Friday, February 17, 2006


My usually reliable car had a flat this morning, which I suspect is a result of sliding around and whacking the tire into, then jumping a curb yesterday. Luckily, there was no one else on the road and I didn't hit anything except the curb, and wasn't hurt, etc. I didn't think anything of it until I went out early to get in my car to head to school this morning, early because we'd had a fair bit of snow up here in the Northwoods, and I need to drive more slowly, as I learned yesterday. But that's not what this story's about, actually.

I called a cab company, to arrange a ride, and was told that there'd be no problem getting me to campus for my class. Then when my department opened, I called campus to make sure they hadn't called a snow day. Then I started digging out my drive and walk. Time passed. And again, think To the Lighthouse, time passed. I called the cab company, no problem, they said, she's almost there. More time passed. Think biblical times, begats, whatever. It got to the point that my class was going to start in fifteen minutes, so I went and called the department again.

I told the admin assistant, a woman who makes all things possible and manages to do that with kindness and efficiency, and asked her to send a student worker down to get my class started, just in case I wasn't there on time. I said, ask them to brainstorm about the Marxist concepts we've been talking about, and then to think about those concepts and apply them to the story (Poe's "Purloined Letter").

More time passed (think Stephen Hawking and black holes and such), and the cab came, the ride in which could make a whole other post, but let me just say here that I now know a lot more about the state of the driver's innards and sickly spouse than I want, and we went to school.

I tromped, boots, coat, sweater, scarf, dorky winter hat and all, into the building at 20 after, and made my way to the room, expecting to find it empty.

But no, there was a room full of students, books opened, pens/pencils and paper out, reading and consulting in small groups.

I apologized for being late. Then I asked them what they'd been talking about.

And I swear, I just pretty much wrote on the board in awe for the rest of the hour, asked a few questions for clarification, and wrote some more. More people added to the discussion than had before in class.

Really, they just rocked my socks (which, in case you want to know, are VERY thick and heavy blue wool).

And then one of the best students asked a couple important questions about intentionality and an overall theoretical approach, so we wound things up with a bit of meta discussion about knowledge, intentionality, blind spots.

Can I just say, I am so utterly impressed with this class on every level.


  1. Classes like that make teaching worth it.

  2. Oh. Wow.

    Now I am having a massive case of student envy.

  3. Indeed! So many things make teaching worth while, but a class like this ranks high.

    Maybe they were faking me out or something, or I actually hit my head yesterday and only hallucinated all this. But WOW!

  4. This semester I am teaching two sections of our first-year Lit/writing course in a big room with several large round tables. I have taken advantage of this by having students do a lot of small-group discussion before we come together as a class & the results have been quite remarkable. Your experience confirms for me that students, properly motivated & given some time, can come up with amazing insights.

  5. That's fantastic!

    Years ago, my dad, an elementary school teacher, got in an accident on the way to school. This was before cell phones, and he had no way to let the school know he was late.

    He got to the classroom 20 minutes late, expecting total chaos. (Think Kindergarten Cop...) What he found made his jaw drop: 30 children all sitting quietly at their desks, reading books. They'd taken attendence, put out the flag, given the cafeteria a hot lunch count, and had started their reading lesson.

    Things like this give me hope. :)

  6. Thanks Joseph and Terminal!

    By and large, students really are here to learn, and do bring so much to my life. This class has been steadily making my semester better and better.