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.
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.