By Helene A. Matheny
It’s that time of year again. Snow on the ground, at least in certain parts of the country, frantic lists to be made and followed, last minute requests, waiting in line, extended hours. No, I’m not talking about the Holidays – I’m talking about the end of the Fall semester – when finalizing grades, getting paperwork in order, juggling finals that are put on irregular schedules, grumpy students and demanding administrators all have to be dealt with. For Freeway Flyers, each college usually has different rules about what needs to be turned in. Is it a copy of the final and a syllabus, or is there also that awkward requirement for a copy of your grade book? This is when I inevitably realize just how sloppy and “only I can interpret it” condition the darn grade book is in.
On the other hand, the end of the semester means looking forward to a rare treat for Freeway Flyers—a brief and and wonderful time when we can enjoy driving to only one place a day, or none at all. For me, it also means actually having two days off a week instead of only one, as I had this semester.
Conceivably, Winter Break is a time when I can look over my notes and other materials and re-write, update, edit, and improve my lessons. It’s a time when I can finally try to incorporate any new material or new perspective I’ve gleaned from any reading or research I’ve managed to fit in during the year. It’s not always easy to do this during the semester when I’m busy with grading, commuting, paperwork, copying, and all of the other tasks involved with being a Freeway Flyer adjunct, and I can’t say that I get to do it every break, but I do make the effort.
One concern I have after years of teaching as an adjunct is how much my students retain from what they learn in my classes when they come back from a winter or summer break. TIME recently published a piece about this “forgetting” phenomenon for school-age kids a few months ago, but much of it rang true to me regarding my college students, as well. I try to keep this in mind when I teach history classes, and encourage my students to continue learning in the areas of history that they found most interesting. I have also discovered a web entry that discusses this idea for the parents of college students, with suggestions about some of the things the student can do between semesters. At the very least, especially if I am teaching the first half of World or Western History, I strive to make sure that they have digested enough of it to be useful when they take the second half.
But will they remember? I hope so.
After the Freeway Flyer dust settles next week, I’ll be spending the rest of December and early January working extra hours at the bookstore, dealing with crazed patrons and getting the inside scoop on new books and periodicals. We’ve also begun selling the Nook and Nook Color e-readers, and as I have written in my post about being a gadget geek, I’m already drooling at the prospect of owning the color version (already have the regular one!!). I’ll be enjoying my short commute and new toy amongst the Hannukah candles and Christmas trees this year.
How will you be making use of your gift of Holiday time off?
About the Freeway Flyer: Helene Goldstein Matheny received a B.A. in history from Rutgers University, an M.A. in Russian History and Literature from the University of London, and an M.S.Th. degree from The New Seminary, where she was ordained as an Interfaith Celebrant. She has lived in Russia and England, and traveled throughout Europe, Israel, Russia, Ukraine, New Zealand, Fiji and Australia. Helene has taught most frequently as an adjunct professor of history for the last ten years in New York, New Jersey and Mississippi, in addition to teaching history, comparative religion and astronomy at museums and other learning institutions. She is also an accredited pet dog trainer, writes freelance, and has presided over hundreds of weddings as an Interfaith Celebrant and currently lives in Purvis, MS with her husband, three parrots, a cat and a dog. Her writing also appears on examiner.com, and her blogs about life in the South and interests in science, spirit and history.