Wednesday, August 22, 2012

First Week Smiles

For three days I've been smiling, downright giddy, and deeply thankful that I have the coolest motherfucking job in the world. Even though I gave myself a ridiculous schedule, cramming three classes into my Mondays and Wednesdays, I find myself elated, energized, excited to be where I am all day long. And on Wednesdays, after teaching and my writing class, I get to come home, slowly chill, reflect, and begin a long weekend of work, writing, and of course, play.

Starts of the semester are always filled with a bit of awkwardness, an innocence before experience, and an expansive sense of possibility. Class periods are spent noticing the silences, finding ways to coax voices, beginning to establish community. It's not a quick process, and the more patient I am, the more present I am. Early in the semester, only good has gone on in class. I'm not feeling tired, not prone to any crankiness, and I believe that my students are right there with me.

And so the semester, just one week old for me, is off to a damn good start. Today, in my Comp I class I felt uber excited talking about rhetoric, thrilled when students understood the complexity of the relationships of purpose, audience, and context. They're engaged with analysis, able to read visual texts, and smart about the world. Even though I only had forty minutes after the class ended until my next class, I used that time to eat and chat with colleagues about a few things, rather than madly trying to answer emails in between bites of food.

In my Humanities class I did a brief introduction to the Romantic Era and then charged the students to embody the spirit of romanticism. That gave me permission to conduct class outdoors, in nature, and while there, they wrote and drew pieces inspired by the smells, sounds, sights, imagination, and anything else they individually channeled. When I gave them the opportunity to share, many volunteered. I closed class sharing my piece: "A Treatise on the Value of Outdoor Education." I received applause and walked back inside chatting with a student.

And to finish off my afternoon, my creative writing class began to dig into poetry, understanding that rhyme doesn't need to reign supreme. One of my favorite things is to have them generate a list of their favorite words and put one word from each student on the board without them knowing where the whole activity is going. Once all the words are up there, they are challenged to write a minimum of 16 lines using at least eight words. Today, the challenge included bamboozled, spontaneous, crunchy, motherfucker, tortillion, and remember. Again, I wrote along with them, sharing my piece at the end of class. The more I am writing with my students, the more vulnerable I am, the better the community and trust. Ultimately, this results in deeper learning for them and a more gratifying experience for me.

When I walked down the hallway after class and ran into my Dean, she asked if I had just come out of class since I was all smiles. When I got home, I asked Nan if she remembered me being that happy with my job. She replied that I am always like this at the beginning of the semester. Here's hoping the smiles last longer. For now, I will delight in the innocence and the promise of infinite possibility.


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