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.