So we're three days into the semester. Time to take stock.
In general: This is a good place. The students--by and large--seem pretty fabulous. Probably a mixed bag academically (I'm just guessing here, based on the school's reputation and facilities), but there already seem to be some very smart, articulate, engaged kids in my classes. While comp is a bit of a drag--it's required; they're freshmen; I'm not really sure what I'm doing yet--both the survey and the upper-level course look to be a lot of fun. We had our first "real" survey class yesterday, and I don't think I've ever had a group of students more willing and eager to share their responses and ideas. They really liked The Lament of the Female-Spouse (title reworded to evade googling), which had me a little nervous, since it's not an easy poem and they might've found it impenetrable. But no: even though they weren't sure what was going on in the poem (hell, I'm not sure either), they found it very emotionally evocative and powerful. One woman mentioned that her boyfriend is currently serving in Iraq, and the poem reminded her that other people in other times have been in situations similar to hers. Since I figure one of the goals of this course* is to get students to care about earlier literature and to see it as in some way relevant to their own lives, this felt like a good little moment.
(*In addition to teaching them the content and generating a little pack of extraordinary literary critics, of course.)
The upper-level course hasn't had a real session yet (just a 45-minute intro/exercise on Thursday), but I think that it'll be good. There are only 12 students, and they definitely give the impression of being among the smarter ones at Field College (the course description probably contributed to a certain amount of self-selecting). I opened class with a question that I was afraid would backfire--"Why study [the content of this course]?"--and immediately 5 hands went up. And they had good things to say! So I'm looking forward to that one.
I've also had several students approach me, either in person or via email, just to talk about their interests (the ones that are related to course material, that is). One of the great things about this little tiny college is that the students are obviously very comfortable with the faculty. Since I was pretty much terrified of professors as an undergrad--hell, for most of my time as a grad student, too--this attitude impresses me.
Then this morning I went to the library book sale (I could write a whole post about the Field Town Festival this morning; I swear I'm living in 1957), and ran into one of the women in my survey course. We chatted for a bit and I asked her her major--she made several good contributions in class yesterday, and I thought she was probably an English major. "Creative writing," she said, "but after going to your class, I'm thinking I might want to switch to literature." !!! I almost wept. Well, not really. But I was pretty happy.
So yes. The students, they are awesome. Mostly. If only I could figure out how to get myself loving the comp....