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Note #143: A busy semester ahead (2022.9.9)

This is going to be quick today, as we are into the Chuseok holiday and it is going to be a busy weekend. However, it has been my tradition to mark the beginnings and ends of semesters with a post either looking forward or looking back, so here we go.

I already know that this semester is going to be a very busy one; I have quite a bit on my plate that needs to get done. And yet, in spite of the mountain of tasks and obligations looming before me, I somehow feel positive about it all. Not excited, mind you, but quietly confident that I will manage to make my way through. I've long since learned that I will never get everything done that I want to do, but I usually seem to manage nonetheless.

Classes are looking like they will be interesting this semester. Like last semester, I am teaching in person, although everyone still has to wear masks in class. This makes it a lot harder to connect with students and learn everyone's faces, so I look forward to the day when we will finally be able to drop the masks. Even without the masks, though, it would still be a daunting task to try to get to know all of my students. At the moment (with the add/drop period now over), I have a total of 93 students, which I think is probably the most students I've ever had in a single semester. Actually, in terms of getting to know students, I only have 89 unique students—four are apparently gluttons for punishment, as they are taking both of my classes—but I will still have 93 student's worth of essays, assignments, etc. to mark.

Number, though, are just... numbers. What about the students themselves? Well, it's still early days, but so far they seem like a bright and enthusiastic bunch. I was particularly impressed with the students in my literature-in-translation class, as I had asked them on Monday to go home and think about the question, “What is a good translation?” I then came in on Wednesday and devoted most of the class to hearing what they had to say and discussing the question with them, and I was quite pleased to see that they took the task seriously and put some real thought into it. When the class ended and the students were making their way out of the classroom, I heard one of them say to her friend, “The people in this class are so smart!” Her friend replied, “I know, right?” They both seemed excited at the idea rather than intimidated (“Oh my god, the people in this class are so smart! What are we going to do?”), and I share their enthusiasm. I haven't had as much of an opportunity yet to get a feel for the students in my other class (which is the larger of the two by a good amount), but overall things are looking good.

Yes, it's going to be a crazy semester filled with papers and presentations and conferences and deadlines, not to mention the usual teaching and marking, but for some reason I feel... positive. Is it a false sense of confidence, brought on by the excitement of beginning a new semester? Am I just smiling and waving as the Mack truck barrels toward me? Nah. Things will work out. There will be rough days along the way, of course, but I will get where I need to be in the end. Although it will be interesting to look back in my end-of-the-semester post to see exactly how the journey went.

(By the way, if you are wondering about the promised write-up of our trip to Big Bend country this summer, I haven’t forgotten about it. That’s not to say that I’m going to get to it any time soon... just that I haven’t forgotten about it.)

Send me your thoughts.

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