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.