August 29, 2007

First week

It's always exciting to meet my new first year students. This year, since my writing course is integrated with a botany course and a chemistry course, I asked that when they introduced themselves, they compare themselves to a plant – or an element from the periodic table. One woman, who moved here from her parents' home on the coast, said, "I'm like seaweed. And I'm worried that without the ocean nearby, I'm going to shrivel up and die." One man said, "I'm like grass. Down to earth." They compared themselves to tumbleweed, poison ivy, and dandelions. A few did choose elements, although most in a tongue-and-cheek way that brought laughs. "I'm oxygen; without me, you can't breathe" or "I'm carbon; I'm in all living matter" or "I'm hydrogen because I'm number one."

Because we're a state school, we get quite a few local kids. Almost always, I have a few students who announce on the first day that they have some connection to me. One student revealed that she had spent the summer working with Jedi Knight, one of my favourite former students, and that he said to say hello. One young man from Camera City said that his AP Physics teacher last year was my brother. When I name the local high school that I attended, students in the room nod in recognition. Somehow, it's part of the getting-to-know-you process: figuring out what we have in common.

And of course, I love seeing former students: they come to my office with stories about their summers, or I see them on the quad, looking tanned and relaxed and happy to be back. Most worked hard all summer, putting money in the bank to pay their tuition, but some did field work. A whole group of our students spend the summer at our biological station in the mountains, studying the flora and fauna of that ecosystem.

The first week brings all kinds of chaos and confusion: the new wireless system seems to be flawed, and no one in my building can get their laptops to work. I've had a constant stream of advisees coming to my office to juggle and rearrange their schedules, trying to fit in every course they need. My office is in the college library, which was renovated this summer, and furniture keeps appearing in odd places since the renovations aren't quite complete. The clock in my office has the wrong time on it, and I keep forgetting what day of week it is. My teaching schedule is different than the one I had last year, and I have to keep reminding myself when it's time to go to class.

The new students are eager and hopeful, the returning students full of stories, and the faculty and staff are energized after a low-key summer. The air is cool but the sun is warm, and the quad was filled today with groups of people laughing and talking. Despite the craziness of the first week, I love the shiny newness of fall semester beginning.

16 comments:

BeachMama said...

You make me miss school so much. Glad you are enjoying the start of your new semester. I look forward to all the stories that we get to experience through you and your students.

Neophyte said...

Thank you for this utterly uncynical, wonderfully warm portrait of the opening of the year. It's always been a delight to me as a student, and it's distressing to see so much angst about it among academic bloggers. Once again, the award for thoughtfulness and generosity of spirit goes to you.

Kyla said...

Ahhh, the beginning of student stories. I'm looking forward to getting to know your students.

Horace said...

I love the "If-you-were-a-[blank]" opener. I did it with food some semesters ago, and loved the results. Funny, creative, unexpected...even the bland answers tell you something.

It's nice to be back, after all.

joanna said...

I'm really interested to hear how your blended course with the sciences goes. I hope that you'll be posting about it.

purpleteardropsofhappilymarriedness said...

Opening week wouldn't be fun without a little chaos :)

kathy a. said...

what a terrific description of the start of the year!

my daughter's music teacher describes himself to students as "a proton! positive energy!" his enthusiasm is contagious.

YourFireAnt said...

I am zinc. The prong, the protective coating. Number 30.

FA

Yankee T said...

You are a wonderful addition to the profession-vocation, really-of teaching.

Amy Palko said...

Our semester doesn't start for another couple of weeks, but your post has filled me with anticipation. Thank you!

Silver Creek Mom said...

I been pondering aobut going back to school and reading this makes me want to. After 25 years I do miss that first day and fresh start. Although I think I would be totally terrified this time after being away for so long.

Time will tell if I can overcome my fears.

Colleen said...

Your office is in the library!

You have a plant research station!

I think if it was closer to the ocean it would be heaven!

Patti said...

I was sitting outside the library yesterday while 2 boys skate boarded.It was an end of the summer treat, we took them skate boarding in the city. I sat in the shade, sipping ice coffee, chatting with a friend, and the boys pretended we weren't there. I didn't know your office was in there! And I like meeting my new students, too. They need connections, too, even at 7 years old!

Sarah Sometimes said...

I am teaching graduate students this year, for the first time, and I was very excited to meet them this week. Nine students, and me, sitting around a table, and talking about eighteenth-century poetry. What could be more fun? I feel very blessed. And here's a comment for your commenter silver creek mom: you should do it!

Beth said...

I love "I'm like seaweed. And I'm worried that without the ocean nearby, I'm going to shrivel up and die." What a lovely way to start your class.

SusieJ said...

I'm in the midst of all the chaos -- on the other side now -- as the Mom, and I'm no longer finding the comfort I once did in the newness of it all. Now that I'm a Mom, I have so many others to think about, and it's just downright overwhelming. However, your post, reminded me of how sweet it all can be. I will try to remember this as I navigate through these first few months of newness.