Baking a Cake

I’m up late, baking them a cake.

I know I don’t have to bring a cake. Perhaps, by rights, they should be bringing me one. But I am baking a cake for my students to celebrate finishing our first semester together— their first semester in college, my first semester as a teacher.

It wasn’t without a few bumps. I had to drop two students who couldn’t make it to the 7:00 A.M. class and overslept one too many times. But the remaining eighteen students were there, usually waiting for me in the classroom at 6:45, looking a little sleepy, but in their seats with their work done. Four of the eighteen never missed a single class.

I asked them on the first day why on earth they had registered for this class, at such a dreadful hour. They were morning people, they told me. They wanted to have all their classes back-to-back. Only one young woman admitted that had she registered by mistake. She struggled to make it on time (showing up for class one morning in something flannel that I’m almost sure were her pajamas). But she stayed in the class and turned out to be a very good writer.

I never wanted to be a teacher. I never thought it would be a satisfying way to spend my time. And so I was astonished by how deeply I cared about these eighteen students and how badly I wanted them to succeed.

We all learned together. Together, we created “The Thesis Game,” and started every class with it, until my students could create a thesis of any type about anything. I made them stand every twenty minutes, after we read an article that said this was good for us. I told them that, regardless of what they did with their life, they were almost certainly going to have to write. My job was just to help them do it a little better. I told them that I couldn’t make their writing mistakes go away but, if we worked together, I could show them where they were most likely to go astray. I brought in examples of my own mistakes— embarrassing errors I made in my writing.

“We each have our own set of problems,” I told them, we just have to figure out ways to work with what we have.

And now, sooner than I imagined it possible, it is over. I will have to give them all grades and wish them well; and I will likely never know whether this experiment in college worked out for them in the end.

I hope it does.

Because there is not one of my eighteen students who is not capable of succeeding in college. I watched them transform over the semester. They are working toward a future that, right now, they are just beginning to imagine.

I have no idea what they thought of me, their middle-aged, slightly hyperactive composition teacher who kept telling them how wonderful it was to write. But I know they worked hard. Tomorrow is a celebration for all of us. No one failed the class— not any of the students nor the teacher— and I think that calls for a cake.

And after cake, we will all go our separate ways, home for the holidays, our little community of nineteen disbanded. Tonight, I am deeply grateful for the opportunity my first class gave me to be a small part of their lives.

It is late. Christmas is coming. I have two candles burning— and I am baking a cake.

Till next time,

—Carrie

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