Dear Spring ENGL 2340 Students,
Right off the bat: thank you. As a class, you have been a wonderful group of students whom I have enjoyed teaching all semester. There were a lot of characters in the class, folks whose personalities helped shape and define not only the critical engagement in the class but also the content and my own teaching. Because of your willingness to engage and to work hard, you made my job in the classroom that much easier.
I know we had fun. I don’t think there was a single class session in which we didn’t find something to laugh about, whether it was in the literature, something someone said, or something goofy that someone did. Laughter is important because I think it puts us at ease to learn. I hope the classroom atmosphere was one in which you felt comfortable to speak, to say what you were thinking without worrying too much about what I thought or what the other students thought. I think the laughter contributed to an environment of trust that allowed you to feel comfortable reviewing one another’s papers, working in groups, and coming to see me whenever you felt like it.
I also think we worked hard. Some of you thought there was a lot of reading, but I think those who have taken other English classes know that I really pared down the reading so we could spend more time focusing on fewer “essential” texts, thus allowing us to do more with each one. I commend your work on the texts through three formal papers, three tests that included essays, poem cards, forum and journal posting, daily reading quizzes, critical article reports, and other work that you did to engage the literature in an active way. I felt, perhaps naively, that I didn’t always need to watch over your shoulder to make sure you were doing the work.
Lastly, I want to thank you for the work you did on your projects and portfolios. Just the projects that were presented in class on the last day assured me that at the very least some of you embraced learning goal to “Consider the value of literature as a means through which to understand the world, the United States, your community, and yourself.” The personal aesthetic, the digital storytelling, 20X20, and game projects presented the last week showed the diversity of talents, the deep level of engagement, and the wonderful people that I had the privilege to teach this semester. And your critical reflective essays that you submitted as part of your portfolios were, as usual, the best writing and the best thinking that many of you did all semester.
It was an honor to teach you this semester. Thank you for accommodating my sometimes unorthodox teaching methods, my occasional disorganization, my struggles with technology (damn you, clickers!), my sometimes over-exuberance about the subject. I know that probably more than one of you agree with the mid-term evaluation comment that sometimes, I’m just “a bit too much.” Consider it my version of Whitman’s “barbaric yawp.”
I hope that you keep the actual and fictional characters from the class in your memory for a long, long time. I won’t identify the actual characters in the class that I think may of qualify as at least as interesting as their fictional counterparts, but I will ask you to be careful with the Brett Ashleys out there, to have sympathy for the Shadracks (because “there but by the Grace of God go us”) as well as the Prufrocks, to learn from the unnamed “man” in London’s story and the unnamed narrator in Baldwin’s, to be brave like Cleofilas, to stand toe-to-toe with Alexie’s Mr. Grief, to recognize and to act upon the injustice suffered by the Haskins family, to transcend the limitations of where you came from like Harvey Merrick and yet to embrace your love of home and family like the Colonel and Injin Charlie, to resist selling out to “the man” as did Jewett’s Sylvia . . . you get the idea (and you know I could go on for longer!).
The world is large and beautiful place. Explore it! Y’all are going to do great out there as long as you work hard, know thyselves, and keep your eyes open. If you do, you may have daily glimpses of elusive but ubiquitous beauty, maybe even in a station of the metro. Please keep in touch because I want to hear what it is you are up to and what you have discovered. Whether you take the road less traveled by or not, make sure that it is the road you want to take because that is going to make all the difference.
Paul S. Quick