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Last Day

Today’s the last day of classes here in Claremont, and given that I’m very, very shortly outta here (first, holidays; then, vacation; after, blissful months-long period of reading and writing) — well, needless to say, I’m happy. But also sad. And I wanted to take a few minutes to contemplate the sadness before beginning the mad dash to get my leave started.

This has been a tremendously fun semester. That’s not to say that there weren’t things I could have done without (too many searches, too many meetings, too much general administrative nonsense). It’s undoubtedly also true that some part of the fun for me was precisely in knowing that, at the end of this semester, I’d have eight months of freedom ahead of me, a fact that at various moments certainly mellowed me out a fair bit. My colleagues would start discussing some crucial problem in scheduling for the spring, and I’d shrug and think “whatever; won’t be here.” Even the administrative nonsense wasn’t that bad, because I just kept telling myself that whatever I had to do had an end date: as of December 17, I stop working for the college and start working for me. (Temporarily, of course. But there’s a joy in that, too.)

But the fun of this semester isn’t solely attributable to its on-the-edge-of-freedomness. I taught two classes this semester, each for the first time, that I just adored: Literary Interpretation, our gateway course (which, yes, somehow I managed to get to the eighth year of my career without ever having taught), and Theories of New Media, a new topic in my Topics in Media Theory course.

The fun of each had something to do with the material. In Literary Interpretation, for instance, I got to teach poetry (poetry!) for the very first time ever, and while I was terrified, I survived, and discovered that I do in fact have stuff to say about poetry after all. I also got to teach a bit of drama, which was my first love; today my students are ending their semester with performances of scenes from the plays we read. And in Theories of New Media, I had the opportunity to roll out a bunch of stuff that I’d been contemplating for the last few years, got to talk about some issues in hypertext and social software with a group of smart, interested students, and got to send them off to go make projects of their own.

And the making of projects is a big part of my pleasure from this semester — having the opportunity, at last, to have students focus their attention on making something new — but the biggest part is the smart, interested students. My Literary Interpretation class, for instance, has been talkative and insightful and just plain smart since day one; this class has been for me a model of what the small liberal arts college learning-through-discussion thing is all about. And my Theories of New Media class, while a bit more laid-back and a bit less fluid in discussion (some of which is due to the not entirely conducive architecture of the room, which is very lectury in layout), and while bigger and thus more uneven in preparation and investment, has nonetheless been an exciting group of students with whom to work through some of the ideas that I’m about to spend the next eight months working on.

So I’m happy to get that eight months started, but I’m sad to let these classes go, sad that this particular combination of kids and ideas won’t ever really come together again. And after so many months of frustration, so many semesters of feeling like a bad teacher (my sense of my quality as a teacher bearing an unfortunate inverse relationship to the quantity of time I’m having to spend on administrative matters), after so much anxiety about what I was doing and why I was doing it, this semester reminded me of what it is that makes the trouble worth it.

So thanks, all of you. I’ll miss you in the spring.


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