Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Sure Will. Sure Can. Sure Do.

I think readers of this blog would be surprised if I told them for the last six weeks, I've had two classes. I had a section of composition and a section of technical writing. And save for this, I had very little occasion to write about them. This is a marked difference from spring semester, when almost every entry I managed to eek out onto this blog had to do with my students--specifically about how bad, how evil, how awful they were.

So what this girl needed more than anything was to have a long chunk of time off, a long chunk of time that had nothing to do with students who hate learning, who hate writing, who hate humanity. And I had that. I had almost all of May, all of June, and half of July. And then, in the middle of July, I stepped back into the classroom and prayed that I hadn't been so completely soured by the previous semester that I would never enjoy teaching again.

Well, what can I say? These students, these people who signed six weeks of their summer vacations away so they could squeak in a little extra learning, were wonderful. They were a joy, a dream, a picnic. Most of them were smart, inquisitive, and excited. I'd forgotten what it was like to have students who were like that.

And they came with other perks, too. One day I showed up to class to find a giant cake from Dairy Queen sitting on the front desk. A student had brought it in after she'd spent some time forming all those tiny frosting roses during her day job. I passed out plates and forks and tried to hack into the ice cream cake with the tiny blunt-ended spatula we had in the department party stash. I eventually separated the cake into enough pieces to satisfy the fifteen students and they filed up to claim a slice. Some weren't too keen on the frosting, so I told them to just flick their frosting flowers onto my plate so I could eat them all. And they did. Several whorls of frosting dotted my plate by the time everyone had gotten a piece, and that's when I realized this class and I were a pretty good team--I would eat up their sweetness, all their extra sugar, and they could feel good about not maxing out their calorie intakes for the day.

Somewhere in the middle of the semester, after the Dairy Queen cake, I realized I was speaking differently than I usually did in the classroom--and even beyond. When someone asked, "Will you come here and look at this for me?" I would say, "Sure will." When someone said, "Can I maybe do a little extra work so I really understand this grammar stuff?" I would say, "Sure can." When someone said, "Don't you just love us?" I would say, "Sure do."

Everything was sure, sure, sure. I was sure I loved them, was sure I would do anything for them, was sure I needed them and only them before I could take on another full semester. They were a salve, a poultice, a compress I clutched close to my heart as I moved through the summer toward my second academic year as a full-time faculty member. They restored my faith in learning, in teaching, in students, in myself, and if I could make them a million frosting-less ice cream cakes, I would. I really would.

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