I would say that the first week of classes went very well. The vagueness of that sentence pleases me in some ways. However, I shall get more specific.
My two sections of WR 121 at 8 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. both went smoothly on Tuesday. I had a lot of founded and unfounded fears about my first class because how could I possibly expect my 8 a.m. students to be awake at all? How could they possibly want to be engaged, nod their heads, laugh at my jokes, and have done all the reading? But in fact, they had! Now I’ve been told by a fellow MFA that the first two weeks of 8 a.m. classes can be great and then the rest go sharply downhill from there, but I’m hoping that’s not the case. And while the energy level may naturally decrease a little bit as we move further into the term, I will cling to my “good” students in that class, hoping against all hopes that they will continue to nod their heads, engage in good discussions about the books, and generally be alert in class.
I put the word “good” in quotations marks because I think it unfair to say that the students I like in my classes are actually good students or that they are the only ones. So by “good” I mean engaged and on-task. I know for a fact that other less-talkative students have done the reading and are paying attention, etc…. But there is something about that student who raises his or her hand at just the right times and has well thought out responses that just makes me happy and makes me want to label them as “good.” And I know at least most of why that is: because they are like me. As Lauren said yesterday, “They’re little Claires.” And that’s true. And as a general rule, I tend to believe that a person is often repulsed by certain aspects of themselves that they see in other people, but the characteristics that make up a “good” student must not be them. Although, the students that do raise their hands a few too many times do irk me a little, not because I don’t want to hear their responses but because I want everyone else to have a chance. And I know I was that student, the over-eager hand-raiser who just couldn’t help herself.
I feel as if I’ve given my 9:30 a.m. class short shrift. They are a good class. All of them showed up both days (in my 8 a.m., five were absent the first day), and while they would rather smile instead of laugh and be silent instead of talk, they seem to be alert. I was pleased yesterday at the nice discussion we had about Richard Rodriguez’s “Aria: A Memoir of Bilingual Childhood.” They had a variety of ideas that came at the piece from different angles. I had been teasing them and calling them my quiet class and then I praised them as my talkative class. I know they have it in them; I would just like at least a few more courtesy laughs throughout the class 🙂
But overall, I know that I’m already enjoying teaching a lot more than last term now that I know what I’m doing. My examples in class are more tightly focused as are our discussions of the readings. I’m more aware of making sure everything relates to the first essay they’ll be writing, whereas before, I didn’t really know what that essay would look like, so I didn’t know how to prepare them for it very well. So I’m much more excited about this term and feel so much more at ease with my lovely freshmen.
The two classes I’m taking also look to be very interesting, very unlike the kinds of classes I took at Texas Tech. I learned no theory there, not even a hint of it, so in Ahearn’s “The Pleasure of Reading” class, the main textbook by Robert Alter really touches on New Criticism and New Historicism and actually is a reaction to the “disappearance of reading” as literary critics move away from examining texts to just using texts as a platform from which they can explore or pontificate about any issue under the sun without having to have actually read the book. So it should be quite interesting, as shall Helle’s “Literature and Pedagogy” class. Me, Lauren, and Isabelle have signed up for the first presentation, so we’ll see how that goes.
Off to read more for both those classes and do a little grading of informals and freewrites for WR 121.