One of the more challenging parts of the beginning of a semester is figuring out a right schedule so as to prevent a case when each day is spent trying to catch up with the previous one. A graduate student who is also a graduate assistant faces the challenge of being able to balance his time in order to satisfy both his employers and his academic sponsors. It makes no sense to be a stellar employee and then become a poor student. I’ve always wondered how people who do more than one job (and have families, children etc) cope with being graduate students at the same time. Imagine having two young children, two or three jobs, and three classes a semester. But it’s America. Being resilient might just be the most important trait to possess.
I taught the first Foreign Language Yoruba class yesterday. It was mainly introductory, and it lasted an hour. In my experience, the first class is always the most crucial, especially for students hoping to see if the class is worth taking at all or not. The pattern is also always the same: the strange man walks in to a full class of staring students. They’re all silent and wait for him to break the ice. He stands there for a moment, thinks of the first words to say, and then walks back to the blackboard to write out a list of key words that they would need to remember – Yoruba, Nigeria, West Africa, 30 million speakers, Wole Soyinka, Hakeem Olajuwon, Sade Adu, Adewale Akinnuoye Agbaje… – and then returns, by which time the words would come by themselves. “Hi. I’m Nigerian. Last year was my first time in the United States…”. From experience I know that it always helps to be seen first as the outsider.
I also attended my first class for the semester yesterday. It’s called “Discourse Analysis”, and I’m looking forward to all I can learn about how to analyse conversations and classify them on the basis of content, use, participants, context and many other variables. In the absence of a new commitment to the International Institute, I’m hoping that my class and work schedules will give me enough time to gain as much as possible knowledge from class interactions in a new course whose content looks promising so far.