So, add-drop is over, and it appears that my medieval lit class will be small. Very small. Like, count-all-the-students-on-one-hand small.
I have mixed feelings about this. I knew it was going to be a niche course, but I was hoping for two hands. It looked like I was going to achieve that goal, but three of the students who were enrolled on the first day never showed up again. On the one hand, I really like the idea of being able to give all my attention to a tiny handful of bright, focused students, and I'm already picturing classes held in the coffeeshop by mutual agreement, plenty of easy chitchat, a cozy book-club atmosphere. (Not to mention less grading! Can we say it again, LESS GRADING!)
On the other hand -- I feel a little unpopular. I wonder if I could have done more during our first class to make students welcome (did I send the wrong signals? do I come off as too nervous, too socially awkward, too stiff? should I try to develop a more linear, lecture-centered style instead of leaping straight into free-flowing discussion?) I also wish we had a more diverse group (the one non-English major, who was also the only non-white student enrolled, dropped after the first day, and ideally, I would have loved to have a few people with a background in history or fine arts or social sciences). This probably reflects some institutional issues rather than problems with this particular class. Because of the way the curriculum is structured, there are some strong disincentives for students at Misnomer U. to take upper-level coursework outside of their majors, while there were some equally strong incentives for students at the Beloved Alma Mater to do so, so I grew up thinking of a big cheerful seminar table surrounded by English and history and philosophy students as the norm. Still, I worry that I might have pitched the first class too high, assumed too much knowledge, scared some students off.
I'm trying to remember whether I ever took a class that was this small. I don't think so; even in grad school, even in second-semester Anglo-Saxon poetry, my impression is that there were always a few more bodies to hide behind. I suspect this will put a pretty heavy burden on the students to prepare and participate -- which isn't a bad thing at all, but it can be exhausting to have to be on all the time.
Well, we'll see how it goes. Wish me luck.