I have one paper left to grade this afternoon before I get a fresh batch on Wednesday, and of course, Gradeapalooza isn’t all that far away. Still, since I have a few minutes, I may as well check in.
Yesterday was another admissions event, which means that two of my colleagues and I represented Mondoville’s Humanities department (and in the case of my colleague Amanda, the Honors program as well) while prospective students and their parents ambled through a common area in the library. While more vocationally oriented programs (STEM fields, business, and the like) drew most of the traffic (as always), we got to meet and greet several kids with an interest in what we do, while in the past, we’ve been met about as enthusiastically as door-to-door leprosy salesmen. The bowl of candy may have helped as well.
In any case, we’ve been ramping up our pitch by attacking the English major-as-barista stereotype head on. Of course, it helps that we have numbers to back it up — numbers that our chair, David Rachels, has conveniently arranged on a take-home flyer (with sources!), and we can mention things like the fact that Humanities majors typically outscore STEM folks on things like the MCAT. “Why? Because we’re used to reading, understanding, and communicating hard concepts!” Likewise, we talk about so-called “soft skills” like effective verbal and written communication, and developing an understanding of why and how people have faced the joys and challenges of life over the centuries. And I think these pitches help — not least by easing minds. We also point out that because this is a small college, we’re more than happy to try to help kids arrange second majors or minors to go with their (allegedly) more employable interests.
But of course, because I’m who I am, I frequently put in words for what we do as an end in itself. I’ll warn them of the unexamined life or the midlife loss of purpose, and remind them of Matthew 16:26. I’ll tell them that other majors may talk about whats and hows, but we’re interested in whys, which are different questions indeed. And I’ll get worked up about this stuff to the point that when folks have left, and I say to my colleagues, “Yeah, I used to sell tires and batteries,” I’ll get an appreciative nod.
“What’s it gonna take to put you in this English major today?”
After the meet-and-greet, I grabbed a few hot dogs at the free “tailgate” luncheon at the admin building, washed them down with some lemonade, and made my way to the last home football game of the year. The seniors sent the Mondoville crowd home happy, with a 40-10 win over the visiting Catawba Indians of Catawba College. We’ll close the season next week up in North Carolina against Mars Hill University, and the outcome will determine whether the Mondovillians finish above or below the break-even point for the season.
As I’ve said in the past, I have a much harder time enjoying sports than I used to, and I’m far more likely to flinch when I see a particularly hard hit. Seeing my students in braces or casts as they move around campus (or not seeing them at all because they’re recovering from a concussion) has sensitized me to the damage these kids absorb, at least in part to make their way through college. Still, when I’m sitting in Mondoville’s rickety bleachers with some concession stand goodies, and the marching band is honking through “Hey Baby” once again on a gorgeous fall afternoon, it’s easy to think that things are the way they should be, and to comfort myself with the thought that I’m supporting all the kids — players, cheerleaders, musicians, and fans — in shared experiences beyond the classroom as well as within it, just as I do when I go to a recital or a play. And hot dogs taste best outdoors.
Within the classroom, meanwhile, on Wednesday we’ll be installing a half-dozen new members in ΣΤΔ, the English Honor Society — I’m the faculty sponsor, despite my colossal ineptitude at matters involving organizational skill. This incoming group will include some of the top students we have — including the Spawn. Just wait until they see the paddles and electric razors!
But seriously, I have to admit that it’ll be a kick to welcome the Spawn into an organization that supports something we both love so much. So I’m looking forward to Wednesday afternoon.
On other scholastic fronts, we got good news as Mrs. M achieved another ten years of certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. We already knew that she’s an ace at this stuff, of course, but it’s nice to get external confirmation every so often. She even got an extra dose of approval earlier in the week, when she learned she had been named the Teacher of the Month at her elementary school. In particular, the citation repeatedly mentioned her devotion and connection to her first graders. To be fair, having been married to me for a quarter-century is good training for dealing with six-year-olds.
Well, speaking of devotion to students, I had best get to this last paper, but before I do, how about a bit of music?
My freshpeeps recently wrote papers analyzing the lyrics to some of their favorite songs. Because this is the South, I get a fair share of country music, but most of it tends to be the contemporary stuff for which I feel little love. So I was surprised when a student wrote her paper about this one. When I was doing my two-year hitch at Transy, a fraternity that prided itself on its “Old South” roots (despite the fact that most of them seemed to hail from New Jersey) had a habit of playing this one at all hours, and I’d hear it when I wandered around the “Back Circle” between the dorms. The fraternity is still there, although the residence halls where they and I lived have been gone for a while now, and I wonder what the current crop is listening to. Probably nothing this good.
See you soon!