I now understand why people do not get assigned to teach Freshman Seminars every semester or every year. I also have come to understand why people treat a colleague who teaches a Freshman Seminar like s/he’s sick and needs to be comforted and approached very gently.
I don’t mind having had the experience of teaching a Freshman Seminar but I can’t wait to go back to my juniors and seniors. The vacuous stares, the silence, the exasperated sighs, the absence of any questions about anything and the general environment of passivity and boredom are getting to me. You can bring all the enthusiasm in the world into the classroom but trying to transmit it to people who have no use for it on a regular basis gets very daunting. I just miss hearing questions, seeing some interest in something, anything, whatever it may be.
I’ve tried everything in this course, people. Poetry, beautiful works of architecture, powerful documentary footage. I talked about politics, music, traveling, television. I even tried discussing video games and fantasy literature. But students just yawn, fall asleep at their desks, or stare vapidly. I understand how a class on the uses of the subjunctive might bore people. But how is it possible for anybody not to get excited about the indigenous civilizations of the New World, Columbus’s journey, Cortez’s first impressions of Tenochtitlan, Cortes de Cadiz, the Modernist art, the poetry of Alfonsina Storni, the political manipulation of sports, Subcomandante Marcos, the ideology of bullfighting, and all the other fascinating things we discuss in this course?
Mind you, I’ve been teaching this course to upper-year students for years, and they love it. It’s just the freshmen who are indifferent to everything. I can’t even make a joke in the classroom because nobody reacts. Ever. At all. This is the only classroom where nobody greets me or acknowledges my existence in any way when I come into the room. The students remain as silent as they are before I come in and continue to stare straight ahead of them.