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.
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
By Donna F. W. © 2008
Anyone out there attending a class reunion this fall? 'Tis the season.