Some Thoughts on the First Week of Class

School started up again this week and while I don’t have one cohesive thing to write about for the first week, I do have a few observations or comments.

  1. Every break I forget how tiring teaching is. Every first week is exhausting. It’s a good thing I really do like teaching and meeting new students.
  2. I’m teaching three sections of Composition I this semester, which means I get a lot of opportunities to compare student reactions across those sections. I’m always intrigued by the different responses to jokes and ideas. For instance, on Wednesday, I told the same joke in all three classes. It had the same delivery, same context, same enthusiasm from me. Two classes laughed. One class, however, just looked kind of uncomfortable. That was odd, especially since I’m not sure why the third class didn’t respond as expected. The joke involved me cursing, so maybe they’re secretly a more conservative class. Or maybe they all just got distracted in that moment and missed it. Who knows!
  3. I’m also fascinated by the way my initial expectations of each group of students is already being challenged as they get tired (one is an 8 am class), warm up to me, or start to gel as a group. One section began the semester eager and ready to talk. By this morning, they were much quieter and the tone of the class seems to have shifted. A different section was extremely quiet and reticent on day one and I was worried that I’d have to drag them along to get them through the semester. This morning, they were my most engaged class.
  4. My horror literature & film course is off to a good start. I have a group of students who are largely interested in the topic (only a small percentage seems to have enrolled because they needed the credit and no other reason). I am still waiting to see how their previous knowledge functions within the class. It could be great – and I am very hopeful. They can bring their previous to our conversations to provide more context and set up interesting questions. In past classes, however, I have had some trouble with students who already know – or think they know – the genre I’m teaching (science fiction, in that case) because they have their own ideas about what I should teach and how. When that happens, my failure to do what they expect can mean that they think I am not doing a good job, which then affects their performance in class as well as their evaluation of me and the course. So far, though, these students all seem pretty open.

I am also thinking a lot about questions of authority in the classroom and how to teach students to question my authority, the relationship between themselves and their teachers, their goals in college, etc., so I may have more to say on that at a later date.

Next week, my composition classes will discuss sex education, trigger warnings, female genital mutilation, purity balls, and masculinity. My horror class will read Poe and Lovecraft and look at some pre-Code horror comics. It should be a fun week!