I really am having a FANTASTIC semester.
I’m almost afraid of admitting that – I hear (and read) a lot of my colleagues’ trials and frustrations, and I feel a little guilty for have a truly stellar time of things so far. I’m also a little afraid of jinxing myself, but I just can’t keep good stuff quiet.
For a Tuesday, today went REMARKABLY well. Usually, my classes are subdued (read: comatose) on Tuesdays. My first class – the 8:40 composition group – is particularly challenging on Tuesday mornings; I find myself looking out on 13 sets of glassy eyes just BEGGING to be let out on a nice, long break – then let out of class early, to boot.
Not so today! Today, we worked on description, which is one of my favorite units. I started the class by giving them two writing assignments: they were to describe something (an object, an event, a person) from memory. Once they’d finished that, they were to get out of their seats and go out of the room and find something out in the world to describe.
I wanted to get them to see the different kind of work that has to be done when they are describing something from memory than when they are trying to describe something right in front of them. When they returned, I had them read their “right in front of them” pieces, and they managed to provide me with the entirety of my lesson plan: we covered detail (“was it a BAR stool, or was it a DINER stool?”); we discussed context (“would you have described that lamp any differently if it were hanging in, say, a Quiznos?”); we talked about how individuals bring different experiences to their reading (“when you said ‘the tree looked like a carnation, only green,’ I was transported back to Beanie’s birth – which happened the day before St. Patrick’s day – when I was given a green carnation on my breakfast tray the next morning. I’m not sure that’s the image you wanted me to have…”). It was a fun, engaging, and interesting conversation, and we BARELY had time for the synonym game I had planned for the end of class. We may start with that on Thursday.
My Lit. kids are ROCKING MY WORLD. While most of them admitted to not being able to do much reading this weekend (only two of them had made it to chapter 21, which was the last section of the book I’d given them), they were all able to discuss the first five or so chapters. We talked about the importance of literacy in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (“It seems like no one actually TALKS to anyone in this story, doesn’t it?” one of my kids said, “they’re always writing these LONG letters…”). They, MUCH to my geeky delight, were able to tie Walton’s and Victor’s childhoods together in a very meaningful way (“they were both self-taught through books, both their fathers thought they should do something other than what they wanted, and they both sought glory and the ‘bettering of future generations.'”).
I gave them my friend Rick’s blog and magazine article about his experiences reading Frankenstein with me last year (it nicely dovetailed with a conference he was tasked to cover as part of his job) and we discussed the novel in the context of medical ethics (I’ve got two med. assist. students in the class) and some of the issues facing science and medicine right this very second. Later, we talked about Milton’s Paradise Lost (I had to fill them in on the high points of the story – I was the only one in the room who’d slogged through that tome) and the Bible and how the big ideas of those stories related to Victor’s character in very meaningful and rich ways, particularly in terms of humans’ desire to learn – to KNOW – perhaps more than they should..
I had to let them go early – I had a commitment that started about a half hour before the class ended – and they told me (GET THIS!) that they were DISAPPOINTED that I was springing them ahead of schedule! Not only that, but they want to start a BOOK CLUB on campus! Can you BELIEVE it?
I am head over heels in love with this bunch and, right now, I’m SO glad I do the work that I do.