Yup. Classes at Misnomer U. ended yesterday. Take that, those of you who were out on the beach in August while I was teaching my classes. Yay!
There's still a week of exams after the break, followed by an astonishingly early deadline for submitting grades, but in practice it's over.
Random observations about the first semester:
-- I shall miss my Awesome and Fabulous Shakespeare class. I really liked that group. It was a required class for many of them, but with only about three or four exceptions, they were also very much into the material for its own sake, and a few of them expressed an interest in taking the other Shakespeare course in the fall, even though they're not required to have more than one. I think I may make banana bread for the final exam. (Every now and again, I get a group that inspires me to bake.)
-- My morning freshman comp class reminded me a lot of the kids in the Summer Bridge program at the University of Basketball: very social, pretty chatty, better at talking than writing, eager and excited about being in college if sometimes clueless about what college-level work actually entails. This is mostly good, as I really liked working for Summer Bridge, but some of them do seem to need a level of discipline and general cluing-in about academic life that is difficult to provide during the regular semester. The afternoon comp class was pretty similar in terms of background, but without a core group of three or four excellent students to model good class participation and behavior, and I think the other students definitely needed that core group. But at least it is a very, very different dynamic than at New SLAC, where I felt like I was fighting an uphill battle every single day.
-- In general, this place has a very different vibe than New SLAC, despite being roughly the same size and having similar average ACT scores. I miss some things about the campus culture at New SLAC -- it was, I think, more engaged, more community-oriented, the sort of place where faculty showed up to the English Club poetry reading and everybody turned out for the choir concerts and theater department productions. On the other hand, I don't miss feeling like the unwritten requirements for tenure included being seen at these events (and, quite possibly, being an extravert). There has to be some sort of middle ground, right?
-- In lots of ways, though, the community vibe at New SLAC was illusory; it didn't necessarily encompass the commuter students from Desperately Poor City up the highway, for example. The same class divisions apply here, only more so: there are plenty of middle-class students who live in the dorms, work 10-12 hours a week if at all, participate in campus activities, and have a good-sized social support network among their fellow students. And then there are lots who commute from other counties, work such long hours that they fall asleep in class, and barely have a chance to talk to their fellow students, and they're visibly hurting from the lack of time and energy and, most of all, community. I don't know what to do about this -- maybe there is nothing we can do -- but I am very, very sure that the administration's current push toward distance education is going to make the problem worse, not better.
-- At any rate, there is good and useful work to be done here. And maybe that's the most important quality in any job, really.