Do You Leap Out of Bed in the Morning?

I recently watched the adorable movie Julie and Julia with the incomparable Meryl Streep and the impossibly cute Amy Adams.  Yes, the movie is about blogging (and cooking), but that’s not my point.  There is a scene in which Julia Child is writing to a friend, and she describes herself leaping out of bed every morning because she is so eager about her next lesson at Le Cordon Bleu.

This is how I feel about my job.  I am a college instructor of English, and each time a new semester starts, I find myself leaping out of bed in the morning, usually around 5:30 or 6:00 a.m. to get ready for the day.  Sometimes I need to prepare an assignment, sometimes I have unfinished grading or reading, and sometimes I just can’t wait to get to class and interact with my students.

We have lively discussions.  We talk about reading, education, the environment, gender roles, feminism, cultures, societies, and many other topics.  I do not teach these subjects or their content.  Instead, we write about the issues.  We read, we discuss, and we write.  Everybody’s opinions are safe in my classroom, and we usually have a debate of some sort.  I live for these moments.

“What does your class read?” you ask.  Well, we read whatever essays are in the textbook or anthology I’m using that semester.  However, I’m particularly fond of the book I have been using this year called The Brief McGraw Hill Reader: Issues across the Disciplines edited by Gilbert H. Muller.  It is a broad collection of essays on many subjects, and most of them are short.  Length is important to students, and although I sometimes worry that a brief essay will not give us enough to discuss or write about, these essays deliver almost every time.

One of my favorites is an excerpt from Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave called “Learning to Read and Write” by Frederick Douglass.  Douglass recounts the difficulties he encountered in just learning how to read and write.  As a slave, he was not sent to school nor encouraged to learn.  In fact, he was punished.  He began tricking the white boys in the area into teaching him letters, words, and eventually became literate and extremely successful.

Juxtaposed with this essay is Richard Rodriguez’s “The Lonely, Good Company of Books.”  Rodriguez shares his childhood love of books, despite never having seen his parents read anything for pleasure.  Rodriguez’s quest for knowledge through books is impressive and inspiring. He mentions a list of important books mentioned in a college professor’s obituary.  He began to read that list.  In my classroom, we fill out the popular BBC top 100 books list (from Facebook) and see who has read the most of those.  I always win, but it’s fun to see what these college freshman have been exposed to in high school and to see what they hope to read in the future.

After reading these two essays, I see students who approach their educations with a little more sobriety, humility, and conviction.  We often compare Douglass’s struggles to our own elementary school educational experiences.  None of us had to trick anybody into teaching us how to read.  None of us was beaten for being caught with a book.  None of us has been a slave.

Other interesting essays from our textbook include Louis Menand’s “The Graduates.”  Menand compares college to a giant sleepover, and tells a fascinating hypothetical story about tuna sandwiches and childhood sleepovers as his hook.  Anna Quindlen–Pulitzer Prize winner, bestselling novelist, and former Newsweek columnist–has an essay titled “Sex Ed” in this collection.  She makes the point that sex education should be taught in the home, but more importantly that self respect and control should be taught at home, as these qualities extend into every sphere of life.

Students like this essay collection.  I like it because students like it.  Last semester was my first to teach from this book.  I did so blindly, reading for the first time along with the students.  A few of the essays were ill placed in the syllabus and a few were dry, but overall we encountered interesting issues and found exciting ways to write about them.

In fact, after leaping out of bed this morning, I found out just how exciting my class had been.  Several of my students sent emails expressing how much they miss their English 1010 class now that they have moved on to English 2010.  I miss them too.  We enjoyed each other’s company and found pleasure in reading and writing.

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22 thoughts on “Do You Leap Out of Bed in the Morning?

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  1. I will add your blog to my google reader so I can be alerted every time you make a post. 🙂 I wish I could say that I leap out of bed each morning excited about my day at work (sadly, that’s not the case for me). But I’m glad you have found that joy in your work and I’m excited to feed off of your enthusiasm.

    1. Thanks, Ash! And it makes me sad that you aren’t as excited about your work. I think you should be a photographer. Your photos are amazing and every time you post one it makes me wish you lived closer so you could take photos for us!

  2. Finding pleasure in reading and writing – that’s a wonderful reason to jump out of bed in the morning! Last year I suffered the worst depression of my life. Part of my recovery included finding a new job. I have just has much stress in this job, but it’s positive stress – the kind that makes me want to get up and go. I teach at a unique online school that is part of my public school district. Interacting with my coworkers, the families, and the students are the highlights of my day.

    1. I suffered some post-partum depression a few years ago and the best medicine for me was to get out of the house, make friends, and get involved in community projects. We all need a reason to get out of bed. I’m glad you found that with your job too!

  3. Emily, I love your clear, insightful style of writing. This essay made me want to go to the library and get a book to read for pleasure. I have lost the passion for books I once had as a kid. Also, I envy you leaping out of bed in the morning I struggle to drag myself out of bed each day. That is a wonderful blessing and something I am still working toward. Maybe soon I will get there, but until then I will keep reading your blog and borrowing your enthusiasm 🙂

  4. Just found your blog – I like your style.

    Reading is in my blood and I feel as if I know you simply from how you describe your books and experiences around books.

    As to jumping out of bed in the morning – not recently, but I start a new job on Monday… I live in hope!!

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