January 18, 2006

Semester begins

My campus office is in the library, right off the big room of tables filled with students doing work. Well, some of them are doing work, and some are just looking for ways to procrastinate. Whenever I am not in class or at a meeting, I can wander around the library and find students to talk to. This is much more fun than actually doing any work. In fourteen years of working in this office, I have never graded a single paper on campus. Not a single one.

Today I talked to three students who spent their Christmas break doing field work in Australia, who had all kinds of funny stories to tell. I talked to Black Curls about his plans for the student group he runs, and his frustrations that school work interferes with the community activism stuff that he loves to do. I talked to several students who work as snowboard instructors; they were eager to give me snowboarding tips and say encouraging things about my valiant attempts to learn the sport.

I brought my new work computer -- my first laptop -- out to show to some students who have the same computer. Smart Violinist went through the system preferences and showed me all kinds of cool things the computer could do. I couldn't get the wireless to work because academic computer had not assigned me a password yet, so Smart Sweet Republican Kid let me steal his identity for the day. Kid Who Goes Barefoot showed me the thing he finds most fascinating about an iBook: when you close it, the little latch automatically starts coming down just before the lid closes. We all spent time kneeling on the floor to look at this phenomenon.

The low point of the day was finding out that the registrar had put me in the dreadful classroom that has fluorescent lights and no windows. My architect students tell me that the room was originally designed as a torture chamber for someone who gets migraines. And the classroom doesn't have a clock in it either, which is horrible for someone like me who tends to always go over time. I told the students that they had permission to remind me when class was over, but we all got caught up in discussion and no one noticed the time until my next class started milling about outside the door.

Despite the dreadful classroom, it felt good to be back. My students were talkative and ready to engage the subject matter. Most of them are former students so I already knew their names. We talked about the way I designed the course, and most of them liked my plans. Or pretended to, anyhow. They loved the idea of poetry Fridays. Well, maybe they were just humoring me, but they promised that yes, they plan to stay home on Thursday nights and read poetry instead of going out drinking. Most of them had already bought the books for the course -- and seemed enthusiastic about what we would be reading -- and one woman had already read some of the selections. It's going to be a good semester.

23 comments:

lostinthemiddle said...

Poetry Fridays sounds lovely.

And, poems can be short, so the students may be able to do both: read poetry and do their R thing.

And, I gotta find someone with an ibook now to see that latch thing.

Seeking Solace said...

All of my classes are in rooms with no windows and buzzing florescent lights! GRRRR. What were the people who designed our classrooms thinking????

Manorama said...

Your class sounds great so far (despite the weird room). I love listening to my students' stories, too.

Miranda said...

I would love Poetry Fridays if I were in your class.

I loved the way you wrote about your students with reverance and with respect to their individuality. One of my hidey-holes where I like to study on my campus also serves as the Rebel Faculty Complaint Station. Let's just say if complaining were an Olympic sport, they would all have gold medals. It's so nice to know that not all instructors view their students the same way.

(I work with students, too. I know that it is frustrating to watch them flounder when simply reading the directions would solve 99% of their difficulites. I complain about it often and loudly. I refer to the much deeper cynicism of a very few.)

DaniGirl said...

jo(e), I'm curious - do you mind talking about what specific course(s) you teach and what you hope to cover? Or did I miss that bit?

Mona Buonanotte said...

Ooh! If you do poetry Friday, can we bloggers send submissions? That might get me rhyming again....

Bitty said...

Or, jo(e), you can do poetry Fridays with US, too. Even if it's not the same poetry, assign us something on Fridays. Sounds like you'll have takers. :)

peripateticpolarbear said...

Since you have all those science kids, you should have them read, "I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree...."
I memorized that one in second grade.
(I'm kidding)

I would LOVE your office.

Rana said...

Hee. I paused in the middle of reading your post to close the lid of my iBook and see the little latch do its thing. Very cool! (And what an observant student who figured that out!)

It's been weird teaching an intensive, short-term course; it's only now that the students and I are reaching a stage of mutual comfort, with just three days of class left!

jo(e) said...

Danigirl: One course is contemporary nature literature (1962 to the present), and the other course is urban nature literature (mostly contemporary stuff). None of my students are English majors -- we don't even have an English department where I work -- so I don't teach the literature courses in the way you might expect a literature course to be taught. My students study science, environmental issues, or architecture, and my goal is to get them to connect the ideas they read in works of literature to the issues they are exploring in their other courses.

Rob Helpy-Chalk said...

I didn't realize you had a big architecture school there. Can you help confirm my theory that the school of architecture is always housed in the ugliest building on campus?

What is "urban nature literature"? Is it literature about the nature you see in cities (squirrels, rats, hawks)? Liturature about nature in general written by people in cities? Literature about the nature of cities (cities as organism)?

jo(e) said...

Rob: Snowstorm University has a big architecture program. And I think they are attempting to move it into an old warehouse building right now. At Small Green, where I work right next door, we have a program in landscape architecture. Landscape architects don't usually design individual buildings -- they are the ones who look at the big picture -- designing things like parks, overseeing big sprawling projects that involve multiple buildings or analyzing urban design.

I think it's libaries that often get the ugliest buildings.

I think I'll write a post to answer your question about urban nature literature. It's one of my pet topics and I like to ramble on about it ....

jo(e) said...

Oh, and for everyone who said they liked the idea of poetry Fridays -- we ought to spread that throughout the blog community. Everyone ought to be posting poetry on Fridays.

halloweenlover said...

Can I come be in your class even though I'm not a student?

Sounds wonderful.

Cleis said...

Congratulations on your new iBook! Mine just turned two, and I'm as in love with it as ever. (Well, things between us were a bit strained over the summer when I installed Tiger without increasing my RAM, but things are sweet again.) Enjoy yours and all its wonders!

ccw said...

I want to join your class, too. It and your students sound absolutely wonderful.

Suzanne said...

Those courses do sound fascinating! And now I must go find an iBook to play with....

Josephine said...

Your courses sound great. I wonder if students in my dept (Applied Biology) would like to do the same.

Scrivener said...

If we start poetry Fridays, though, then it'll be really ratchet up the challenge of poetry April, won't it?

Every place I've ever taught, Rob, would confirm your hypothesis about architecture programs.

Sarah Sometimes said...

For poetry Fridays, do we post original poems or favorite poems by published poets???? Either way, I like it.

jo(e) said...

Sarah: I think either would work. You comment came through just as I was writing my post tonight. You and I really seem to be in sync these days.

DaniGirl said...

jo(e) - those courses sound most excellent. I will look forward to reading more about them!

To be truthful, I'm a little intimidated by the idea of poetry Fridays... which is probably a good reason for me to play along.

Bitty said...

I like this idea so much that I'm wasting no time. I've posted a poem: http://bittysbackporch.blogspot.com/2006/01/poetry-fridays-installment-1.html

In its small way, it even touches on jo(e)'s theme, although that's not why I posted it.