Begin Again: Do You Leap Out of Bed in the Morning?

I’ve got a lot of great posts from the early days of my blog, when nobody was following me.  I thought it would be fun to revisit some of my favorites from those days.

So today’s post is a repost.  It originally appeared the first day I started my blog, January 4, 2012.

…….

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.

mcgraw hill cover

 

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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20 thoughts on “Begin Again: Do You Leap Out of Bed in the Morning?

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  1. When I was teaching college level, I found the biggest challenge was getting the students to even do their reading assignments. I’m glad you got them to read and to talk about the reading.

    1. That is definitely one of the biggest challenges. I did some prepping with them on annotation and critical reading. That seemed to help but you really can’t make them care!

  2. Sadly, no. I don’t leap out of bed in the morning eager for my workday. I do get my bills paid, though, so that’s something. It’s a low bar but I’m reaching it. 🙂 I will say that when I was in college I was eager for the day and I definitely miss the excitement of learning new things, having frequent thoughtful interactions, and encountering new tasks daily.

    1. Maybe there’s something energizing about a college classroom when the circumstances are right. Some semesters are better than others. I think your “low bar” is just fine. 🙂

  3. When you get students emailing you to tell you how much they’ve enjoyed your class, I guess that’s when you know you’re a good teacher! 🙂 I feel like that about one of my professors this year — she has been in her particular research area for around forty years and her knowledge and enthusiasm is inspirational. I enjoyed her teaching so much this semester that I’ve changed classes next semester, so I can take another class that she teaches. Your classes sound really fun!

  4. The ones that I posted back then were much more creative than what I do now. I think it’s got something to do with the feeling that no one’s watching you 🙂

  5. Your class sounds fantastic! It makes a huge difference to students when they have teachers who make the effort to engage with them rather than just going through the motions. I know I put in more effort as a student when the teacher is encouraging 🙂

  6. This is FANTASTIC!!!!!! I wish I had a blog post like this! I have registered for a Jane Austen course with Future Learn and I feel I’m losing my essence with my blog so it died down the past several months…… I felt it wasn’t worth it but if blogging for books didn’t shut down I would be reviewing books as much as I could! My top post is how to own it and I guess I need to re read it so I can FULLY OWN it!!!! Haha! You always need reminders! And I’m forever learning and glad to have the mind set of a lady that likes to learn lots in life. So, when I do my Jane Austen course I am going to try and do a blog post for that!!!!!! I did exploring the world of an English language teacher and would absolutely love to teach English to people one day!

    1. It is so nice to hear this from you! I hope your Jane Austen course goes well, and that you get your blogging groove back! I’ve actually stepped back from my blog for the last two years or so. I’m just now trying to start writing more regularly again. 🙂

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