Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Class Came up a Little Short

It was not the most auspicious beginning to a teaching career ever. I was five minutes late to class; all the students were already seated and waiting. As soon as I rushed into the classroom—having just picked up the copies of the syllabus hot off the presses—I swear I could feel the sweat pouring off me, because of nerves. "Just keep your arms by your side and no one will notice," I told myself, two minutes before I reached up to write on the board.

Other than one student who had a career in industry and is coming back to school for a career change, I think the entire class is fresh out of high school. Which is good, because it makes me feel like more of an authority. But it makes me feel old when I realize that I'm 13 years older than my students. 13 years! When I was their age, they were just starting kindergarten.

The lesson I had prepared went pretty well, I think. There was more class participation than I was expecting, which I think is a good sign for the rest of the semester. If they're willing to talk on the first day when they don't know anyone, there should be some lively class discussions down the road.

My mentor professor, who has been teaching this class for several years, did warn me that it's highly unlikely my entire class will pass. It's hard to look around at my new students and wonder who will be the one(s) to not make it. Him in the corner? Her in the second row?

I had tried to plan the class to the minute, to calm my nerves. We'd spend 5 minutes taking attendance, 10 minutes on the syllabus, 10 minutes on writing, then 10 minutes discussing the writing .... I thought it might be a stretch to get it all in, but I thought it would be better to be overprepared than run out of things to work on.

Fast forward to the end of my lesson plan for the day. As I'm wrapping up my final points, I realize there's nearly 40 minutes left in the class. 40 minutes! Class is supposed to be 2 hours long, so that's a good chunk of time (36% of class, actually). But it's too late. I know I can't come up with another 40 minutes of material on the fly. So I dismiss them to have extra time for reading, purchasing the book .... doing something vaguely class-related.

When class was over, I was so relieved. I made it through the first day! Now I just have to go through it all again tomorrow. And Friday. And next week .... although at some point, I'll start to feel a little more prepared and authoritative, right?


Jonathan said...

It sounds like you're doing wonderfully. I'm just wondering how long it will be until we read the post where you have the realisation that one of the students is smitten with you :)

Jennifer said...

Well it sounds like your first day went pretty well. You are an inspiration. I don't think I could teach a class; I am pretty sure I would throw up before class started and that would be why I was late. :)

M. Lubbers said...

Jonathan: I think that post would be a long time in coming! We'll see ... I'm not sure if the students think I'm old because I'm a professor, or I'm young because most of their teachers have been 50+ ... I'm sure they will let me know what they think of me and my teaching, one way or the other!

Jen: Thanks for the encouragement. I still get nervous before every class, but that will go away eventually. Right?