Thursday, September 25, 2008

These Days...

I know I haven't been blogging as much lately; there are a couple reasons for this. Mostly it's because I've been busy with school and tutoring and teaching and just commuting. I also realized that I've been trying not to blog about teaching my English Composition (ENG 16) class because I'm trying to save all my tidbits about teaching for the New Teacher Podcast (which still hasn't gotten into a groove, largely because weekends are the only time I have, and the past few weekends, and next weekend, Chris and I have been out of town). I feel slightly guilty in admitting that I'm finding teaching so much more interesting than my own classes.

My own classes are fine, but I'm spending much more time thinking about and planning for my ENG 16 class that I have to force myself to get back to reading the assigned homework (and doing the corrosponding weekly writing). I have little to say in my Virginia Woolf class; I realized a few months ago that I had, in a sense, let that part of my brain just deteriorate as I concentrated and became more interested in the teaching of writing. Obviously, the teaching of writing is directly related to and intertwined with reading, but I have to keep really digging deeply, and working much harder at analyzing literature.

Analyzing lit never came as easily to me as did pedagogy and educational theory, and comparatively speaking I find the former less interesting than the latter, but perhaps less was expected of me, or the literature I read was more of what I was used to (American and British literature of the 17th-19th centuries, as opposed to more modern literature by authors I've been recently studying. As an undergrad I somehow took a lot of survey course, which I truly love/loved; I got a smattering of different authors and we rarely read more than one or two works, which suited me well; if I found a new author, I explored him on my own. But while two of the four graduate literature classes I've had have been about one author (Joyce and Woolf, in my case), another has been a survey-like course of African-American short stories, the other a survey-like course of South African novels. Joyce was difficult; I found him difficult; most people find him difficult; that's not new or surprising. Patricia's class (with the South African novels) was interesting, because it was new, but also heavy going for the same reason. The African-American short story class was interesting because short stories are my favorite, but I've taken a slew of classes about African-American literature. Thematically it's very popular, I'm guessing. And Woolf is, like Joyce, difficult; and similarly, others find her difficult; and similarly, it's understood and expected, or at least not surprising, that one might find her difficult. I have to, with a very sharp and pointy stick, quite emphatically poke open my literary analyzing skills. The MFA students are lovely to listen to because they pay attention to aspects of writing and language and creative process that I've allowed myself to not pay attention to anymore, which is a mistake and which I am duly rectifying.

The students I teach are also lovely, if it's possible to not overuse that word. They pretty much all come to class. They're nice, and polite, and they don't interrupt, either me or each other. They usually raise their hands. One kid came late, twice; two kids have been absent; but there's not mass absenteeism, and if they're sleeping, they're doing it with their eyes open. Their blog entries are not brilliant (yet), but they're all doing them, and more or less on time. They all handed in their first drafts of their cultural autobiography on time. Do you get that? They all handed in their first drafts on time. It's not a hard assignment, I guess, but still. I told them to call me by my first name; only once did I hear a student call me "Michelle." They keep calling me Professor Solomon which is unnerving only because I keep wanting to turn around and ask what my mother is doing teaching my class.

On Monday and Wednesday nights I have trouble falling asleep (and consequently I'm exhausted on Tuesdays and Thursdays) because I keep thinking of my ENG 16 class. I'm excited to get to class; I'm worried I'm not making class challenging enough or expecting enough of them (although they're going to be getting some more difficult reading beginning in October, as well as beginning actual research). I like that I had to buy chalk and that I have to make photocopies and that I still don't know how to use the departmental Xerox machine or send my things to Copy Services. I like having an office hour. I liked reading my students' first drafts - they were all really interesting - and I liked giving feedback in red pen. (In my tutoring sessions I've had students request my using a red pen because it's easier to read.)

I want to be graduated in May so I don't have to think about studying anymore.

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