Tomorrow I begin teaching a section of Intro to Religion at John Carroll University, and I am SO looking forward to it.
The last time I agreed to take on this particular assignment, I discovered within a couple of weeks of getting started that I had been called to a church and would be ordained to ministry sometime during the semester, and that I had a breast cancer diagnosis. The new call was a huge deal, the ordination service was a major project, and my version of breast cancer, while a minor blip in the grand scheme of my life of the past five years, still required three trips to the O.R. and many months of sleeping in the living room recliner while I waited for the pain (no, it was NOT discomfort!) to ease enough that I could actually lie down.
Needless to say, that teaching semester was not one of the more successful of my life. I actually raised all my students' grades 1/3 at the end of the semester, so fearful was I that my all-around bitchiness had affected them unfairly.
But tonight, after a rough couple of weeks on all counts, I am feeling pleasantly optimistic. The campus looks beautiful, people are generally upbeat, and the students are full of energy. Actually, mine will probably not be full of energy, at least not of academic energy -- my class will no doubt be the last one of their week and as, far as they are concerned, it will already be Friday night.
Still: Really fun. Some of them will be newbies considering a major in Theology and Religious Studies, and some of them will be juniors who have postponed this requirement for as long as they could. Some will come with twelve years of Catholic education behind them and the confidence that, whatever there is to know about religion, they've got it down. Others will have never given religion a second thought, and won't be much inclined to start now.
One year, a lovely older student from Nigeria, if I recall correctly, wrote a reflection after we had waded through Tillich and Freud, commenting that she had expected something like her high school religion classes, in which they had read little stories about the saints. Another year, a student emailed me the next semester to ask if I'd be the faculty advisor for a new Jewish culture club, which was flattering, but not within my job description.
Who knows what tomorrow will bring?