Another Year Begun
The beginning of the school year is special, even at the college level, a shiny new time. We don’t have beginning of school pictures, but we have our first days where students find their new classrooms (sometimes unsuccessfully) and check their websites for class material and yes, even party.
The motif among the students seems to be 80’s reunion. I’m seeing a lot of colorful hair — a lot. I see some funky updos among the women. I see some skateboards. I’m waiting for the underwear outside the long-sleeved clothes.
There’s a lot of politeness in the hallways and in the classes. If the students are stressed (which they are) they’re responding with kindness.
This year seems to be a good one for my classes. I’ve had a good amount of class participation — sharp, insightful class participation. This gives me hope for the semester.
I need to do my share by structuring class so that there’s a lot of interaction and connection. I’m looking at course material to see what I can do to promote that.
I’m hoping that these classes become rich and memorable (and informative).
Thus are the shiny new goals of the new school year.
Even in college
Even in college, we have a first day of school, although I admit it looks a bit different than K-12. The students are older, and they have their share of adult problems. Some with children struggle to make time for homework; others have to work full-time; still others are fighting health conditions or watching family members die of cancer. Gone are the days when all our students were 18-24, could afford their college, and had parents who footed the bill. My students are at times tired, stressed, and worried. They’re not sure of the reward for going to college, except that it’s necessary to go to college to get a job. Necessary, but not automatically sufficient.
Being the teacher
Being the teacher to these students means something different than it did when I was a student. I have to be clearer with instructions because they don’t have the leeway to get things wrong. I have to keep them awake in class. I need to listen with empathy, because sometimes they need someone to talk to. I can’t be infallible like professors of old; I have to work harder, stay humble, be on their level (except when it comes to course content and grading).
What this means to me
This means that showing up to class and teaching is not enough. It means that some of my days will be exhausting, and that I will sometimes be frustrated. It means that I will need support on some days. It means I need to get out of this COVID burnout to do my job.
It means that I am doing something worth getting right.