Thursday, May 2, 2013

Pants That Fit That Don't Cough All Over Me!

I've always been puzzled by the seemingly American notion that everyone deserves to be happy, which is why, when I found this blog, I felt like I had found a happy comfortable new home in which to grow and thrive. And yet, this quarter, as I draft my midterms, I can see the allure of endorphins because, despite my love of misery, I have had a taste of happiness... and I don't want to let it go.

Have you ever gone pants shopping, found a pair of pants in your size (ON SALE!), and then tried them on... only to realize that the brand runs small? That's how I've felt about teaching for almost 16 years: that I was given pants that were supposed to fit well, and yet they were always too tight, pinching and bulging in the wrong places while perfectly showcasing the muffin top that I didn't even know I had!

And yet this quarter, I have found a pair of pants that fit. They not only fit, but give me Darla's slender, amazing curves! I have--through no effort on my part--been blessed with a class of students that elected to take Postmodern Existential Basketweaving, a non-required course.


Aside from the "tech-deprived" girl who attempted to submit her paper in separate documents (I told her I wouldn't accept her paper like that and would deduct 10% for each day she didn't resubmit the paper in a single document), and one guy who faithfully attends, but who has yet to weave anything other than a fantastical story about why he hasn't been able to weave... everyone in the class is engaged, functioning, participating, doing the weaving!

When I walk into class, they're talking about the weaving they've been doing. They're comparing weave patterns and showing each other cool websites and journal articles they've found about new and innovative weave trends. And no one has asked me about extra credit. When I lecture, they take notes, and they ask insightful questions, and they provide their own opinions that are not just attempts to show off or prove me or each other wrong. Last week I invited a colleague to guest lecture and he asked: "How much did you bribe them to be such great students?" They're genuinely interesting and engaged in a subject that most people would deem silly and pretentious. They use words like "nihilism, equanimity, resonance, ontological, liminal, reflexive" correctly, unpretentiously, and ironically in their papers. And they bring snacks to share.

So this quarter I have had less misery than usual because I have had this one class that makes it all worth it (which is also why I've only posted one or two things in the past two months; I haven't been as miserable). THIS is what I envisioned teaching could be. And while one side of me is enjoying this and is, dare-I-say-it, happy, I also keep expecting someone to point and laugh about the fact that maybe I'm simply not wearing pants.

I don't know what to do with this. I'm terrified to ever let this end. It's midterm time and, aside from the story weaver, I love these kids. And mostly, I am not sure how I will be able to face the Fall when I get my old pants back: the ones that will no doubt ask for extra credit before I've even handed out the syllabus, will ask three weeks into the quarter whether they can borrow my textbook to catch up on old assignments that I will not accept, and will sneeze on me, resulting in some unmentionable infection that I will spend the rest of the year battling.

10 comments:

  1. It's fantastic when you have a class that clicks (or a pair of pants that fit just right). Although I've been known to jump on the cynic bandwagon from time to time, you should enjoy the flow you have right now. The random factors might not align again, but that's no reason not to teach the hell out of the good class you have right now.

    I have an upper-level class full of great students too, and it's made my huge intro class mostly bearable (i.e., I'm only drinking every other night).

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  2. I love this. And I'm jealous. POW.

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  3. Classes like this are what keep us all coming back (that and the need for money). Enjoy it----you certainly deserve it!

    Perhaps the happy memories will see you through the Fall. Or hey, you never know, lightening has, in fact, been known to strike more than once.

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  4. I like the metaphor of wearing pants to describe teaching. Now, when I dream of retirement (Go 401k, GO!), I can think, "Retirement: It's like not wearing pants!"

    I like the graphic.

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    1. Yes! It's a great graphic! Thanks, Cal and Les!

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    2. Cal never knows if he's got a winner. Blurry, I said, make it more blurry!

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  5. Congratulations, and I wish more students were like yours, or my lone wolf, described here.

    But... "unpretentiously, and ironically"? Isn't that an oxymoron? I find irony in the sense that seems to be described here, rather pretentious.

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    1. We can always wish for more lone wolves (oxymoronic, for sure!).

      I mean that when they use a term like that, they do it tongue-in-cheek, so they know they're doing it and make fun of it (which I find unpretentious and ironic), rather than those who use the terms to show off in a pretentious manner.

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