Monday, December 11, 2017

Bittersweet Endings

capri23auto via Pixabay
This morning, I had my last class with my freshman. I have to admit, it was bittersweet.

For the third year in a row, I had a fantastic group of young adults and, once again, I had a fellow (a sophomore) who was the cherry on top of the sundae. I looked forward to going to class every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, to the discussions, the questions, the silliness and, on Friday mornings, the Grey's Anatomy reviews.

I enjoy teaching. With the possible exception of my first year when I had a group of seventh graders who gave me a run for my money, I always have. But there is something special about teaching a first year seminar. While part of it is the topics we cover, most of it is the kids -- "my" freshmen.

  • They're open. Brand new to the college experience, freshmen are sponges. They want to know and understand everything about how things work on campus. Tentative at first, they come out of their shells as the semester progresses and, if I succeed in building a warm climate in the classroom, they ask questions and share things that are relevant to them
  • They're curious. Establishing an identity is part and parcel of this age. Bring up topics that help them to explore who they are and they're all in.  
  • They're enthusiastic. Sure, they love all the things you'd expect them to love: sleep, food, unexpected free time -- but they're also enthusiastic about learning. Ready to be finished with high school and embark on this new adventure, they arrive primed to take it all in. If I play my cards right, I can keep them at that point for the rest of the semester, or at least until sleep deprivation kicks in.
  • They participate. Okay, so this one is an imperfect science even with freshmen, but they do participate more than many of my upperclassmen do. The result is a class that's more interesting all around.
I tell my students -- all of them -- that once they are in my class, they are "my" students forever. If they ever need an ear, an assist or a favor, they should feel free to contact me. Some take advantage of this, and some turn up on my roster for other classes in future semesters. I'm always happy to see them again (or at least I have been so far), but it doesn't make the end of FYS any less bittersweet. Like lightning in a bottle, it's a unique phenomenon -- one that's hard to explain and impossible to recreate in exactly the same way again.

But it's always fun to try and, in so doing, capture the unique essence of the next group of freshmen.


Friday, December 8, 2017

Friday Feature: Now or Later?

Are you a procrastinator?

Yeah. Me too.

But, as I teach my students when I introduce them to John Perry's essay on structured procrastination, procrastinating is not always a bad thing. Sure, too much of it leads to stress and ever-lengthening to-do lists, but too little of it can also reduce creativity and close us off to new ways of looking at things. The trick with procrastination, as with so many other things, is to use it in moderation.

Looking for some easy ways to break the habit? Check out "5 Ways to Beat Procrastination."

Let the productivity begin.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Privilege of Teaching Freshmen

wokandapix via Pixabay
Yesterday after class, I had an incredibly rewarding conversation with two of my students. What began as a conference on a paper coming due turned into a conversation about what my class had meant to them.

Then, late last night, as I was struggling to get blog posts written in the aftermath of teaching, grading and rehearsal with a sinus infection on top of this sundae like some sort of fermented cherry, I stumbled across this blog post from last year. I remember the scene well, but had forgotten that it happened this time last year.

So, I'm doing something I try not to do too often -- I'm reposting. I'm not reposting out of laziness (okay, maybe a little bit), but because today was one of those days when I was reminded of just how much these kids have to offer.

Once again, for the third year in a row, I had a fabulous group of freshmen and an awesome sophomore fellow -- young people I am proud to teach, and proud to know.

And so this post bears repeating.

Since I've started teaching First Year Seminar, I always have mixed feelings about the end of the semester. I'm looking forward to not feeling buried under a pile of things to grade, and to finding time to write on a regular basis, and maybe even some R&R&R (rest and relaxation and reading). 

But I will miss my freshmen. 

It's not that I don't have mixed feelings about setting my upperclassmen free -- I do. But there's something about teaching a seminar to a group of brand new first year students that's an experience all its own. This semester, the sophomore "fellow" who helped me out made things even more fun. She’s bubbly and lively and from the same town where I went to college; we hit it off immediately and, over the course of the semester, she became an integral part of the class.

