The Jump to Light Speed

A friend and I were talking yesterday about how you start each semester convinced you will get it right this time. You are going to stay on top of grading, try this innovative new gimmick, avoid teaching without a lesson plan and at last get to those projects you've had on your list for a year. Then, two weeks in, you find yourself once again at light speed. The emails and material in your inbox whip by in a whirring streak and you can barely focus on anything beyond the next five minutes. The fastest sports cars may go zero to 60 mph in five seconds, but that's nothing. A semester goes from zero to 6,000,000 before the first week is over.

I think I hit terminal velocity yesterday. Both my Humanities section and the senior capstone were dull and ill-organized. It's always a bad idea when I am doing more talking in class than the students, but that's what happens once the semester accelerates. My ideas and the transitions in the material become compressed. I start to rush through things and only realize later that I skipped an important idea that the students needed to hear before I introduce concept. X.

Somehow, too, spring term has a quicker take-off than fall. Everything was fresh in September, there was an influx of anxious-to-do-well freshmen, and I had had a longer time away from the game. But it's only week two and my students already seem tired. The snow, which was so fresh only a few days ago, now looks profane and cheerless. The winter sun is low on the horizon, and I am jonesing for good class so I can feel good about teaching again. It's the way I get after a couple of bad classes, when it seems that I am doing something I want to do so well not so well. It always makes me think of a poem by Frank O'Hara, who was lamenting the absence of someone he loved:

Now I am quietly waiting for
the catastrophe of my personality
to seem beautiful again,
and interesting and modern.

The country is grey and
brown and white in trees,
snows and skies of laughter,
always diminishing, less funny
not just darker, not just grey.

It may be the coldest day of
the year. What does he think of
that? I mean, what do I? And if I do,
perhaps I am myself again.


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