back to school

The days are still sunshiney and warm, with azure skies, but evening comes quickly, and the chill of fall descends. My reading stack has split in two—books for class (right now: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Truck, and Feminism and Pop Culture (all for different classes)) and books for fun (The Happiness Project, and  Committed). I’ve moved my class binder to a place of prominence and my wedding binder is stowed in my pink, bejeweled bag from the boutique where I bought my wedding gown.

The great autumnal shift.

This year, I am experiencing another shift—because of my Teaching Fellowship, I have a respite from campus service in the form of the much coveted Governance Sabbatical. No committee duties, at least on campus. This means I can focus on teaching…and I love it.

As I sat outside on my deck today, soaking up as much of the late summer/early fall sun as possible, I read my students’ first freewrites, and really thought about what it meant for them to offer up these words on a page for me to read. For some of them, it’s a rote act, and their words remain topical, or not even their own as they scribble down song lyrics. But for some, they dig deep, and start revealing themselves—nervous about college, on the edge of breakups, families in flux, dreams just taking shape.

What an awesome privilege to read these pages, to help shape their prose, to give them the tools they need to best express themselves.

And, what a responsibility we have as educators, to do our best by these students, who open up their lives in their words and comments and conversations.

This semester, I’m trying to really listen, to pay more attention to the person behind the prose, the loud or quiet person in the chair in the front row back row or middle of the room. To be honest and fair and deserving of their trust and encouraging them to be the best they can be at this moment. To be compassionate, and to help them transition to the self-directedness of college.

And, to allow them to bring out the best in me.

 

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