In FYS, our designated content is life itself: happiness and success; perfectionism and procrastination; mindset and meaning. I am privileged to see and hear all the promise and passion these young people have to offer, and it makes me proud and optimistic. Kids who want to enter the medical field not to become rich, but to listen to kids, help underprivileged populations, join the Peace Corps. Kids who recognize that happiness doesn't arrive in the form of a paycheck and who understand that hard work is an integral part of success.

Last month, on the train home from New York, I sat across the aisle from a group of privileged, opinionated middle-aged women. After spending much of the ride talking about dining and drinking and shopping and other people (loudly enough for me to hear, despite the fact that I had earbuds in), they engaged in a conversation with a woman sitting across from me in which they lumped all young people into one category. One of the partyers concluded by proclaiming that "they (kids) all need a 'boot up their ass' and a minimum of two years in the military."

Less than five minutes later, one of her fellow girls' weekend compatriots bemoaned the fact that she had to work the next day.

The conversation infuriated me to the point that it made me sick to my stomach, and it stuck with me for weeks. I had to wonder if these women knew any young adults, let alone young adults like the ones I see in my classes. Sure, my students (and my daughter) infuriate me sometimes when I see them doing less than they're capable of or on their phones during class or failing to comprehend the simplest of questions because they're just not listening.

But that's only part of the story.

These kids are giving. They're optimistic. They're smart. Many are shouldering much more responsibility than kids their age should be. They're figuring out who they are and what they stand for and what matters and what doesn't.

They're becoming contributing members of our society.

Some of them have experienced boot camp and military service. Others are the first in their families to attend college. Many play sports and work and are paying for some, if not all, of their education.

Are they perfect? No. Are there spoiled, self-centered kids among them? Yes. Am I privileged to be a part of these years of their lives?

I am.

Pixabay

As I sat and fumed on that train, unable to put together a coherent rebuttal, these kids marched through my mind. Kids who drive me crazy some days, but who, on many days, exhibit more maturity and a better work ethic than the women sitting across from me on the train, full grown adults who were willing to blithely lump all young adults together--as if they'd never experienced that stage of lives themselves, let alone spent the past weekend recreating it.

I'm still unable to articulate why that conversation elicited such a visceral response in me, but clearly, it did. And while I suspect that the tirade I kept to myself would have made little difference had I let loose, I hope that sharing my counterpoint might.

Do you know a young adult? If so, do yourself--and them--a favor. Ask them about their plans. Not what they want to be when they grow up, but what dreams they have. Not about salaries or majors or grades, but about how they see the world--and how they want to see it. Or change it. Tap into their enthusiasm, their optimism, their belief that all things are possible.

And then encourage it. Encourage them to chase their dreams, change the world, and spread their joy and enthusiasm to a world that sorely needs it.

Help them prove those spoiled women wrong.

I suspect that you'll be glad you did.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Tis Not the Season to Be Crochety

annca via Pixabay
I never wanted to be a crochety old lady. Still don't. And while I'm not there yet on either mood or age, I'm beginning to understand how people get there.

Change is, as they say, hard. While I recognize this in the big things (it's hard to miss when you work as a counselor), it's only recently that I've begun to realize that, even for adults, seemingly small changes can be hard, too.

Most of us pride ourselves on taking charge of our time. We make lists, create schedules, craft routines.

And then life happens. We can either adjust cheerfully or we can become...

Crochety.

Opportunities to land on one side of this line or the other seem to arise with even greater frequency during the holiday season. We make plans to work our way through our lists, but some days, everything from traffic to the common cold seems to conspire against us. Before we know it, holiday cheer is replaced by...

Crochetiness.

I don't know about you, but I don't want to spend the season grousing and griping. But, by the same token, I know that actually celebrating Christmas on time requires a certain amount of adherence to lists, schedules and routines.

So, this season, I'm going to try to keep the main goal -- a merry Christmas -- in mind. I'm going to try to keep my priorities straight and practice being flexible, not rigid; cheerful, not crochety. Instead of gritting my teeth when I have to toss my best laid plans into the air like so much confetti, I'm going to tackle the big stuff and hope the small stuff, like the confetti, lands in places where its sparkle enhances the celebration.

We'll see how it goes.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Friday Feature: Remarkably Simple Habits

Ah, a day off. A day in the middle of the week all to myself means skipping the schedule and meandering through the day, right?

