I've been in vacation mode for weeks now, hanging around the house in fleece pants and a hoodie, watching DVDs on my daughter’s laptop, eating whenever I felt like it, and not even thinking about my job. But classes start again next week, so today I finally sat down to take a look at my syllabi and rearrange the reading schedule I plan to hand out next week.
On the last day of class last May, I asked my students what things they would change about each course. They had all kinds of ideas, which I wrote down on a yellow legal pad and stuck into my desk. I pulled it out today, reading through to see which changes I want to make to my courses. Just looking at it made me remember some of the students I had last spring: the biology student who kept talking about primate behavior, the young man who drove an ambulance on Thursday nights and always brought us exciting stories on Friday mornings, the woman who brought her guitar to class one day to play me Joni Mitchell songs, the architect student who taught us all about city planning, and the young military guy who is now over in Iraq.
In one of my literature courses last year, I used an anthology of prose, a book of non-fiction, and an anthology of poetry. I taught the books in what I thought was a logical order, which meant that the last third of the semester was devoted to poetry. My students told me that a whole month of poetry was more than their scientific minds could take – and that this year I ought to spread the poetry out, making every Friday poetry day. I'm willing to give it a try. So this semester, we will be talking about prose every Monday and Wednesday, and Friday will be poetry day. I am curious to see how that will work out.
I like seeing the next four months carefully planned out on paper. I've got a long weekend at the monastery planned for early March -- and later in March, the FourSeas Conference in Big Midwestern City with the Baseball Team that Always Loses. Getting out the books, rearranging the due dates, figuring out which texts to teach when, and looking through course materials always gets me excited again about teaching. One of the coolest things about my job is that I get to teach literature that I love. And it will be good to be on campus again. My office is just off the main room of the library, which means that I am always surrounded by motivated young people, talking, studying, and reading. I love that.