas Album? Quality music right there. However, I love myself some Backstreet Boys. In all seriousness– Boys II Men will always be the best!
What are you most looking forward to and most nervous about heading into student teaching?
K: I am looking forward to sharing what I have learned about literature with others. Also, I am looking forward to meeting new people and expanding my network of teachers and people. I think I am most scared of being average. The fear of being average is more of a life fear that applies to teaching. The last thing I want to be is an ok teacher, the teacher none of the kids remember, or want to try for. I think everyone has had that average teacher that wasn’t interesting or engaging, but wasn’t terrible either. If I’m terrible at it at least I know I need to make a change. Being average and living a life where I am mediocre is not something I am not interested in, at all!
M: I am excited to see what I’m made of. I want to know the kind of grit and strength that I have inside of me. I’m excited to see my future colleagues at work. I’m excited to become part of a community of people that can effect real, positive change. I’m excited to have an excuse to wear my Dansko clogs everyday (What? I have to. They’re comfy AND professional). I am afraid of many things as well. I’m afraid of failing. I’m afraid of not getting through to anyone. I’m afraid, as Kate said, of being average and doing average work. I am afraid of becoming consumed by this work and forgetting about my other life responsibilities.
K: Ah, yes. The clogs, of course! It’s a requirement. All I know for sure is that I am so lucky to be heading into this profession with such a wonderful friend!