Tuesday was my first day of teaching, and I was not thankful at all.
I woke up in a bad mood, which continued while I furiously packed my bag later in the day, I drove to school, and then rushed to make copies and basically get my shit together.
By the time I got to class, I was in an even worse mood. I wish I could explain why–maybe it was the reality of summer ending and work beginning, maybe it was the traffic on the streets (a sure signal that school has, once again, begun), or maybe I was just really nervous.
Whatever it was, by the time my classes were finished, I was convinced this was going to be the worst semester ever. I had practically no student interaction, and some students asked really lame questions–questions about stuff I had just gone over! I even told a friend later that night that my classes were full of “losers.”
Today, I went back to teach again. This time, rather than just going over the syllabus, procedures, and expectations of the class, I really taught. I asked them to be honest about how they feel about writing (overwhelmingly they hate it), and I responded to each concern telling them I’d teach them how to deal with their frustrations. I discussed rhetoric and audience awareness. I used facebook as an example of audience awareness and context and showed a short South Park clip about facebook. The students laughed, they seemed engaged, they totally got what I was talking about. At the end of the class, one student came up to me and said the hour and a half was the most riveting English class he’s had (hey, throw in a little South Park and you’ve got any 18-year-old excited).
The honest truth is, though, that these kids are not losers. they were probably in a bad mood Tuesday as well–their summer had ended, they had to work, get up early, purchase over-priced books. Not only that, but many of my students are first time freshmen and don’t have the slightest idea how college works. They’ve probably never even been handed a syllabus before. Then the students who are older and reentry have serious anxieties about returning to school. Not only that, but they dread writing, so walking into a writing class seems like a practical death sentence to them. I should have been more understanding.
I’d like to think I’m not judgemental. I’d like to think that through all this blogging and life experiences I’ve been through thus far that I’m more considerate and gentle than most people. Truth is, I’m not. I judged these kids before I even gave them a chance.
I learned an important lesson about myself today, as much as it hurts to admit. I’m pretty thankful I learned it now. I’m sure I’ll learn it again in the future and then again and again and again. But that’s good, for each time I have to get a little bit better. I hope at least.