The Week of Enlightenment

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"Do students ever wonder that their instructors are people just like them?"

TUESDAY, August 28th, 2007

At 6:30 am I arrive at Leonard hall, excited but a little nervous to begin my fall semester. I check out the room I will teach in, get some music playing on the computer, and then go back to my office to check email and gather my thoughts.

Ninety minutes later I walk into Rm 218 to a crowd of 40 students and when I scan the room, my eyes meeting theirs, I feel a twinge of anxiety. The first 3 minutes are nervewracking, but after a few exchanges with students, I begin to relax.

Do students ever wonder that their instructors are people just like them? Do they realize that as much as they yearn to do whatever career in life they are preparing for, I have been waiting 33 years for the chance to sit and talk with them about writing? Do they understand that I’m not there to torture them (well, maybe just a little!) but to share my experiences, to learn with them, and to have a great time doing so? Do they realize that hey, this IS my job!?!?

9:15 am, my first class of the day has finished and it was amazing. Overall the students were brilliant. Quick, friendly, and full of life. I go back to my office, play some Red Hot Chili Peppers, and type up some notes about our first class.

10:45am, and I’m walking to Eicher Hall. Good Lord it stinks out here behind McElhenny Hall! What the $%#& is that smell? And could it be any warmer out here? I wish I was wearing shorts and sandals, but I could just see getting called into an office and being asked about my choice of apparrel. So, baggy khakis; button-down, b&w, striped shirt; and my old Kenneth Cole saddleshoes it is.

11:15am. Naturally there has been some confusion about my classroom, and so half the class arrives 20 minutes late. I’m cool. I’m taking it in stride. Whatever, man. What happens is out of my control and best I can do is just chill out and go with it. And I do. I’m chill.

Basic Writing – I ask the class to complete the same essay my 101 students will complete: "What is ‘I’?" I’ve chosen an amazing exceprt from Hayao Kawai’s Buddhism and the Art of Psychotherapy, a little gem I found in the Osaka library about 5 years ago. I think this is the perfect writing to use as a prompt to encourage young minds to consider what makes an "I" an "I", and though many of us use the word daily, just what exactly do we mean by it? Even better, this was the first writing assignment I gave when I started teaching in Japan! 5 years later and here I am again, new students, same essay. New experience, same teacher…or am "I" really the same?

The class is amazing. The students’ essays are so incredible that I tell myself, "Yes! They are saying "yes", we can do this." I’m walking around the room peeking over their shoulders and trying to contain my excitement. I don’t want them to see all of my emotions. Not just yet.

I skip lunch so I can read the essays. I start making lists of examples of strong writing, interesting ideas, and common errors. Only 10 more minutes until two more classes, back-to-back this time – the 101’s.

"Enlightenment" by Pele. Click pic for artist info

THURSDAY, August 30th, 2007

My first class goes smoothly, and my second class was even better. I can see that some of my students are already beginning to test me, to see how far they can go. "How far do you want to go?" I wonder.

The 101’s – sounds like a t.v. show. Like The O.C. or something. It’s amazing really, the same class, same number of students, same room, same instructor, same curriculum, yet the two sections are different. I can already feel it. I’m counting on a few people in the later section to jump in and add some fire to the discussions. I know it’s late and everyone is tired, but come on guys! Gimme some fire!

I put on too much cologne at lunch and now leaning over a keyboard, logging a student onto the network, my Dolce and Gabbana is overwhelming me. I hope I don’t knock anyone out!

It’s thundering outside. It sounds like my hungry belly. Can’t keep skipping lunch, but damn the day goes by fast and 12 hours pass like the fall of a water droplet from leaf to ground.

The 101’s – 20 students at computers becoming 20 diarists, 20 journalists, 20 writers. The day I arrived in Japan, most of these folks were starting high school. There is so much work to be done, so much exploring to do, and yet I really want to just sit and talk with them. I want to know who they are, what "I" is to them, what they want from me, and more importantly, what they want both for, and from, themselves.

Their blogs look amazing. WordPress has improved recently and the set-up went smoothly. Now here they are, reading and typing away, comments flying from fingers, opinions forming, ideas developing. This rocks. Could there be any more amazing job than one that involves a classroom of intelligent, young adults. I’m lucky.

I want you to know that I feel lucky.

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7 Comments Add yours

  1. Malloy says:

    Wow! This is awesome. It gives me so much more confidence about taken this course, knowing that you actually care about your students. I feel like while taking this class I will become a better writer. It also gives me an exciting feeling because, I want to become a teacher.

  2. jenaantonelli says:

    its great you love what you do, even better because it makes it more fun, and maybe easier for us students! i hated those high school teachers that just talked in a monotopne voice and didnt really care to be there.

  3. raszmann says:

    i see ware you are coming at with that. i often wondered the same thing when i was in high school. After a while i started to relise that we are one in the same, the only difference between teachers and students is that teachers have a profesional/respectable image they have to give off so the student will respect/listen to them.most teachers i catch out of class room on a personal level(not a teacher to student level) are really amazing people that just like to have fun and out of the class room they are usually NOTHING like they are when they are teaching.

  4. akstrein says:

    I find it respectable that you, as a professor, can admit to being anxious for classes. That is something us new students can relate to, seeing as this was our first week in a whole new atmosphere.

  5. Ferguson says:

    This is really really cool. I feel a lot better about the class in terms of “speaking up and being heard” now that I have read this. It’s so cool that the first assignment you gave us is the exact same one that you gave to your students in Japan.

  6. VTCP says:

    I think I have finally understood in the past several years, teachers are just like students. Nervous about the first day, nervous about thier class. But I believe you hold one of the most valuable skills. Going with the flow per se, it is less stressfull and maintain a better attitude towards life. Hahahaha and what is the @#(* outside of lenoard hall?

  7. Meg G. says:

    You get nervous? You do a great job hidding it. My favorite phrase out of your writting is “I’m cool. I’m taking it in stride. Whatever, man. What happens is out of my control and best I can do is just chill out and go with it. And I do. I’m chill.” I sometimes find myself saying the exact things in my own head.

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