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Mindful Thoughts

Report from my return to “real” life: two weeks in

By September 18, 2011No Comments
It’s been two weeks since my sabbatical officially ended with the return to classes here at our little college. As a friend pointed out, it’s not exactly real life. I don’t teach on Thursday’s, and so I spent much of the first Thursday of classes at home, making a pot of soup and knitting in a comfy chair. If you have to have a job, college professor is, in my book, the one to go for.

After the first day of classes, I saw my husband (also a college professor) in the hallway and said, “I forgot the part where they’re a captive audience.” Which was true. I forgot the part about being a college professor that involves me picking out some interesting stuff for them to read, and then them all sitting down expectantly in front of me, and all of us talking about it. Only unlike say, your book group, these people all have some considerable motivation to listen to what you say. Which is to say, you always get to go first. And if you want to talk about some completely random thing, you can. And by and large, they have to listen. Cool.

Truthfully, this semester I’ve cut out even more lecturing from my classes, so they’re not listening to me all that much. Being tenured and having some time over sabbatical to reflect on teaching, I realized I was tired of teaching to exams. And unlike my unfortunate colleagues in the public schools, I don’t have to. I make the tests. Or I don’t make them. I get to decide what I feel they need to know, and because I teach at a liberal arts college, the most important thing they need to know is how to think. Not how to regurgitate a definition of ethnomethodology on an exam.

Not having to provide definitions for them to regurgitate on a test means we can spend a lot more time talking about what they found interesting, and trying to figure out how the things they read help answer big questions. In our intro class, those big questions are things like, “Why do people act they way they do?”; “Why are things the way they are?”; “Who am I and how did I get here?” Now that’s some valuable information.

I also forgot how interesting and funny and surprising our students can be. How young and vulnerable they are.  How sometimes you want to take them home with you like fuzzy little kittens, and sometimes you think it’d be best just to leave them along the side of the road and let them find their own way.
The annoying thing about the return to normal life is that there’s less time to do all the fun things. Less time for knitting. Less time for fiddling. Less time for reading books. Less time for writing blog entries. Less time for working on my novel in progress. Less time for husbands, stepchildren and friends. But more time than there would be in many other jobs, so I can’t complain too much.

As you read this on Sunday, my husband and I will be celebrating our first wedding anniversary, having dined Saturday night at Proof on Main and stayed the night at the fabulous 21C Museum Hotel, so obviously, there’s still time for some things. If you’re ever in Louisville, you should go here.  I knew Proof for a long time as “that restaurant in Louisville with the two-way mirror in the men’s restroom.”  And it does have a two-way mirror in the men’s restroom, on the wall behind the urinal.  The restaurant also has amazing food that is not as expensive as you’d think, most of it local.  And the hotel/museum has some great modern art exhibits, as well as art in the hotel rooms as well.

Tomorrow on Madison Monday, my review of Wilderness Plots at the historic Ohio Theatre in Madison and how hearing stories spoken and sung adds a whole new dimension to your experience of them.

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