Friday, August 26, 2016

The things we carried

What I carried into the first-year seminar classroom this morning: a smiling face, a pile of syllabi, a class roster, a pen, a note-pad, a plan. On my back I carried a college logo polo shirt (navy blue) and, on my fingernails, navy blue polish--further evidence that there's a first time for everything.

I carried a modicum of confidence earned over long experience teaching the first-year seminar, mixed with some trepidation because this year I'm team-teaching for the first time ever. I've taught learning communities in which my class was linked with another, but that's very different from having another professor in the classroom with me all the time. I worry that I'll be too controlling or, alternately, that I'll go overboard in my attempt to avoid being controlling and let things slide into chaos.

I carried a sincere curiosity about my new students: Who are they? What do they care about? What makes them tick? But I also carried nagging concerns: How will I learn all their names? How will I inspire them to do all the reading? How will I help us to work as a community of scholars instead of a discrete jumble of disconnected isolates?

I carried a question to ask as I call roll--What makes you laugh?--and a desire to help students explore how comedy can build bridges or barriers between disparate groups, but I also carried (as I do in every comedy class) a concern about how we will manage those moments when someone takes offense.

I've done this before, I keep reminding myself. I can do it again.


What I carried out of the classroom this morning: A pile of papers, responses to questions about the summer common reading assignment. A list of names, some already matched with faces and characteristics (this one plays soccer; that one's an English major; this one thinks her Mom is the funniest person on the planet). A new respect for the bravery of brand-new students willing to open up their lives to a room full of strangers. A fresh reminder that appearances can be deceiving (She's a boxer?!). An appreciation for the universality of references to Scooby-Doo. 

I carried my pen, polo shirt, and blue fingernails out of the classroom and traded the pile of syllabi for the pile of papers, but I came out of the room a little lighter, convinced that this class is going to get along just fine. We can do this, I tell myself. We can carry this class--together.

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