Books That Influence You

Earlier this week I finally had the opportunity to ask one of our faculty members “the” question that I had been very curious about for some time; how did she become a teacher. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve talked with Beth Cummings, one of our Gen Ed faculty members many times before. Beth teaches Foundations of Writing I & II plus Composition; she is currently teaching Foundations of Writing II and will be teaching Composition in the Fall 2012 quarter. In visiting with Beth I’ve found that we share the same taste not only in coffee, but also in reading material. I think she’s so good at many different things; but I just couldn’t find a way to ask “that” question.
Visiting with her about the blog presented the golden opportunity. When I asked her what book influenced her, I was surprised at her answer. Her biggest “literary” influence wasn’t a book at all, but a magazine! Curious? Read on!
“I think I was born to be a teacher. I always knew that was the direction for me to go. I started very young. I don’t actually remember learning to read in kindergarten or first grade, but as soon as I had a handle on the process, I was passing on the information. Instead of “playing house” with my sister, Gail, who is 18 months younger than I, we would play “school” and I would be the teacher. To help her learn her alphabet letters and also to read, I would give her assignments to do using old Reader’s Digest magazines as workbooks. One particular assignment that we both remember was for her to study a page of print and circle all of the “t h e” combinations. In other words, circle every “the” on the page. She did it, too. When she started school, they discovered that she had already learned to read and so passed her on to the first grade after six weeks. My first successful student!
When my older daughter was about two, my urge to teach came back and I volunteered to teach reading to illiterate adults through an adult education program. I worked for almost a year with a woman who had previously picked out all of her groceries by the picture on the can rather than knowing what the words were. This program led me into teaching English as a Second Language to Refugees at a time when many Southeast Asians were being resettled in the Fargo-Moorhead area. I worked with Vietnamese, Lao, Cambodian, Chinese, Japanese, Polish, Eritrean, Afghani, and other language speakers. I did not speak any of those languages having taken French in high school and Portuguese in college. The experience of teaching English language (speaking, reading and grammar) as well as American culture was a most wonderful time. I felt I was learning as much from them as they learned from me and it was the kind of work I would have done for free, although I was being paid. While I was doing this, I also went back to school and earned a Masters in Liberal Arts degree.
All good things come to an end, and the refugee program was taken over by another area of adult education, so after twelve years, I lost my position and had to find other ways to occupy myself. These included working in the educational department of Prairie Public Television in Fargo for about five years and then going to the business office of Concordia College in Moorhead, MN, for the next six years. Then I moved to Sioux Falls.
I had an office position in Sioux Falls for several years, but it wasn’t turning out to be a very happy fit for me. I happened to read in the paper about an opening for an adjunct English instructor, so I applied. Now two years later I am very happy to be working at Globe University. Once again, I am excited to “go to work.” I don’t have to teach college students to circle the “the”s on a page, but I’m happy to help them improve their writing skills in order to be successful in their chosen fields.”
This was an amazing story from an amazing person! Now as I’ve said, I’ve spent the last few months rediscovering and revisiting all the books and other influences that helped me decide to become a librarian. Like many professions, librarianship is a delicate mixture of “science” and “art”. When you’re learning a profession, any profession, you learn the science; the “how do you do this”… part from books pretty much. The “art” part, your passion, the “I want to do this for the rest of my life” part is a whole different matter. I think you learn that from people who inspire you; really good teachers or a special family member. Now, I’ve found out that even magazines can influence you in your career choice!
What book or magazine influenced you the most to start your professional education or career?

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