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Monday, January 25, 2016

Well, that was sort of useless...

Afternoon classes were held, but about half the students in both my classes were not there, so even though they weren't cancelled, we're still off to a pretty bumpy start. I hope I can get everyone up to speed--or (in the case of the 101) off the boat--soon. Good news is that the "add" period ends tonight at midnight, so after today, my rosters can only get smaller. Of course, I spent a lot of time making photocopies for the 101 in anticipation of a sudden influx of students, and there were six--of thirteen--students who either hadn't been on the roster last week or who hadn't bothered to come to the first class. Technically, there are 23 students in the class... We still managed to have a discussion of sorts, but not as lively as I'd hoped. Maybe Wednesday will be better, when there are more bodies in the room, especially more who have had a chance to prepare for class.

I'm hoping tomorrow will be better, as the roads gradually clear. It is a bit of a mess out there.

Even with the low attendance in the Poetry class, that went better than the 101. It's partly the nature of the beast: students in lit electives have been more thoroughly acculturated to the academic world--and my hunch is that most of the students in the class are in it by choice, not because it was the only option left that fit their schedules. They did some very good work on "The New Colossus" (Emma Lazarus) and "The Unguarded Gates" (Thomas Bailey Aldrich), though we just started on the latter. We'll finish that one--plus "Richard Cory" and "Credo" by Edwin Arlington Robbins--on Wednesday. I'm sure they'll have a lot of questions/concerns about their responses, too, but that's great.

One student in the Poetry class stood out in particular today. We started by talking about what they'd put in their self-evaluations and responses to my handout about how to read and analyze poetry--and she admitted that the fact that there can actually be incorrect interpretations of poems makes her hesitant to try, for fear of being wrong. But she said that right after another student (who also seems pretty sharp) said that what stood out to her in my handout was that it's OK to be wrong: the process of the attempt is what matters, not whether it necessarily leads to the "right" result. Yes, I told them all, make mistakes. Push past that fear. Pour your brains out onto the page, including your efforts to make sense of things, even if you never get to a satisfactory "answer."

At the end of class, I told her she doesn't have to worry: in fact, she's reading the poetry very well, with intelligence and attention to detail. She said that she'd also made the confession in her self-evaluation: she is actually already a teacher, teaching "special ed," but that she wants to get certification in English as well, and this course is part of that process for her. At some point I'd love to talk with her about how our experiences as students inform our decisions as teachers: she may find it very useful, professionally, to remember her own fear of being "wrong."

I'll also say that one of the new students in the 101 is off to a great start. He e-mailed to ask about course materials, and he's very eager to share his ideas in class. He's got a lot to learn about paying careful attention to the actual language of what he reads, instead of jumping to an assumption about what it must mean (what he expects it to mean), but he seems delighted to be faced with that learning curve: he talked to me after class to say that he feels this class is going to offer exactly what he needs. I'm always a little leery about that sort of statement: too often students will say something like that and then crash and burn--but I'll hope he follows through, and that his enthusiasm manifests itself in good work on the assignments.

Even though today was a little flat--especially in comparison with what I got out of the T/Th class last week--I still think there are some good minds in the class, very possibly enough to make it work fine. I won't know for sure until the attendance settles down and the chemistry can start to cook, but both 101s may be ... well, I was going to say "fun," but that might be an overstatement. But the discussions might be lively and energizing, not just for the students but for me.

We'll see.

I'm going to blast myself out of here early (for me) tonight: not only do I want to get home before the roads freeze up but I have to get up early the next two mornings so I can be absolutely sure to make it here a few minutes before 10. Tomorrow I have a meeting about putting together a cohort of Honors students for mentoring/advising (despite the fact that one of the two coordinators has already decided it's never going to happen and we're wasting our time); Wednesday I have to be in Advisement early to make up for the hour when I could/should have been there today. They may have missed me, as there may have been a flurry of people trying desperately to change their schedules or add courses--but it was only an hour, so I'd hardly have made a dent in the mob even if I'd been there: by the time I got there and got myself set up and seeing students, it would have been time to leave.

But I still have to make up the hour. And I'll be making it up at a time in the semester when pretty much nothing at all is going on. Suits me: I'll mark the assignments I've collected and find ways to use the time productively for my own purposes.

So, freezing roads + early alarm = I'm out of here.

1 comment:

  1. Just finished rereading Mary Antin's autobiography. She became a close friend of Josephine Lazarus, Emma's sister, and the works of Emma helped shape Mary's cultural ideology of assimilation. Worth pairing with "The New Colossus."