Lovely Beautiful Daughter went back east yesterday. I began missing her before we had even left the house to take her to the bus which would carry her up to O'Hare. The last time we said good-bye at the small airport here in our little city, I watched her wipe tears away as she went through security. Yesterday, I wiped tears away as I walked back to the car. We had such a wonderful time together during the five days she was here. She's a spark of life that makes everyone around her feel happy.
While she was here, I didn't get my students' paper read like I'd hoped to. A few years ago, I would have been agonizing over not finishing the grading as planned, really stressing myself out, but now? Now I shrug it off and send a note to all students, telling them I'm behind and will complete the grading during the next few days.
My position about my job, about teaching writing, these days is so different from just five years ago. I believe having strong writing skills is a valuable asset that can definitely help a person in different areas of life. I also believe, though, that at the end of the day, it's just writing. It's not like the students and I are on the brink of finding a cure for cancer. Which would be very cool if it were the case, and definitely something well worth writing about. But this isn't the case at all. I have a few who are on the brink of really "getting it" in regards to developing a voice the audience wants to listen to, but the majority are where they'll always be in respect to writing: average.
The one bright spot with my f2f class this semester is we are now past midterm and I still have all 22 students who began the semester with me. This is unusual. The typical is losing two or three by this time, and having another two or three with really bad attendance. The 22 in this class are there most class periods, talking, writing, discussing ideas. While I'm not certain, I have to wonder if this might be due to the change I made for starting each class period. I no longer say hello and jump right into a reading or assignment. This semester, I begin each class by checking in with everyone, asking how they are feeling. For ten minutes or more, we talk mind/body connection. I listen as they tell me about illnesses (a severe rash picked up while working out at the gym--doing what is considered good for the body yet becoming ill in the process), family issues (acting as caretaker for an ill grandparent), and being stressed due to car problems (simply not having enough money for gas any given week). The students listen to each other, offer suggestions, and even say, "Text me. I'll drop by and pick you up for class." We too often dismiss how our bodies are feeling and the impact this has on us as we move through out days.
My hope is to move through my days mindfully. I hope this for my students, too.