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Thursday, December 8, 2016

When the Lunkheads catch fire...

The title of this post calls up a rather odd visual image, but today I want to celebrate the fact that two students I had pretty much given up on as lunkheads have suddenly started to catch on, to light up, to think and work... and it's wonderful.

One is the student who was in my office on Monday; he hasn't finished the novel yet, but he says it's not confusing--and he found a critical essay that he wanted to talk about. We talked about how to use critical material, and he's very excited about the possibilities. I reminded him that he must have his own ideas first; he can't use the critical material to do all the thinking. But I believe he understands. He asked if use of material like this was done in any other academic disciplines, and I assured him that it is, with slight variations. For instance, I said, in a psychology class, you might read and talk about something written by Freud--but you might also refer to things that others have written about Freud's work, and I used the terms "primary source" and "secondary sources"--and I think he got it. Very cool.

Even more exciting, however, is the student in the SF class I mentioned a while back; he was one who expressed interest in possibly taking Nature in Lit, much to my amazement. To my further amazement, he liked The Word for World Is Forest so much that he picked up The Dispossessed--and he's liking it: "So far, a good read," were his exact words. His reading notes have taken an exponential turn for the better--not only in terms of what he does on his own at home but also in terms of the notes he takes in class--and today, Hosanna!, he actually had things he wanted to say in his group, not only to his group members but to me. And when I asked him to talk about his idea with the class as a whole, he did. He was truly, completely lit up with excitement about the reading, the ideas, getting it, thinking, o such joy!

This, my friends. This is why I teach. This. Yes, the interactions with the brilliant students are great. I met with the student who had to withdraw from 102 but who is my next potential cat sitter--extremely bright, intellectually avid, concerned about the world, all the things we love to see in young people. It was great talking with her, truly a delight. But she'd do fine whether she ever encountered me or not: she's got good strong wings and can take flight on her own. But that young man in the SF class? I did that. It's not entirely my success, of course: if he hadn't done his part, it wouldn't have happened. But the grain fell on fertile soil, and it took time for it to break through, but it's growing--and I created the conditions in which that could happen.

It doesn't get better. It truly doesn't.

I started the day with an observation of one of my most bright and charming colleagues, and I met with the adjunct I observed on Tuesday, a meeting that went well. I just finished writing up that observation, a good solid thing to mark off the "to-do" list.

I'll be back tomorrow morning to work with Cathy and Bruce on adjunct schedules, so I won't stay longer tonight. I have canceled my violin lesson for tomorrow (since I didn't practice at all this week, a lesson seemed pretty pointless), and it will be too cold to ride, so once I finish with the scheduling, I plan to stay in the office and mark the homework I've collected the last two days, write up this morning's observation, and have the decks completely clear for the onslaught of essay grading next week. If I can get all that done tomorrow, I even have the rest of the weekend to work on pulling together the spring Nature in Lit--and the online edition. (I've given up on finding the book and folder; I'll reconstruct what I had to the best of my ability and get all the signatures again next semester.)

It was a good day. I'm happy. Immensely tired, but happy.

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