|Not really; my only graphic.|
I teach three classes a semester, the two first year ones I mention above and an Advanced KiteBuilding made up of mostly majors, juniors and seniors.
My unhappiness and anger had dissipated by Saturday afternoon, and when two students emailed me around 2 pm asking if they could bring some pizzas to the session, I said - knowing full well our tech-heavy classroom has numerous no drinking and eating signs - "Sure. Make sure you make one really meaty for me!"
At 3 pm I walked in to find 19 of my 38 first year students, and 5 of my 15 advanced students.
I thought I was dreaming. They were smiling. Some had their books! One student had turned on the giant projection screen and had loaded the most recent freshman assignment from our class.
There was a weird energy. I mean, there WAS energy. I went right to a stack of pizzas and ripped off a gigantic 2-slice chunk. I pulled a Gatorade out of my bag and sat among them in the chairs.
We just gabbed and ate for a while, the 25 of us. The seniors told stories about taking my class as freshmen, how they were sure they were going to flunk at midterm, but the two of them who I now advised revealed they'd gotten As. "Nah," I said. "I never give freshmen As!"
And they laughed. This group of students, especially the freshmen, who seemed comatose for 7 1/2 weeks, laughed at something. (Not that I don't try normally.)
After most of the pizza was gone they started to ask questions. One of the first was pretty brave.
"You were pretty mad last week. I didn't think college was going to be so much work, and my grades have sucked so far. What should I be doing instead?"
And I told him, and all of them, the stuff I felt I'd been up front with from the beginning.
Do the reading ahead of time. Spend some time thinking about the concepts in the chapter, and then - unthinkably - write about it all on your own, for yourself. Practice getting some thoughts together so when we meet in class you'll have something to add.
And then when in class, be a part of it. Ask questions, dumb ones, smart ones, anything they need to know. If you don't understand an assignment, don't walk out and go back to the dorm confused. Stay until you get an answer you understand.
"I've been teaching this class since before some of you were born. I have more than one way to explain things."
We talked about some of the recent assignments, why they were bad, or - better yet - incomplete, poorly thought out. Lazy.
One of the seniors said, "Yeah, you think you can coast, but if you don't really give yourself time you'll never do any more than just spit back what you've been told. He doesn't want that. He wants to know your opinion. He wants you to teach, too."
I would have kissed him, but my mouth was so greasy from the pizza. (By the way, at my advancing age, pizza just kills my gut. Oh well.)
An hour passed like 15 minutes. I took some more really smart questions about the stuff that was up for next week. I pulled my textbook out and showed them my markings, stuff in the margin, highlights, notes to myself, questions.
"If you're book doesn't look like this, then you're not doing something right." (A girl right next to me not so clandestinely closed her book and smiled.)
"Gotcha," I said.
We stood up after 90 minutes and a couple shook my hands - which never happens.
My head was buzzing. We talked about our next "extra" class, this coming Wednesday. Someone said they worked at Chipotle and could bring in some stuff. Someone else's mom worked at the Albertson's bakery and he was going to score some muffins.
I don't know how it will all work out, obviously. But I felt terrific as I walked to my car. One of the seniors sidled up to me as he headed across campus and said something that stunned me.
"You scared the shit out of them."
"What?" I said.
"You did the same thing to us when I was a freshman."
"Yeah, that and gave us some extra classes. We met in the basement of the old gym. Don't you remember?"
I had not remembered at all. It was just three years ago. There's my memory as healthy as my gut.
"That's the semester I became a KiteBuilding major," the senior said, and he waved and was off.