I was 29 and started teaching in a very different environment than the community college. Here all my students were intentionally going to college for four years to study art. Because most of their parents had asked them “how do you expect to make a living as an artist?” few were being financially backed by their parents. This meant that when I started the average student was 24, had been working, and finally just had to follow their dreams. Tuition was very low in those days(as was the pay), so most students were able to fund their way through while continuing to work.
All but three of us faculty members were practicing artists with studios of their own outside the college. I think most of them were teaching to make a living so that they could be artists. The college prided itself, rightfully, that the faculty were active in the Portland art community, had regular gallery shows, and were rigorous in their critiques of student work. It was an intense environment, but the focus was on art making, not reading and writing literature.
My students were all in their first year, getting used to the idea that they were no longer the best artist in their class. Their curriculum was prescribed, very technical, and often designed to correct “bad habits” students had developed in high school art classes. I intuitively realized, without any real experience to back me up, that the last thing they needed was a traditional English class. They needed a chance to talk with each other, share ideas of things besides art, and write about their genuine responses to what they were reading. And so I designed a first year curriculum to allow those things. After all, I was only filling in for a year. Even if it was a disaster, I would be gone after that time.
And then my friend decided she liked staying home. And then my marriage fell apart. And then I needed a job. And so I returned for my second year of teaching.