I taught my last class of the semester this morning (well, I didn't so much teach it as listened to some students' presentations and asked questions). It was a pretty rough morning. I cut my pinkie pretty badly last night washing a cheap wine glass, and when I climbed out of the truck I hit it on the door and it started bleeding again. I put a band-aid on it and poured myself a cup of coffee and then poured that coffee on my other hand. My whole body was a headache. I couldn't remember ever being so tired.
My students were excited for the last day of class--they were goofy and talkative and friendly--but I couldn't match their enthusiasm. I couldn't even muster more than a few lackluster comments for a student who presented on Chris Ware and Daniel Clowes, two of my favorite comic book authors. Just wasn't my usual self.
I must admit that I got really lucky with this group of freshmen writers. Really couldn't have asked for a better group. Starting a PhD program and a new teaching assignment in a new town in a new state in a new climate is a lot to take in, but I was almost always delighted and surprised by the level of conversation every Tuesday and Thursday morning from 9:15-10:30.
And the writing wasn't half-bad either.
We read primarily from Writing About Writing, edited by Elizabeth Wardle and Doug Downs.
Can't recommend it enough to any first-year writing teacher. It's mostly a lot of hardcore writing studies articles by prominent scholars--the editors are big into the idea of teaching freshman comp as intro to writing studies. So it kind of just throws freshmen into the deep end of the pool. But Wardle and Downs suggest that teachers not apologize for the difficulty of the readings. So I didn't. And it went really well. We talked about what was unclear and we figured it out, and before long those students were throwing around James Paul Gee's "Discourse" like they'd been using the word forever. Some of them even put it in their papers here and there. Gee is a hit with the youth.
We also read Ed Abbey's Desert Solitaire. All of it.
They loved it and hated it and were indifferent to it in about a 40-30-30 ratio. Nobody really wants to pack it all into a trailer and move out to the desert, but most everybody has a new idea of what writing can look like, which is to say, weird. Writing can look very, very weird.
And arguments can be weird, too. Paradoxical. Unreasonable. And ugly.
And why not?
Writes Czeslaw Milosz:
The purpose of poetry is to remind us
how difficult it is to remain just one person,
for our house is open, there are no keys in the doors,
and invisible guests come in and out at will.
When I wake up tomorrow there will be snow on the ground.