Month: January 2015

Class Introduction Spring 2015

The Instructor Introduction I initially shared was created in the Fall Semester of last year. I’ve decided to retain it because the text is representative of my role as your instructor, but I wanted to create a fresh introduction for this semester. My purpose is to share my perspective with students, so they might realize that I am not simply an automaton; I am a person, with qualities and faults. I’ve found that it’s best to be honest with my audience, if I am to ask the audience members to give my language authenticity. So, I will tell you about a somewhat significant event that occurred yesterday to me, prior to writing this introductory piece, in which I hope my audience can find some of my humanity.

In this paragraph, I would like to set up the scene of this event…building up to when I arrived home in the afternoon after teaching a new course on Tuesday. When I awoke, I had initially suffered a minor panic attack before the class, since I still retain anxiety about speaking in front of new audiences. No matter how long I have performed as a college instructor, I always get most nervous and jittery before a new class (as I did with this class on Monday). My anxiety becomes especially inflamed prior to a class that I have not taught in the past. There are points during these panic attacks when it feels like I just cannot function properly. I have learned how to calm myself, but it was particularly difficult yesterday morning to maintain, as shortness of breath made me a bit dizzy. I was able to still myself, and I am happy to report that the first day of my Tuesday class went fairly well (though, it’s always difficult to tell from Day One). However, I was relatively exhausted by the time I reached home, as this anxiety is physically, mentally, and spiritually draining.

The event I wish to emphasize is not this panic attack, but instead what happened when I arrived home. I live in an old house, and during the winter time, we usually get a few mice in my basement. It’s not unexpected, and I’ve become somewhat anesthetized to removing dead mice from the traps I set up down there. I work on my schoolwork down in the basement, so I traipsed down the stairs to prepare some class items.

As I sat down at my laptop, I heard a couple of squeaking noises coming from the corner. The squeaks came in pairs, spaced out by about three seconds each, and the sound was alarming. I went to the corner and saw a mouse pinned in the trap. Its body was crushed, but the head was still alive, eyes wide open, staring at me. The squeaks became louder and more panicked as I stood above the crippled creature.

I felt a wave of nausea, and I busted up the stairs to reach the bathroom. I made it there, but I couldn’t hold it in. If I was exhausted before, then I was positively spent after that violent reaction.

I couldn’t go back into the basement for about a half hour, and I paced upstairs a bit, trying to get the sound and the image out of my head. I realized that it would be most humane to put the creature out of its misery. I debated and struggled a bit because I am not a killer. Growing up, I was exposed to farm life and hunting, but I just don’t have it in me to kill a living creature. I never have.

I tried to work it up in me to go back down there and perform my duties. I couldn’t do it. I tried to distract myself by turning on the news. I watched a debate about the Paris terror attack, which disgusted me more. It confuses me how human beings persist in killing one another, for “transgressions” like drawing an offensive cartoon. I don’t understand killing, yet it seems that others not only understand it…but they are most capable of performing it.

So the news program was no good; instead, I popped in my DVD of To Kill a Mockingbird and fast-forwarded to the scene where Atticus Finch had to shoot the rabid dog: how he hesitated, drew a bead several times, and eventually did what needed to be done. I repeated the scene several times, hoping that the mouse might perish by the time I made it down to the basement.

Eventually, I told myself how silly I was being and “to be a man” (whatever the hell that means). Go down to the basement, and kill the damn mouse. I slowly descended the stairs. There were no squeaks, so I hoped that I would not need to kill the mouse. I wasn’t even sure how I would do it. I suppose I was simply going to crush it beneath my boot, which brought me back to some Biblical passage I had read as a young man. I couldn’t remember it, but I made a mental note to look it up later…after disposing of the mouse. I gingerly tip-toed my way to the mouse, slowing down the closer I came. Finally, I stood over the mouse. It was still. I stood there for a few passing moments, bemoaning the loss of one of the “lower” creatures on the human-constructed food chain.

I turned my back to the mouse, took a step to retrieve gloves to remove the critter, and the mouse started squeaking again, with more volume and frequency than before. I jumped out of my skin. I retrieved my laptop from my desk, and I skipped up the stairs two at a time, as the mouse pleaded.

As a writer, it seems to me that we become most anxious when we realize how easily we expose our character to an audience. We open ourselves to analysis, criticism, and judgment; the response from audience members might be positive, or it might be negative. I anticipate that some may label me “soft,” “unmanly,” or “incapable” as a result of reading this exposition, yet I also realize that some in my audience might empathize with my plight. It is a necessary product of communicating with others. An audience member will react and respond personally and differently to spoken or written words. At any rate, writing from a personal perspective, whether objectively or subjectively, is always a risk for those who write to an audience. As your instructor, it is through the written word that I might show you two relevant aspects of writing: 1) how the rhetorical situation works, and 2) aspects/qualities of the character of the human being who conducts your writing class.

As I conclude this piece, please realize that I spent a considerable amount of time upstairs, attempting to perform scholarly work, but I just could not focus on it. I stared blankly at the screen for what seemed like an hour, replaying the ordeal with the mouse in my head. Eventually, I produced this document, which took approximately two hours. As I write this final sentence, I am preparing myself to descend into my basement for a third time, as the mouse is still down there.