So, early impressions...
-- As a way to start the semester, Beowulf freakin' rocks. I didn't teach it last year, because I'd already taught it twice in the space of twelve months and I was sick of it -- but hey, it has monsters! Monsters and doom! What's not to like? Also, the students seemed to like it and had a lot to say about it, especially in the 11 a.m. section. Probably, this was because they'd read it already in high school and felt like they Knew The Answers, but perhaps it's not a bad idea to start off with something that makes them feel comfortable. They were a bit quieter when we got to Marie de France, today; I suspect this is less familiar territory.
-- This is the first time I've taught two sections of the same lit class in one semester. I'm used to doing this with comp, so I knew going in that there's always a good section and a bad section, but I hadn't realized that it would matter so much more in lit. The 8:00 class is understandably sleepy and a bit sullen, and it's like pulling teeth to get them to say anything; the 11:00 class is all perky and excited and full of sharp observations, and sometimes hard to shut up. And yet, somehow, I have to steer things around that someone makes a few key observations about the reading at 8:00, even if I have to lead them there by the nose; and the 11:00 section has to be reigned in long enough for me to toss a few literary terms and dates out there.
Also, I've just realized that one of my biggest pet peeves, even bigger than text messaging, is student passivity. You know, like when a bunch of students are sitting where they clearly can't see the movie screen on the other side of the classroom, and you dim the lights and start projecting images and lecturing about what's on the screen, and it doesn't occur to them to move to a part of the room where they can see? That drives me nuts. That's the 8 a.m. class in a nutshell.
On the plus side, both sections ended up with a nice, even 25 students, so I don't have to adapt any activities to a larger or smaller group. (Also, THANK GOD the total enrollment stabilized at 50 instead of 60.)
-- My department had a reception-thingy for majors yesterday afternoon, and one of the 11:00 students complimented me on how much he was enjoying the class in front of my chair. SCORE. (As a side note, do you want to know how to get 45 humanities majors into a very small student lounge? Tell them there will be free food. It was kind of like going to the aquarium at shark-feeding time: both awesome and scary.)
-- Sir Gawain next. There will be medieval Christmas music.