Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

English 101: Part III

A few days ago I wrote about how I taught Freshman English at Kent State University in the spring of 1982.  Two sections.  I wrote about the route I took to join the faculty as an adjunct; I wrote, in general, about the format of the course.  The goals were pretty broad, and I could use the texts I wanted to, though all teachers had to use X. J. Kennedy's shelf-bender, Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama.  I added The Odyssey (Robert Fitzgerald's translation) and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

I still have materials from the course--the syllabus, the assignment sheets I gave the students each week, my plans, my final grades.

The first class?  Canceled.  Snow.  But then I see I spent the remainder of the first week just discovering how they already responded to poems and stories.  We read some short things, and I just listened to what they had to say--trying to figure out what sort of backgrounds they had, what sorts of things they would come up with.  I also gave them a grammar/usage/mechanics pre-test--to see where they stood.  (They stood on shaky ground!)  We worked on g/u/m every day for a few minutes--sometimes longer.  Had regular quizzes.

The second week we read Chekhov's "The Marriage Proposal."  The third week--some folk tales, legends, myths.  And some Updike and Raymond Chandler.  On Friday--I introduced The Odyssey.  We spent the next three weeks on it, 3 books or so a class session.  And here's what I remember about our discussions of the epic:

That's right.  Nothing.  I cannot recall a single thing we did or said.  That's ominous ...

In late February, we started reading Huck Finn, and I have few memories of that, too--except for this: I had some black students in the classes, and I was concerned about you-know-what.  I prepared them as best I could ... and waited.

No problems.  (None, anyway, that came up in class.)  They loved the book--and I was surprised that not a single one of my forty-five students had read it before.  We spent a few weeks with the novel (they wrote a paper comparing the journeys of Odysseus and Huck).

Next--we worked on their research papers and read some short poems every week: Wordsworth, Creeley, Hughes, Swift, Levertov, Frost, Robinson, Updike, R. Lowell, Tennyson, others.

Once their papers were done and in, we read Faulkner's "Barn Burning" (saw the film, too) and then ended the year with something Extra Lite: Oedipus Rex.  Zero memories about how that went.

I look now at my final grades for the forty-five students:

A = 6
B = 23
C = 11
D = 5
F = 0

I would've had a few F's--but several dropped before the axe fell.

And my students?  I don't remember any of them.  Not a single one.  I'm looking right now at my class lists, and no names produce pictures or memories.

I loved the time in class--but what I didn't like?  I saw those students only on M-W-F that term.  Kent is such a large school--and I was not on campus except for classes and office hours--so I never saw them anywhere else but in my classroom.  I didn't like that.  It was so different from the middle school, from WRA.  After that last class (Friday, 30 April) I never saw any of them again.  Not one has friended me.  Not one has haunted my dreams.

But for a few months we read and wrote some words together.  And laughed when the season said we should.

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