Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Some scenes from teaching

September 2005--It is my first day of graduate school, and my first day of teaching. My class, an English 151 Composition course, starts at 9 a.m. I am awake and ready before 7, the butterflies in my stomach flying laps around my breakfast. I spend hours preparing for this first class, which will essentially be introductions and reading through the syllabus. Nonetheless, I do everything up to writing out a script for what I will say. I have never been so terrified of 20 18-year-olds before.

November 2005--I have been teaching for weeks now, and feel a relative ease in front of my students. I still spend far too much time prepping for each class, but since it's my first time in the professor's seat, it's not too surprising. But something else has come up--I'm several weeks pregnant, having some spotting, and am ordered to take a week of bedrest. I teach every day. Fortunately, one of my friends is available to teach my class, and I learn for the first time the glory of a well-chosen movie. She stretches the movie out over three days. It's a snap.

December 2005--I finished filing my grades weeks ago, so I check in on my teaching evaluations from my first quarter of teaching. They are surprisingly good. I am relieved. This scene will repeat itself every quarter, except for:

December 2006--My first quarter back teaching after Charlotte was born was a minor disaster. This will go down as my biggest teaching disappointment. I had the opportunity to teach a 200-level literature course for the first time. A combination of not enough time to prepare (infants take up all your time, I found), an unclear idea of the goals of the class, and a group of underprepared and underwhelmed students led to my worst teaching experience ever. I dread reading my evaluations. They are not uniformly bad, but almost each one is critical of the course, the materials, and (gulp) me. I go into winter break determined to make my next class a success.

June 2007--My last two quarters of teaching were the most fun I've had as a professor. Each quarter I taught one section of junior composition focused on the theme of women and nature. My students were bright, articulate, and JUNIORS! I cement my love for 21-year-old students as opposed to 18-year-old newbies. They know what a thesis statement is! They understand the difference between paraphrasing and quoting! I love them!

July 2007--Ugh. I hate juniors. Teaching a summer course in junior comp was a huge mistake. My students have jobs and other obligations, and don't understand that they're required to do as much work in five weeks as they normally would in ten. I never have perfect attendance. Several students stop coming at all. For the first time, I give multiple students an "F." Why do I feel like the failure?

April 2008--I receive an email from the graduate director at KU offering me a first year fellowship. That means one year without teaching, only taking graduate courses and doing my own academic work. But...I love teaching! Do I really want a year off? Uh, yes please.

June 17, 2008--I head to the office to finish up grading for the quarter. Most of the papers are already graded. I have some extra credit to calculate, some revisions to read, and then I just plug it all in to Blackboard to calculate. It takes less than fifteen minutes to finalize all 60 of my students' grades. Then, with the push of a button, I'm done. I'm done! I'm all alone in the office, so I take a moment to do a happy dance.

So now my teaching cap is off until fall 2009. I hardly know what to do with myself!

1 comment:

momdadtig said...

I know you'll figure something out. Hopefully, it'll be like riding a bike!