You put the syllabus together over the summer,
choosing this text, that film, this short story–
wondering if it will all hang together when it needs to,
when you’ve got 30 plus students in a room three days a week
and a paycheck to earn.
And then you begin to teach that text, this film, that story
and some days it goes well and you’re in the zone as they say
and other days the students just look at you–
confused, bored, indifferent, hostile
and you know that you’ve failed them somehow
but you keep at it and they keep showing up,
though of course they have to show up so this is nothing
you can take credit for.
And then in early December the end comes with the cold days
and they write their term papers and take their final exams
and you read all their words
and some of what you read is way off course, literally
and some of it is inspired bullshit and some of it is just sadly, plainly wrong
but you ‘ve grown fond of these students and you realize
to your own amazement that you love them, actually,
though of course you can’t say that to them or to anyone, really.
And then you read the words of a few of them,
two or three maybe, and you remember that they
were the quiet ones mostly
and you didn’t know them well, even though you wanted to
and now reading their words you understand that they understood,
that they saw things in the texts and the films and the stories
that you didn’t see and they made connections you didn’t make
and their words move you deeply and you think:
maybe you can do this after all.