Not if I'm smart.

When I read Peter Economy's article, "5 Remarkably Simple Daily Habits that will Change Your Life," I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I was doing (almost) all of them. True, my vacation day schedule looks quite a bit different from my work day schedule, but each begins with the same routine -- and with a list. From there, some meandering definitely takes place, but sticking to some semblance of structure -- albeit a loose one -- really does make the day more productive and more relaxing.

Although I have to work on what I'm staying hydrated with (more water, less caffeine) and I will never be a "wake up early" kind of girl, according to this article, I'm on the right track to changing my life.

Or at least keeping things running smoothly.


Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Casting the First Stone Characters Back on the Porch Swing

Hi Folks!

Lisa is here:
gapingvoidart.com

So you've got us.

Here are a few questions we picked out of the pile of questions from her Happiness Project calendar pages.

What are your favorite parts of your ordinary day?

Marita: Coming home after work and having dinner with Charli.
Bets: Seeing Trevor.
Angel: Waking up to the sound of Spencer cooing over the baby monitor and picking her up while she's still warm and sleepy.
Charli: Um, getting out of school?

What makes you happier: To go to bed early and wake up early or to go to bed late and wake up late?

Bets: Yes. The second one.
Angel: Early to bed, early to rise.
Marita: Early to bed, late to rise.
Charli: Me, too. Like Mom.

Telephone, e-mail or text?

Bets: Text. Unless it's Trevor.
Marita: Text.
Charli: Text.
Angel (looks embarrassed): Phone. Sorry. I just like to hear people's voices.

More time with friends or more time alone?

Bets: Friends -- especially Ri-Ri.
Marita: Friends.
Charli: Friends, mostly. Depends on the day.
Angel: Friends, definitely.

Load the dishwasher or unload the dishwasher?

Marita: Load. I'm very particular.
Angel: Me, too! Jim gets mad when I rearrange things, though.
Charli: Neither.
Bets (laughs): I'm with you, kiddo! Hire a maid!

Favorite holiday?

Angel: I love Thanksgiving, but I'd have to say Christmas.
Marita: Christmas with children is so much fun -- Christmas!
Charli: Mom, I'm not a child.
Marita: I didn't say you were -- I meant Spencer. (Under her breath) But you are.
Charli: I heard that.
Marita: And you love Christmas.
Charli: Yeah, yeah.
Bets: It's unanimous! We all love Christmas. And if you need a Christmas book -- that we're all in, by the way -- you should definitely check this one out!
Marita: Subtle, Bets. Very subtle.
Bets (shrugs): It's a gift.




Monday, November 27, 2017

Taking a Chance: The Conclusion

Photo: The Belmont Theatre
I got the part!

So, now what?

Am I crazy?? Not only is it less than a month until Christmas, but innumerable final exams, papers and presentations (to be graded) pave the path from now until December 25. Where am I planning to put rehearsals?

Am I ever going to write again?? Guess that one's a moot point, since I'm writing right now! Still, I'm sure my characters (not to mention my family) might feel a bit neglected....but my characters can wait until after final exams.

Am I too old?? I never worried about memorizing lines when I was a teenager or twenty-something (or even a thirty-something). But, these days, when I can remember what I wore on the first day of school in 1978 but forget what I'm doing without even leaving my chair, I'm a tad concerned that the process might be a little more complicated.

It would seem that I should have considered all of these things before I auditioned (I did). And now, it would seem there is only one way to find out the answers to these questions.

Back in the day, I waited breathlessly for phone calls to come and cast lists to appear. This time around, even when the call came, I was calm. Sure, I'd have been disappointed to hear that someone else had been chosen, but clearly I have plenty to keep me busy while I'm offstage.

But today, as the afternoon wears on and the first rehearsal draws closer, I'm getting excited. The practical part of me hopes I can leave after meeting the cast and reading through my scenes, but I'm still optimistic that I can still get through everything on my to-do list even if I'm there a bit longer.

Maybe it's not optimism. Maybe I'm delusional. (And sounding a little like my character). But, having landed on this side of the page, all I can do now is show up and find out.

And start learning my lines.

Post rehearsal post script: This is going to be so much fun!!!