Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Season of Reunions

October is (almost) here--one of my favorite months of the year. I love the changing seasons, and autumn shows us such a bright and colorful face. Add to the lush color the bite in the air, and a touch of wood smoke, and I am in heaven.

I signed up to teach a late start class this fall--and class started yesterday. We are a month behind all the other classes, but end at the same time. Consequently, course content is greatly compressed. Each class is 2 hours long, and obviously we are moving at a breakneck speed to cover all the material.

I always use a portion of the first class to cover the contents of the syllabus. I point out those things that I think are most critical for students to know about the class. I also confess to being as tough sounding as possible--that way the hangers-on (and there are always some) will shake lose and decide not to return. Partly to engage the students, and partly to keep them attending to the task at hand, I ask them what questions THEY have about the course. After I gather about a half a dozen questions, I then hand out the syllabus and tell them to start looking for answers.

Yesterday, one student asked one of the predictable questions. She asked--will there be a lot of reading. Another confession here--I wait for such questions. So, then I can stop, peer over my glasses and scrunch up my face and say --This is a reading and writing class, what do you think? OF COURSE we will do a lot of reading.

I have actually had students ask--will we have to write a lot in this class. Much hangs on the definition of "a lot." To me, writing four papers, each 4 pages in length, and one research paper of 10 pages is NOT a lot of writing. To students, that is the equivalent of having been sentenced to Siberia to work in the salt mines for the rest of their lives. They invariable groan and squirm.

The other favorite interaction for me is when I ask them to write on the spot an initial essay--that way, I have in hand an example of their writing without any assistance from any outside source. Not always, but frequently, a student will look around and say--does anyone have a pen or a pencil I can borrow. Another pause from me--and then I saw, this is a WRITING class and you came without a pen or a pencil.

I have just too much fun.

Anyway, the start of class reminds me that this is also the time of year that colleges begin to send out notices for homecomings and class reunions. My own alma mater is actually celebrating its 100th year of existence this fall.

Several years ago, I attended my college class 40th reunion. Thinking that 40 plus years has passed since I graduated from college always makes me feel--well, old. After that reunion, I came back home and sat down and penned a poem.


Class Reunion

At the fortieth gathering of the class of ‘66
The talk is less of remembering
Than it is of surviving.
We are done with warmed over reprises
Of night raids,
Of whatever happened to. . .
Our conversation now turns somber
As round we go with a catching up.

—Two years ago I suffered a cerebral
Hemorrhage, bleeding out in my brain
Relieved only by the surgeon’s skill
Drilling to relieve the pressure
I’m OK now but I have returned
To the church and God—

—I found out last summer that
I had colon cancer. I am
Done with chemo now and the doctors
Say I have a good chance of
Living five more years—

We all sit there stunned into
Silence—afraid to speak lest
We too be struck by malady.
We drift away with vague murmurs
To come back in five years.

The next day word comes that the
Class president who walked us
Through our survivor stories
Suffered a coronary and
Required quadruple bypass surgery.

Five years? I’ll be glad to live
Until tomorrow.

By Donna F. W. © 2008

Anyone out there attending a class reunion this fall? 'Tis the season.


Ginnie said...

I wish I were near enough to take your class. I envy you.
Thank you so much for your last comment on my blog. I answered you on my blog but then realized you would probably not ever read it so I copied it and here it is....
KG Mom: Thanks for your support about writing a book based on my blog entries. I've thought so much about that and even started to put them together as a bunch of Vignettes...but I have no idea how to go about it. But thanks for the nice encouragement.

Jayne said...

I would LOVE to take your class too! How funny that they wonder if they'll have to read much and write in a "reading and writing" I know they learn so much from you Donna. Love the poem. As we all get older, each day really *is* precious, isn't it?

Elaine said...

After months away from checking on your blog I was delighted to read about your beginning writing class. Oh how I can relate to the stupid questions segment, having taught senior English for many years. Why is it that so many don't get that learning is lifelong and, by the way, the joy of life?
Thanks for the chuckle.

Anvilcloud said...

You're one tough cookie. :)

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

I am not much for reunions of any kind being a solitary type.
Suprisingly, I am living through a very personal one right now. A woman who new me in grade school and high school found me and seems to want a reunion between the two of us. I hardly remember her. She claims to have had a crush on me way back when!!! Why didn't you punch me in the shoulder 55 five years ago.

Our sons were in the same grade school when I moved back to Canada and the old neighbourhood.
Whatever encounters we had then left no impression on me.

Last May, her husband died suddenly. She is well off and seems to want a reunion so she can have a dinner date, or theatre and dinner in town, or whatever. She seems very nice through email and IM.I am waiting for the phone to ring.

The money and frequent trips to Yorkshire England (where her company has a branch plant) is tempting ,yet problematic, for this poor country boy.

Could this be my last great adventure? Stay tuned!

NCmountainwoman said...

I love your poem! I've never attended a reunion. I've kept in touch with the people I like.

I also love your classroom stories. My son is teaching at IU while working on his doctorate. He really hates it when he has to tell some of the freshmen that they are not the best writers in the world. Many of them have never had their grammar corrected because their teachers feared it might inhibit their "creativity." They are surprised to find that (at least in his class) spelling and grammar do indeed count.

JeanMac said...

I always look for ward to your "student stories".

possumlady said...

Oh yes, it does sound like you have too much fun with your students!!

Quite a sobering poem. I've never been to a class reunion. I've been badgered to go by a few friends that I've kept in contact with but mainly I just never saw the point.

And thanks for "friending" me! I have to warn you that I really don't do facebook at all. I signed up but that is about it. I guess I really need some uninterrupted time at home to figure it out, but without home internet STILL, it's just not going to happen anytime soon.