I generally dread Mondays and Wednesdays, as my classes are generally so inert, but today wasn't half bad. There was almost no one in Advisement, so I managed to whack through most of the M/W 101 papers--a process made easier by the fact that I have to comment significantly less on the final versions--and I'm reasonably sure I can get them all done, plus all the homework for the poetry class, and probably get a start on the papers for the T/Th 101 tomorrow.
The only fly in the ointment about tomorrow is that I have to leave my car in the shop tonight: I'm hoping they can fix what's wrong with it before I have to head off for class, but if not, I'll have to either rent a car or use a car service to get to and from work.
I let the 101 go very early today. There wasn't a lot of discussion going on--though I was happy to note that two students who have not participated much if at all before actually had something to say today. One of them was Miss Confusing; the other is a young man I've identified as one of the possible sources of whatever negative vibe seems to affect the chemistry in the class. He seems very grim and moody, but his facial expressions were more relaxed today, and he did have some good contributions to make. Still, the class is just pretty flat in terms of interactions. Wednesday, I'm going to start working with them in a circle. There are so few of them--eleven--that groups don't make much sense, but I need to do something that generates a little more interaction. I find that when students actually face each other, they're (usually) more likely to open up.
That was the case with the Poetry class--at least before class actually started. The one young woman who suddenly has started to speak up in class, who came to see me in the office, was sharing her tale of woe about a couple of her classes, and the other students were empathizing. She was one of the best contributors to today's class discussion, in fact: it's lovely to see her blossom.
One young man in the class, however, was once again apparently zoned out and falling asleep--and at the beginning of the semester he'd been alert and actively engaged, so at the end of class, as students were filing out, I told him that I was worried about him. It turns out that one of his cousins died unexpectedly two weeks ago--and that he's extremely close with his cousins, feeling about them more like they're siblings than cousins. I could see the grief on his face, and I could hear him trying not to cry. And I know what it is to be hammered by grief: even when the crying stops (as he put it), it's like there's an open drain at the bottom of one's pool of energy, and the energy just constantly leaks out, leaving not enough to concentrate, or do more than the most basic of functioning. He wants to try to pull it together, and I hope he can--but he was genuinely grateful and moved that I noticed he was struggling and cared enough to talk with him about it.
I keep thinking of one of the professional development events I went to years ago, one that specifically addressed student disengagement, and the guest speaker noted that often what we read as resistance or lack of interest is actually a problem that the student doesn't know how to handle, or how to talk with us about. If we open the door--even simply by saying, "I've noticed that you're not turning in work; what's going on?"--they often will reveal whatever it is that's getting in the way, and often they'll be motivated to try to turn things around and do better.
From the first class, I've had a very warm reaction to the young man in poetry. He's not the type one would look at and stereotype as a lover of poetry, but he's got it in his soul, if not his intellect, and I love having him in the class. I hope he can pull it together; I'm definitely rooting for him.
Now, however, I'm going to pack up whatever I need to take home so I can work while the mechanics have my car. It did occur to me that I might cancel the class, but I want to get the students set up for the preliminary version of their second essay, so I want to be with them tomorrow. I also really enjoy that class: I bet we'll have plenty to talk about during the class period, and it's very likely that class will run the full period, even though we're only discussing a very slender article.
But that's tomorrow. Tonight, I need to get the car to the shop and myself home. See you on the flip side (as they used to say, referring, I assume, to vinyl records...)