Monday, July 1, 2019

Anatomy of a Summer Class

This is the second summer I've taught a class, after decades of summers off. In the past two years, I've discovered there's a rhythm to not only the class itself but also, the emotions that accompany it.
The week before it starts: Ugh. Why did I agree to do this?
First week: This isn't so bad!
Second week: I've got a good group. I'm enjoying this!
Third week: I'm soooo tired.
Fourth week: Ooh! July 4! Short week!
Fifth week: Wait. We're finished?
Not only are summer classes short, but they also have have about one third the number of students as my regular semester classes. Camaraderie builds fairly quickly and discussion is rarely a problem. Thanks in part to the small size of the group, my students connect with each other, with me and, most of the time, with the material as well. It's a lot at once but, all in all, not a bad way to teach the material.

But last May, tired from spring semester and anticipating a book release, I vowed not to teach a summer class again. I shared these feelings with my husband, explaining that with my regular writing gigs and the novels I wanted to finish, I wasn't sure I wanted to spend five weeks of the summer feeling as though I wasn't making any progress on my writing. In my mind, it was a done deal. This summer would be it.

And then I met my students.

Educators really do have a life outside the classroom, one they look forward to spending their summers exploring. Weekends and semester breaks give us a small taste of the hobbies we love but often, they merely whet our appetites.

I'm well-compensated for my summer class, but one of the reasons it feels that way is because I enjoy what I do. For two summers in a row, I've had around ten students of varying majors from varied locations (yes, some are from NJ :-) bring their perspective into my classroom. They're hard-working, these summer groups, and here by choice, whether to catch up, get ahead or finish early. And when the middle of July rolls around and I regain my "freedom," I'm never sorry for the time I spent with them.

I was never one of those kids who knew she wanted to be a teacher. In fact, I was pretty sure I didn't want to teach. Then, an internship in school counseling captured me in a way nothing else ever had (thank you, Wendy Hummel and Carol Fairchild!) leading me to nearly three decades working as an educator. I retired early, only to find myself back in a different classroom in a different role within a year.

kristinetanne via Pixabay
These days, when I teach, I encourage my students to find something they love to do and, much to my delight, I frequently get the comment on my evaluations that it's clear that I love what I do.

I'm not sure I fully agree with the saying that you never working a day in your life if you love what you do because, no matter how much I love my jobs (teaching and writing), there's definitely work involved. But the people -- whether my flesh-and-blood students and critique group or my online teacher and writer friends -- are part of the perks.

Will I teach next summer? I don't know. But the joy I get from hanging out with the nine students I currently have definitely tips the scales in favor of yes.

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