Teaching Freshman Comp in the summer comes with its own challenges. The chief one, of course, is the condensed schedule. The class periods are longer (to insure that we get enough minutes to appease the bureaucrats in whom we live, move, and have our being), but still, there’s only so much reading/writing I can reasonably ask these folks to perform in X amount of time. The other big one is that summer comp students are typically (excepting the occasional bright high schooler in a hurry, e.g., the Spawn) in the class because things didn’t work out for them in the fall or the spring (and in some cases, both). This happens for lots of reasons — time management, underpreparation, what have you — but most of the kids I get in the summer have been through some previous iteration of the course, and approach it with a mix of trepidation and loathing.
I have seven kids this term in my 113 — I like them all, and they seem to be a pretty good group. All of them made it through the first paper with decent performances, and a couple better than that. But this has been a fun group with which to discuss the texts. In particular, one young gentleman, a football player, has tickled me with his reaction to a couple of the pieces we’ve read. In particular, his in-class responses to O’Connor’s “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” and Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73 (“That time of year thou mayst in me behold”) have made me smile. He’s never been much of a reader, and he’d cheerfully tell you as much. But as we’ve explored our stories and poems, he has discovered that he kind of likes this stuff.
As we finished Sonnet 73 (with particular attention to the last line that reverses the Hallmark-card sentiment the kids want to give the poem — just like I did at their age), this student said, “Man, that’s deep. He really gets it.”
“Yep,” I said. “That’s what makes him Shakespeare.” And now my student gets it too.
It can even happen in summer classes.