Friday, September 9, 2011

A Positive Note

This semester I added a new question to my Unit #1 Pretest.

After asking “Who is the Commander in Chief”[1] and “Name 5 countries in Asia[2] I asked the students something they weren’t ready for.

“#24: Tell me what you’re great at*

When a roomful of fearful eyes darted up from the page, I explained I wanted them to imagine me calling people who know them and asking that question. 

A few students winced, so I continued, “For example, if you won the lottery what would you DO for fun that you’re already great at?” 

A student blurted out, “Well I wouldn’t be HERE!” and a few others laughed along.

I didn’t laugh. I stopped cold and lost all my bouncing Tigger energy. “Oh no! I don’t wish that for you! I want you to be happy, now and always, like I am!”  I told them I taught my heart out as a graduate student for $1000 a class just as hard as I teach full time now.  And if I won the lottery tomorrow, I’d STILL be teaching here, same classes, same students, same attitude (cuter earrings), because every single day at my job is fun.

The class stops and everyone looks up, because this whole “life thing” sounds serious.

 I remind them that life is supposed to be fun. FUN FUN FUN.  Too many of them look at me like I’m crazy which is a problem because it’s early in the semester and I’m still doing my best to not look crazy.  I have to concentrate on “composure” more at the beginning of the semester than later, with a CNN-crawl through my head saying HEY! don’t throw pens HEY don’t trip over your feet, HEY! don’t wear the same outfit twice in a row, HEY! don’t lose the wireless mouse.

While I have their attention (and also because they’re taking a test and they don’t know the next question so they’re literally hostages) I tell them about H* from last semester who came to my office for advising.

While we discussed his major, H* told me he knew he could find a job after graduation with the state, and it would be steady work.

I asked H* if he’d LOVE that job and he laughed at the question, shooting back, “Dr. Soldani, not everyone can LOVE their job like you do!”

When the shock of his statement rolled past me I told him I wished better for him, I wished for him a life that brings fulfillment and joy.

Their answers to question #24 by the way, were beautiful. Across three classes my students candidly shared they can (among other talents, I’m sure) hunt, fish, sing, do hair, fix cars, build computers and make other people feel included.[3]

The fact I think I have the dream job, and get giddy at work sometimes bothers people.

The other day I got to class 10 minutes early, ready to set up.  Another professor was still there, having a serious talk with a concerned student.  I erase the board and find a place to put my stuff. 

Then, I guess I swirled around like Snow White because she stopped talking to her students and said, “Did you just swirl?”

I caught myself and felt my hand against my long favorite peach silky dress.

It was possible I just swirled, but just in case, I did a nice twirl and told her I was so happy to teach Reconstruction I couldn’t contain myself. 

She told me to get my head checked, which was funny, so I swirled and twirled again and soon enough I was off telling stories to another class, positive I have the dream job and wishing the same for all of them.

[1] About half the students answered it correctly;  guesses included Condoleesa Rice,  “some General” and “Donald Rumsfelt”
[2] My favorite was a student who wrote “Persia, Persia, Persia, Persia, Persia”

[3] My favorite was the student who wrote (in purple pen, with round deliberate handwriting)  “People come to me for advice” then inserted another word so it read “People come to me for GOOD advice.”