Monday, January 24, 2011

First Day

It's funny, but I find the first day of a semester exhausting, mentally, anyway. I only taught for a couple of hours, and before that did final checks on the course materials, made sure everything was set up on the internal web thingy, and had copies made.

Between classes and such, I took care of advising things, answered advising questions, figured out petitions, and tried to get things in order for the semester for that.

I think I'm tired mostly because I run high on adrenaline when I teach, and at the beginning of the semester, I'm pretty excited and worried about teaching. I worry about silly things: what if I forget when Shakespeare lived? And I worry about not so silly things: what if my students don't get my sense of humor and hate me?

But, as usual, the opening day went okay.

In poetry, we did the syllabus thing and then talked about a poem a bit. A goodly number of people were willing to try out ideas and talk, and I think that bodes well for the semester. But I did have to suggest that people take notes, so that they'd begin to learn poetic terms. I hate the idea of people memorizing terms for the sake of memorizing, but I think it's really helpful to know terms for when you want to talk about specifics. If you know what a caesura is, for example, you don't have to write a whole sentence about the pause at this or that area of a verse line, and then explain what you mean by a pause. So I try hard to make the terms meaningful, and use them with explanations, write them on the board, and so on.

Today, we talked a little about accents, stress marks, unstress marks, caesura, and that was about it, technically. They did a good job with two short lines.

In Chaucer, we did the syllabus thing and talked a little about basic contexts (what century? what language, that sort of thing). If you're in the habit of reading about the 14th century and such, then it's important to remember that most people don't do that, and don't know a whole lot about the period. But across the class, we figured out that a bunch of guys named Norman invaded and then the vowels shifted, and Edward III's survivors were a tough bunch of so and sos. And I sang the glories of antibiotics in talking about the plague. Antibiotics are pretty darned wonderful!

People laughed at my army full of guys named Norman, and that gave me hope.

One thing I try to do on the first day is have students read a bit of the syllabus aloud each. Usually, it's fine. Sometimes, I really get a sense that a student has reading difficulty. You know, they stumble over familiar words and skip important words. (I'm not trying to diagnose the problem, but I get a feeling that there is one. Or the student might just be really, really nervous.) And then I try to figure out what to do to make things work. I don't know how someone with reading difficulty succeeds at Chaucer, but I'm going to try to make it happen.

Happy first of the semester!

1 comment:

  1. If I did not have Chaucer in HS and college, I could not do crossword puzzles..:) Ah,yes too the Bard of the Avon! Jeff