Friday, April 12, 2013

I Remember...

This is always a tough time in the semester for students and instructors alike. Those students who are writing a thesis this semester have Monday, April 15th as their deadline. I offer a thesis writing class for students from either the American Studies or the English department so they can write their thesis under close supervision. There were 13 students in the class; this meant volumes of reading/editing/advising. 

Add to this the seven other classes I have this semester, I am ready to topple over. Thankfully, there is a Fulbrighter teaching one class under my name or I would have eight other classes.

To give the journalism students a bit of a break, I did something that our guest speaker, Dana Sachs did last year. I read the poem I Remember by Joe Brainard. Then I asked them to write twenty lines of their own ‘I Remember…’. I thought it was only fair that I Remember too and shared it with them. Here is mine.

I remember discovering there was an opening in the American Studies department at ELTE, just days after I voiced my desire to teach university once again.

I remember printing out my CV and taking a taxi down to the university to hand it in.

I remember my interview with Dr. Bollobás, who ended the interview with “I will call all the people I interviewed on Tuesday at 5pm. You will be home then won’t you?” She repeated the last sentence five times and then gave me her mobile number in case I had to go out.

I remember working with Aaron Hunter, who was much younger than me. He said “Don’t worry if students don’t come to your office hours. It could be your age.”

I remember having an office full of students who just wanted to hang out with me until their next class.

I remember Aaron being confused about all of the students who came to see me for no particular reason.

I remember students who were doing their student teaching when I was teaching Teacher Training. They came to my office crying about how rigid and unaccepting their mentor teachers were in the schools where they were placed.

I remember the department giving a written and oral exam before admitting students to the American Studies program.

I remember how I had to perpetually remind myself that English was the second language for these students.

I remember wondering if a Spanish, French, Russian, or Hungarian major in an American university gets off easy because it is not their first language?

I remember the joy and horror of having the same class for five lessons each week.

I remember assigning five essays a semester with each one having the opportunity for one revision while having thirty students in a class.

I remember not enjoying reading 2,620 pages of students’ work a semester, but I did it in hopes the students would learn something.

I remember discovering when the students accidentally disclosed that all they did for a revision was ACCEPT ALL CHANGES in the essay I returned to them for revision.

I remember learning to lock the essays so they could no longer do that.

I remember the first student who asked me to be his thesis advisor and how nervous I was about being up to the task.

I remember when he received honors on this thesis and how proud I was for both of us.
I remember the first six years of teaching at ELTE when students wanted to hang out as much as possible.

I remember holding coffee meetings twice a month on different days and times so students could come to practice their English.

I remember how those coffee klatches were meant to be an hour, but sometimes I was still there three hours later than planned.

I remember the time when twenty-five students showed up at one time. I was flabbergasted.

I remember the first group of students who gave me five books for Christmas. I cried so hard in front of the class; I was mortified while being humbled at the same time.

I remember the first student who asked if he could come to our home. He spent so much time there, we almost adopted him.

I remember when he left for the Kellner Scholarship; he was so concerned about us that he found a replacement student.

I remember wondering how we would deal with the loss and if this ‘replacement’ would fill his shoes.

I remember the day it occurred to me that we now had two adoptees, because both guys became our family.

I remember the joy I felt when I was able to get the ten computers donated by my friend’s business.

I remember writing the proposal for creating a writing center where students would aid students and I would be in the background as a guide.

I remember my department head deciding that these new computers were perfect for creating a journalism program and made it my task to develop it.

I remember when she told me to come up with 60 different courses that could potentially be our offerings, each with a few sentences detailing the course.

I remember spending days searching American universities websites for their course listings for ideas.

I remember the sense of relief I felt when I finished the task and turned it in with great pride in my achievement.

I remember her response “Wow, Ryan! You really put a lot of work into this, but we only needed about 10 courses worth 60 credits.”

I remember wanting to do damage to someone or something after that.

I remember not being thrilled about the changes in the university policy; we no longer were able to test students for admission.

I remember writing the curriculum multiple times and then having someone in the ivory tower refute something or other.

I remember asking other faculty for their willingness to teach courses within the specialization. Some were willing, others not so much.

I remember the class where they confided that they never paid attention to my editing comments and only looked at the grade.

I remember learning each semester how I had to be tougher if I really wanted these students to get educated.

I remember thinking it was only the credits that mattered to students in the end.

I remember a student telling me this was a true thought.

I remember questioning why I continued to care.

I remember when it dawned on me that I don’t need to care, but then it is time to move on.

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