The Start of a Journey

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"So here I am again, another beginning of another semester…"

leonard hall.jpgSo here I am again, another beginning of another semester. I’m thrilled because I finally get to teach mythology and literature! I never really had the opportunity to create such a course while in Japan. And Research Writing! Not just one, but two sections this semester…And of course, then there is 101, a class that is near and dear to my heart.

And the students…First of all, what an amazing compliment to see so many familiar faces again this semester. More than 10% of my students are now taking their second course with me – wow! I only want to let these "returnees" know that they need to do away with their expectations; every course I teach is significantly different from the others.

English 101 – I can tell that these students are going to be just fine. It’s wonderful-strange to be back in 213 again, and to be working with J, B, and A. I have to remember that each group of students is unique and just as I’ve reminded my returning students that each class is different, so do I have to remind myself of this same phenomena.

Who would’ve thought that a visit to the Osaka library nearly 6 years ago would lead to the foundation of an entire English 101 writing course…thanks, Gary! I remember my fear of getting lost while trying to find the library…the Osaka subway system, an endless  maze of tunnels and walkways, an adventure. After reaching my destination, ascending above ground to the warmth of a Kansai summer, I spied and made my way over to the library. When I found the small, foreign section, I was amazed – "ENGLISH BOOKS! It’s really true!" I thought to myself. Hour after hour I thumbed through novels and non-fiction, trying to decide what I most wanted to dive into. I found a strange little book, "Buddhism and the Art of Psychotherapy," and decided I would give it a shot. When I glanced over "What is I?" while leaning against a newspaper rack, I sensed that this book would be significant – I couldn’t know then just HOW significant!

Still, I miss my students from last semester….When J said "I wonder if they know how lucky they are?", referring to the students in the 101 course, I was really touched. I think she might be my biggest fan, and every prof needs one of those…thanks, J!

The 202’s – sounds like a WB tv show, lol…"Comfortable" is the first word that comes to mind. So many students from last semester’s 121 course…I suspect they think I’ll be a pushover and an easy "A"….just wait until they realize how different 202 is from 121, especially when I’m teaching my own curriculum! It’s true, most of my students get A’s, but that’s because they truly work for it and work for it and work for it..and those that don’t…well….not everyone will get an A in this class…

Ah, the first 202 homework assignment…there seems to be a pattern starting with last semester’s 121 students not working as hard as they can. This worries me.

-SHIT! shit shit shit shit shit! I made a mistake…My 101 class has a 3-5 par assignment and my 202 classes have a 2-3 par assignment. SO many of the 202’s wrote more than I had asked for that when I see a few single-paragraph blog entries, I feel disappointed and write comments on blogs letting students know that the homework isn’t finished until they write 3-5 paragraphs! Hmmmmm. I made a mistake. Maybe they did as well?

I’m reading about 6 books right now, one of them is Do They Hear You When You Cry (for 202) by Fauziya and Layli. I wished I could have met Fauziya…but there must be millions who feel the same way. At least I had a chance to work as a legal assistant for Layli. I remember my first assignment for the Tahirih Justice Center – a young woman from Iran imprisoned upon entry into the US…It is early January and I’m driving to Northern Virginia to take a deposition. "B" has been let out of jail because she is expected to have her baby any day now. I’m not exactly sure where I’m going or how to do this, but I keep telling myself that it will be ok. I look at the passenger seat to my right, a small teddy bear with a soft, burgundy, satin bow around its neck –  a present for the baby…but that’s another story entirely.

121 – sooooo many students, but at the same time, so many familiar faces. As I introduce the course, I keep my eye on a pair of young, white males at the back of the room. When I discuss the poetry assignments, I see them smile nervously. They’re wondering about me – "Who IS this dude?" I’m sure more than a few others are thinking "Is he nuts?" just as G had last semester when she first saw the 101 syllabus.

I show two Youtube clips, one is Spiderman and the other is The Wizard of Oz, in an attempt to introduce archetypal, monomythic images and situations. Now I wish I had chosen a character who was a little more "ordinary", not in the pejorative sense, but in the sense that both Spidey and Dorothy are a bit fantastic…Maybe I should have chosen a video about a real person?

My back is hurting. Only 12 days after spinal surgery the semester begins. I’m running on adrenaline and joy – joy to be alive and walking, joy to be free of the pain that almost paralyzed me, joy to boat big moon 50.jpgbe doing what I love, seemingly a rare occurrence among the general population. I’ve decied against the painkillers this week so that I can be fully present in my classes.

When I get home I’m a little put off by the mess. God I hate cleaning. I haven’t really unpacked, just kinda pulled things out of the suitcase without putting them away. I’m so incredibly lazy. And I can’t sleep. I think my body is expecting the Tramadol and though I don’t want to, at night I have to take it. True, the pain is now only a mere "1" whereas only two weeks ago it was a "1000" and I could barely walk more than a few steps. It was embarassing to have to be pushed into pre-op in a wheelchair. Such a journey…

And speaking of journeys, now that I am teaching the monomyth, "journeys" seem to be popping up everywhere…heros all around me…I hope the students think so too.

Yes, this week has been good. Seeing my friends and colleagues has been wonderful; stepping into the classroom without pain, a blessing. I wonder how often I’ll write on this blog this semester…hmmm, still, this is a start. Indeed, this writing marks the start of yet another journey.

Image from, click the pic to view the original source.


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