Wednesday, December 13, 2006

It is time...

Time for what, you ask? Another blog post! After all, there will be no time for blog posting next Monday (you may have noticed I post every two weeks, on Mondays) as I will be returning to North Carolina! Who knows, this might even signal a change in my blogging fortunes...as soon as this semester wears off, I will be a much calmer human being.

In the meantime, it's safe to say I've survived my first semester of teaching University Writing. I had a great group of students who did really amazing work. So on the last day of class I indulged in a bit of silliness that is quite typically me. I asked everybody to bring in a paragraph of their favorite piece of writing (and a good reason why it was their favorite piece). I got some interesting results.

I brought in my own favorite piece, which is one of the few endings to a book I have practically memorized...

"There would be a day--there must be a day--when he would come back to Gramarye with a new Round Table which had no borders, just as the world had none--a table without boundaries between the nations who would sit to feast there. The hope of making it would lie in culture. If people could be persuaded to read and write, not just to eat and make love, there was still a chance that they might come to reason."

It's T.H. White, of course -- The Once and Future King. I may have mentioned here before that I once gave a speech at an awards function at Wake. It was a bizarre little collection of reflections I wrote mostly in Charles de Gaulle airport while waiting up all night for my plane home from Spring Break in Paris. It was about the medieval, Tolkien, T.H. White, the Madrid bombings, "hope for humanity"* and, finally, what I learned in college. Or perhaps it was more accurately what I hoped I'd learned in college, what I wanted to have learned after four years. It was hopelessly over-reaching, and probably more than a bit over-dramatic -- and way too enamored of the experience I'd just completed. But one rather memorable line for me -- "At Wake Forest, we are given four years to do just that – to read and write, to come to reason and find for ourselves a measure of hope."

I never quite came to the reason bit of that, though there was reading and writing enough. And the reading and writing continue. So when I brought in a quote for my students -- my first students -- I wanted to give them that idea, the possibility that college can be very much what you make it, and can therefore be an amazing opportunity for thinking. I've no idea if they got it -- but I suppose one never really knows, in the end. If nothing else, there was reading and writing this semester. And some decent questions along the way. I'd say -- it was a success.

I reserve the right, of course, to retract that statement by tomorrow night, when I will have read final papers for the class.

Though to be fair, I'm almost certain there will be no need.


____
*Yeah. I wish that was a typo. On the bright side, I didn't know what hope for humanity was. And didn't try to come up with its definition on the spot. Looking back, I suppose on some level it's Gandalf's hope -- a fool's hope. But yes. How we grow in graduate school, at least enough to be slightly embarrassed by the audacities of our undergrad selves......

2 comments:

kdegruy said...

Hi there. I just found your blog and -- if you have a chance what with the exams coming up -- I'd love to hear how your "identity crisis" syllabus worked out last semester in retrospect. (I'm finishing a generalist MA program and teaching the second half of comp for the first time, and was sort of hoping for a similar classroom "process" this term -- so far I'm just treading water frantically though!

anhaga said...

Actually, it worked out rather well, if I do say so myself. I was impressed with my students -- they followed me at every turn, they kept faith even when the syllabus really made *no* sense -- I'd made a rookie error, by assuming they'd see the same connections, which were not blatantly obvious, that I did, in my section on place. I amended the syllabus for this term (and will get to teach Nick Howe's work for the first time, so am looking forward to that), and expect better results.

As for the identity crisis part, however, it worked, suprisingly enough. Or at least, it worked on paper. Not for all the students -- as you can expect, some were less willing to think than others. But slowly they seemed to learn to at least fake interest in bigger questions than simply plot and story-telling, and some even did some downright impressive analysis.

Of course, who knows if my students were standard -- I'd like to think they were quite above average, but I may be just a little overly attached to them, since they were my first group...