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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Two down

Another decent day, all going smoothly. I was particularly happy with the short story class. I did give them a tiny raft of shit about the fact that more than half of them had not checked their student e-mail, had not downloaded the reading journal form--and consequently had not, as I instructed, brought it to class with them. I told them I was disappointed, told them that if it were a 101 class, I'd have made everyone without the journal leave--a little muttering under the breath about that--but then I just put them in groups and had them start talking about the story, which everyone had read (or at least said they had, and from the conversation, I think that was true). There were a few students who were brand new to the class (and I regret to report but was curious to note, one of the new registrants did not show, so I'm going to have to figure out what to do about her next week, if she shows up at that point). But even the new students got into the spirit of the thing--and without my running the usual ice-breaker. I do want to do the ice-breaker with them on Monday--mostly because that's how I get to know all their names, but also because it does help them feel a sense of comradeship in the class.

However, as I said, they did great with the discussion, even without that ice-breaker. They had some really great questions, ideas, responses to the story (Ursula K. Le Guin's "Ile Forest")--the whole experience was generally very different from when I teach it in 102, and much more positive. Cool ideas coming up, like what's the difference between facts and truth, why do we forgive one person for a horrific act of violence and not another, what makes a person lovable.... Cool stuff. I'll be interested to see what they think of W. P. Kinsella's "Dance Me Outside," which they're reading for next week. It's a much more simplistic story in a lot of ways, certainly not as lyrically descriptive (and written in a very distinctive narrator's voice, that of a poorly educated kid living on an Indian reservation in Canada). I now rather wish I'd assigned a different Kinsella story, though the one I'm thinking of breaks my own heart to read: still, it's a little more mysterious in its effect. Ah well.

Today's 101 went fine. The students seem pretty lively, got into discussion well enough. I also loved that they felt sufficiently comfortable to tease me a little about what to call me: after the name game, in which I refer to myself as Tonia, they asked first if they should call me Professor Payne, then if they were allowed to call me Dr. Payne (this arising from the joke I always make during the first class, that it sounds like a wrestling name, and that some students have been known to spell it "Pain," which is even funnier). I said yes, they should call me Professor, and if it turns them on to call me Dr. Payne, then sure. I think they thought of the "turn on" in a more sexualized, sado-masochistic way than I intended (given the "Pain" joke), but they laughed, I laughed: all good. And some of the "bits" that I did with the classes yesterday, I did again, and they worked just fine (no lead balloons, thank god).


I am deeply grateful not to have to teach tomorrow: my body's been a little out of whack since Sunday, and it will be nice to be able to lie about like a flounder for a day and still have the full complement of days away from campus before I have to gear up again. But I'm also grateful that we get to drop into the normal groove now, so I can start to learn the pattern of classes and rooms as part of my muscle memory as it were. And so we can get into the nitty-gritty of teaching and learning: I realize, yet again, that all my bitching aside, all the difficulties and challenges and despairs notwithstanding, I do love this profession, this process. How lucky I am to do something that matters to me as this does--and get paid for it.

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