Thursday, September 03, 2009

Anxieties

I met with all three of my classes yesterday.

The first year students are understandably anxious. They've got a writing assignment, and I've been getting emails about what form the date should take. Seriously, they aren't coming up with this on their own, right? Someone, somewhere, has scolded them (or graded them down, or whatever) for using a date format the someone didn't like.

The anxiety is understandable, but tiring. I've had emails from about 1/4 of the students in the class about date formatting sorts of questions. That's a lot of anxious students.

My seniors are too cool for words; I know some of them from other classes or elsewhere, and I'm happy to have them in class. We had a good discussion of Genesis yesterday. I have hopes!

My lower level lit class, I'm just not sure. There's one student in there who visited my office before class to make sure it was okay not to bring the book because she just couldn't bear going to the bookstore with all the freshmen around. I think it was her tone of voice that got me, the way she talked about the other students. Ugh. And seriously, if the "mob" in our bookstore bothers you, you need to get out and walk in a city sometime.

I start class with a short acting project that my former grad school roommate shared with me after an NEH seminar. It involves the first 69 lines of a famous play by my favorite really dead guy where a ghost visits the stage. I told them before I handed it out that they might know the play, but not to tell their group if they did. And, of course, they immediately did, loudly enough that I could overhear. And then the student who'd visited started giving a really bad rundown of the play to her group.

Here's the thing: if you take those first 69 lines, and really think about what's happening, it will inform your reading of the whole play, and you'll think hard and well about reading plays, and you just might come up with an interesting performance. If you take your preconceptions from having read the play in high school, then you've missed the point.

The same student raised her hand about four times in class with questions, not bad questions, necessarily, but asked in the tone of "I'm already so bored because I know this stuff." I try not to judge students harshly from the first days, because I know people are trying to find their places and all, but I'm going to need to make more of an effort. She could use an anxiety transfusion from one of the first years.

At the beginning of last week, we got a little spiel on being nice to students who get the flu and can't come to class and so on. Okay. Not a word, though, about helping ourselves. I have to say, if the flu hits the dorms, then it's going to hit the faculty. And most of us are in the age group that won't be eligible for vaccines (until everyone else has had their chance) and hasn't gotten immunity from the 40s.

So, of course, one of our student workers got a call yesterday while she was working in our office. Her roommate had just received the test results, and was positive for H1N1, and our student worker was feeling a little feverish, so she went home early.

Now everyone in the office is sort of looking suspicious and wondering how badly hypochondriacal we are. And the local big clinic is saying, if you get sick, don't come in unless you're in one of the special groups.

I figure if I get it, I'll stay home, and if I die, no one will notice until some student complains that I haven't held class for a month, and even then, the admin assistant will just call and leave a message, until finally someone calls the police who will find me in mid-January, frozen like a popsicle because I hadn't turned on the heat yet and the whole house is frozen. If I suddenly stop posting for a long time, you'll know why.

10 comments:

  1. So many things about this post made me laugh:

    "I try not to judge students harshly from the first days ..." -- which is so hard to do when they are working overtime (as your annoying student was) to make a bad impression!

    "Not a word, though, about helping ourselves. I have to say, if the flu hits the dorms, then it's going to hit the faculty." Amen. I am already anticipating getting sick -- and I'm much less worried about whether my students will get a good education than whether they will kill me with their germs.

    "...no one will notice until some student complains that I haven't held class for a month, and even then, the admin assistant will just call and leave a message ..." That just about captures it, doesn't it?

    Stay healthy!

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  2. At least you don't have cats to eat your eyeballs... that's probably an urban myth - but, I still worry.

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  3. your poor baby students, worrying about date formats! yes, that kind of thing can be important to certain HS teachers.

    i want to smack that student with teh "i'm so special" attitude. figuratively speaking.

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  4. I love the way you introduce those 69 lines. what a great idea!

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  5. You know, I can think about how to create meaningful learning experiences in my classes or I can think about the H1N1 virus, but I can't do both at once.

    Fortunately, someone else has been busy thinking about the flu. Our campus has sprouted jumbo-size containers of hand sanitizer in all public spaces, and Clorox wipes are being widely distributed so people can wipe down, for instance, public work surfaces and computers in the library before using them. Will this work? If nothing else, it provides the feeling that someone is thinking about the problem so that I can focus on those meaningful learning experiences.

    Unless I get the flu.

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  6. I actually have a pact with a friend of mine: If we haven't heard from each other in a few days, we have to check in. We're convinced no one on campus would miss us, either, and we'd be trapped under the fallen bookcase for months on end!

    I understand people are concerned about this whole flu thing (and rightly so; I have a sense of history) but the paranoia is sometimes a bit much. I thought I was going to get sent home yesterday when my cold and I showed up to a meeting. I have tissues; I don't touch people; I assure them it's a cold - but someone always asks, "How do you know it's not the flu?" I just tell them, "Because I'm upright" and smile.

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  7. Apparently we're also to be on the look for H1N1 and this could apparently include taking students' temperatures before they enter the classroom.

    I hope they don't mean rectally....

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  8. You're absolutely right, we shouldn't judge students on the first day. BUT when you have as much experience as you have it isn't judging it's self-preservation instincts coming into play. She is going to be trouble!

    On the subject of H1N1 - we have had the worst of the UK outbreaks locally and I had a mild dose myself. It isn't fun and for one friend it was pretty horrible, but the worst of it is the disruption. If it happens, go to bed with a good audio book and just have it. It's worse in the anticipating.

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  9. Oh, the joys of trying not to judge students based on first impressions...

    Hopefully they'll turn out better than expected.

    P.S. Please don't die.

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  10. Someone, somewhere, has scolded them (or graded them down, or whatever) for using a date format the someone didn't like

    Oh, public skool. In elementary and high skool, every teacher had their own way that names and dates had to be, and putting the date in the wrong upper corner or format would knock down the grade more than poor content, that's for sure.

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