In 1968, the Beatles had a big hit--"Back in the U.S.S.R," a song whose lyrics include this:
Been away so long I hardly knew the place
Gee, it's good to be back home
Here's the Fab Four performing the song: Link
I had an experience this morning that in some tiny, minor ways mirrored the experience that song records. I did not fly in on a plane (I drove); I did not hold a paper bag (I carried a canvas one); I did not see mountains (I saw "the lawn's wide sweep" of Western Reserve Academy); I didn't "hardly [know] the place" (I retired just two years ago).
A friend there--Kim Barsella--had invited me to talk with her students this morning about blogging. I've been blogging on this site since January 2012--and this will be post #450--so I do have a lot of experience, though not so much expertise. I'm okay (not expert) with a computer, and my posts tend to be pretty low-tech: pictures, some links, mostly words.
A confession: I was nervous. This is not a new feeling: I was nervous before every class I ever taught, from Day One in September 1966 to Day Last in June 2011. But this was different, for a variety of reasons.
I did not think I would know any of the students (I had taught only juniors, and they were long gone), and I was right about that: Only one young man in the class had been at the school when I taught there. And it's hard to teach a class when you don't know the students--I don't care how experienced you are. Some of my worst memories in my 45-year career involve new classes, new students who didn't know me, new schools. I still have nightmares ...
I also am not an authority on blogs and blogging. And I haven't talked to a group in two years.
So I figured my best strategy was to confess my ignorance and inadequacies right away--tell them before they figured it out (which wouldn't take long!). This seemed to go over okay--and it also gave me a lot to talk about (my list of inadequacies being quite long).
I also listened to them a bit--found out what they were thinking of doing in their own blogs. The topics were wide: sports, fashion, the movies, travel, what it's like being in different schools, and some others that my poor Old Man brain cannot recall just an hour later.
So I quickly showed them Blogspot, showed them a few things you can do to set up (they could have told me more, I'm sure--but I was on a roll now), then went through a few posts I've done to show them the range of things I write about.
I'd told them right away that I'm not a single-topic blogger. Writing about the same subject every day would quickly bore me, so, as I showed them, I'm all over the place--high school memories, current events, books I've read, authors I like, sports, dreams, silliness, the serial installments of The Papers of Victoria Frankenstein, travel, and some deeply personal ones as well (my struggles with prostate cancer). If you scroll down the topics on this blog, you'll see how I hop from subject to subject like a flea at a dog show.
We laughed together a few times, and before I was ready, the time was up, and I had to go home--bearing some lovely potted daisies and a card signed by the students.
When I neared home, I saw I couldn't get home: There was some sort of road race going on--runners all over the place--and the cops had my street blocked off. Perfect.
There's one thing I wish I'd said (nervousness made me forget): Be yourself in a blog. Let your own personality emerge. I find that writing these posts is a bit like having a conversation with myself. Or--better--like letting my canine thoughts go outside for a run. Just to see ...
As I was packing up to leave, Kim asked me if doing the class made me miss teaching. I wisecracked--something like, At least I don't have papers to grade this afternoon.
But I do miss teaching--very much. Those bright, curious, amiable students this morning reminded me what a privilege it is to be in a classroom. I told some of them they'd better say hello when they see me at Caribou Coffee (my morning hangout), which is soon closing. I told them I'd written a stupid poem about it (for Facebook), and here it is ...
The news was dark and dismal—
What will DawnReader do?
The word came down from Corporate that
They’re closing Caribou!
“Oh, no!” I heard DawnReader cry,
His voice full of alarm.
“How can they close my Morning Spot—
Such everlasting harm!
“Where will I go to read my books?
To read the morning news?
Where will I sit to edit all
My drafts of book reviews?”
And Corporate said, “We do not care!
Go out and walk the streets.
For we’re converting Caribou
To something else—called ‘Peets.’”
And in tiny human voice
The DawnReader replied,
“How can I think of other shops
When Caribou has died?!”
From somewhere in distant North—
The DawnReader can hear—
A dripping, awful splashing sound—
He knows: It’s Rudolph’s tears!