Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Here it comes

It's almost that time of year.

Colorful falling leaves, the hint of apples in the air, suggesting cinnamon doughnuts and cider on a chilly morning. Crisp breezes, with sudden surprising sunny afternoons. The first frost, which makes the grapevines wilt.

I love the Fall.

For years, I couldn't enjoy it because it only reminded me of how quickly winter would crash into town, like a retaining wall suddenly collapsing. Winter and I have not been friends for most of my life.

A few years back I discovered it isn't winter I hated, it's being cold. Stay warm, and winter has its own stark beauty. I found out I enjoy shoveling snow. It's a very warm activity, outside in the cold, yet not cold on the inside. And since joining the fire department, winter has a new personality, where the weather isn't nearly as important as getting to where we're needed. No time to indulge in not liking the snow. I've seen more of the winter NIGHT since then than I had the rest of my life, when I used to just stay indoors.

I have, in fact, had to pick up the garbage in the snow, but that's not what I came to tell you about.

Came to talk about the draft.

Err... ummm.. not exactly. :-) (Anyone who gets the reference gets a prize. Anyone except for you, SJ. If you DON'T get it, I'm going to come right over and check your BP.)

It's the time of year when new classes start. We have four starting in the next week, and that's pretty danged exciting.

When I was a child, the "first day of school" meant getting up early, and turning lights on in the morning- something I've never really done other times of year. It meant packing a lunch, and going off to a different world. It meant that giddy anticipation of finding out. What classes was I in? Who were the teachers? Who would I see that I had not seen all summer? Where am I in the complex social structure of the school-world? (That last one had an easy answer, but I digress...)

Now, it is not so much the getting up before dawn to try to get ready... I do that frequently enough, anyway, when the pager goes off in the middle of the night. But there is still that sense of anticipation, and, for some reason, I still get the urge to go buy new notebooks and pencils.

I love new classes. New students.

I love that first day, the first impressions, us of them, and them of us, watching them try to figure out what they've gotten themselves into. I love watching people see the fencing master for the first time, because it is NEVER what they expected, and that's no matter what they expected. I don't even have to know what it was, I know this isn't it.

I love to watch people learn.

They start at zero, especially in this, and then there is a continuous stream of moments of incorporation. I can watch, from the beginning of a class to the end, 45 minutes or an hour later, and see learning take place. The subtle signs of a shift in stress level as things start to connect. The bright-eyed look as with connection comes enjoyment.

It is especially fascinating at the college level where most of the new students are not only in our class for the first time, but they are freshmen, away from home and on their own for the first time, starting their entire college experience. There is a rawness to it that I find delightful.

One semester, there was a student who purchased our textbook with the first check he had ever written- I had to help him figure out how to fill it out.

Our classes are sequential in nature, each class building on what was in the class before, and it is in these first introductory classes that it is the most obvious that this is so. A roomful of students trying things they've never done, with mixed success. What we are asking them to do is both simple and complex at the same time.

I love seeing which students figure this out first. That each skill is expanded on in each class, and what appears to be "review" is in fact a deepening of understanding. Who recognizes that the master's monologues are not, as they may seem to be, irrelevant personal commentary, but are, in fact, directly connected to the subject matter? Who thinks that after a couple of days, they know how to do this, and who realizes that this is only the tip of the iceberg? Who clearly actually wants to do this, and who just wants to float through the class, undoubtedly the same as they do through everything else in their lives, without appreciation, without attention, without intent?

I look for the few who seem to have found home, at last.
Kindred spirits.

And I look for those who appear to be totally lost.
They, more than anyone, need to learn what we can teach.


Spartacus Jones said...



GreenJello said...

I love fall, too. My only complaint is that it doesn't last long enough, and the cold comes rolling in.

And I like shoveling snow, too. :) Bundle up, and have at it!