Tis the Season: Starting a New Semester

There’s nothing quite like spending the final weekend of summer making last-minute revisions to my syllabus and course website–revisions which, given my
meticulous planning during the last few months, I hadn’t intended to make. When I innocently anticipated having everything in readiness for my fall course
at least three days, preferably a full week before the start of classes, I foolishly overlooked any possible last-minute glitches: newly-specified general
education guidelines, revised wordings of mandatory syllabus boiler plates, and, of course, an unexpected error in the course management system requiring
all instructors who created their pages before August 19 to remove and reload their class rosters. Why hello, Murphys law: we meet again. Not to mention,
in the midst of the last-minute scramble, I’m casually (or not-so-casually) tracking the progress of two tropical storms that may or may not be making
landfall in Florida, potentially making part or all of the first week of classes a total washout. This last of course is just one of those things you grow accustom to if you’ve spent almost your entire life in this state; I find
myself checking the weather reports mostly out of force of habit–like glancing sideways into the rear-view mirror because it’s just good defensive driving–not
because you expect to spot anything out-of-the-ordinary coming at you. Alas, I digress.

I can think of a host of things I’d liked to have been doing on this last weekend of (relative) freedom; all of them involve some variation of a palm tree
and a pitcher of margaritas. (Throw in no cellphone reception or internet and a guest appearance by Colin Firth, and you’ve just described my ideal holiday).
I say a lot of things about syllabus construction–that it’s the bane of my existence; that I’d consider drilling my own teeth less excruciating, etc.
Admittedly I have a love-hate relationship with the mechanics of syllabus construction; the painstaking precision of placing every item just so gives me
a headache. Even so, beneath the drudgery of calculating the weight of assignments and checking the very precise wording of every department boilerplate
down to the last comma, I always experience a shiver of excitement at the prospect of beginning a new semester.

After months of planning–ever since I learned I’d be teaching a section of our Writing through Media course–I think I’ve finally designed a class that
manages to capitalize on current pop culture trends while (hopefully) teaching students something valuable about writing:
I’m slightly nervous about how
my students will respond to having a media/film adaptation course being taught by a blind instructor; incidentally, I’m still having difficulty getting
over the suggestion of a fellow faculty member that I begin my course with a screening of “Nosferatu” (My course theme focuses on adaptations of vampire
and werewolf stories). Excuse me while I move off into the corner and contemplate the vastness of the universe while you all try to wrap your brains around
the reasons why it might be problematic to ask a blind instructor to teach an entirely silent film. Admittedly I’m never one to say “I can’t,” but if I’m
ambitious, I’m also pragmatic, and it seemed impractical for me to attempt to tackle that particular film; I might as well teach Driver’s Ed. As for my
students, they’ve generally responded well to me after the initial awkwardness subsides, mostly because the lumbering elephant in the room is disguised
as a lovable yellow lab. Students are generally less concerned with my teaching ability and more excited by the prospect of having a dog in the classroom.

Sometimes it seems like I’ve been at this job for more than a mere four years; at other times, I’m amazed to find myself standing at the front of a packed
room full of people who are paying to watch me perform, because teaching, as a professor of mine wisely said once, is a performing art. I hardly expect
a standing ovation at the conclusion of a lecture about the French Revolution’s influence on British Romanticism, but I always feel obligated to put on
a good show. So: here’s to the start of another semester: let the learning begin!

1 Comment »

  1. […] year has witnessed me taking a bite out of the cultural capital that is vampirism with my adventures in teaching media through vampire […]

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