by Andrea J. Moss, 1984 *
Teacher Holds On To Family Tradition
For someone who never wanted to be a teacher, Elinor Flewellen, associate professor of English and American Ethnic Studies, is entering her 22nd year in the profession.
“I was determined not to be a teacher,” Flewellen said firmly. “I’m not kidding. My father teaches and my two sisters became teachers. I was determined not to carry on the tradition so for years I didn’t teach.”
However, when Flewellen, who is in her 11th year at Santa Barbara City College, says she didn’t teach for a while, she is excluding her experience with the military. That is, she taught the use of electric accounting machines in the Armed Forces and to executives at the Naval Supply Base in Bayone, N.J. That was about 25 years ago, she said.
After that she taught with the Navy and Air Force. Later, she explained, she moved to Missouri and became the director of teacher certification at the University of Missouri at Kansas City. While she was there a woman who was the head of the English department at Prairie View A. & M. University in Prairie View, TX approached her.
“She knew that I had received my master’s degree from New York University and asked me what I was doing in this job,” Flewellen explained. “She wanted to know if I was interested in teaching. I told her I had never taught before, but that didn’t matter. She wanted me to sign a one year contract for teaching at her school. I agreed and ended up staying there for five years and I loved every minute of it. So my first boss was a woman and I got hooked.”
Since then Flewellen has worked in six universities and community colleges combined. Of her teaching career she notes that she has spent 10 years in four year colleges but prefers two year colleges because they offer a greater freedom to choose what the teachers may do and teach.
At the two year colleges, Flewellen said, teachers choose what books are going to be read in a particular course while at the four year colleges this isn’t necessarily true. Not having to choose text books relieved Flewellen of some of her responsibilities, she said, but she enjoys selecting her books.
“I try do what I think a teacher should do and that is to acquaint students with the wisdom of the ages,”Flewellen said. “This is my field. I try to do this with good books and I want to encourage students to think for themselves. Education is meant to develop insight – for the benefit of the students – into the self and the world.”
When she was in college, Flewellen said that she was never the type of person who spoke in class. She said that she would only speak when she was called on or when the conversation needed help.
“Though now I talk all the time,” she laughed. “Those of us who teach communications believe in verbalization. I think that I am painfully honest, but I try to cool it until I find out who is in my class. I think that I might intimidate some people.”
Flewellen, who is currently teaching two English 1 classes, English 24 (American Literature) and English 2, explained that before she begins a course she has to organize all of the curriculum. And no matter how many times she has read a book, if she is going to use it in one of her classes, she reads it again. This way, she said, she is fully prepared.
“I feel like I have to move toward the class,” Flewellen explained enthusiastically. “A class paces itself. I’ll push a little of course, but the class must pick its own pace.
“My teaching style most resembles my favorite instructor. He is a veteran of World War II. This was at Bishop College in Dallas, TX (where she received her B.A. in English). His style was very good. I really like him. He didn’t use notes which is the pattern I follow.
“A student paid me such a nice compliment the other day. He came up to me after class – this was an older student – and said ‘I wanted to say that I like the way you think’ and this was a very nice thing to say and hear.”
Aside from teaching, Flewellen said she would like to try her hand at writing. Though she writes now it is for herself and not for any sort of publication. She explained that she loves spending her spare time writing and of course reading. She doesn’t socialize because when she has free time, Flewellen said there are other things she is interested in doing – by herself.
On her list of extracurricular activities, Flewellen said that she has recently been asked to be a consultant for a publishing house. This, she said, will probably be for a variety of books of which she has a knowledge of the subject matter.
English, however, is not the only area Flewellen keeps attuned. Politics is something she likes to keep abreast of and very clearly states her opinions:
“As far as President Reagan is concerned I don’t trust him. I didn’t vote for him, I never will and I just don’t trust him. I find him insulting. He doesn’t think that we know what is going on. It seems as though he is constantly trying to pull the wool over our eyes.
“He has not generated any hope. He cares nothing for the human issues such as the poor, racism, the environment, etc. He is too busy trying to fill out. I mean somebody else’s but not mine, pockets. Reagan is so concerned with money it is as although he doesn’t realize that money isn’t everything.
“I can’t help but worry about his attempt to dislodge the civil rights gains. He doesn’t seem to care …people never had civil rights… already killed affirmative action
“Though when I think . . .Johnson announcing his candidacy for presidency I am happy that…long enough to see a black man . . . don’t know how far he will . . .good to see him running.
“Unfortunately I don’t . . . country is ready for a black . . .I don’t think it ever will be . . .probably a woman before we … as president, but this country . . . for that either.”
*The Channels, Vol. XXV, No. 16, Feb 24, 1984, p.6.Channels photo, Laszlo Hodosy.