Yeah, I don't know what was going on with me this morning. Or last night, either. I was in some kind of blue place: feeling very vulnerable and alarmed. About everything. By mid-day today, though, all was well again, and I can't remember what I was so freaked out about.
No, I'm not on top of my grading (I'll get through it this weekend) and yes, I have a really difficult class to prepare for tomorrow (with a virtual guarantee that half of them won't have done the reading--it's hard, and papers are due--and that those that have won't understand it, so, you know, eck), but it's okay. Everything is just fine.
You know what's funny? I think that that expressionless stare I mentioned in my last post has something to do with my improved mood. In the first weeks of class, I was pretty unnerved by any and all discipline issues (nothing too major, but I have some whisperers in one section and a couple of jokey, noisy students in another). For a long time, I didn't feel comfortable telling them to knock it off or otherwise being stern. And, well, I'm pretty much getting over that. I'm also a lot less panicky about those students who consistently just say things in class that are way the hell off. At first I would try to salvage some meaning from them ("Yes, there is a sense in which Beowulf really just wants to be loved"--okay, I never said that, nor would I ever, but you get the idea), but at this point--hey! I'm the professor! And, well, you're wrong! Next!
(I'm gentler than that, obviously. But my Strategies of Redirection are definitely improving.)
One thing I'm trying this year is keeping a teaching diary. So after every class, more or less, I write a little paragraph about what I did, how it went, my thoughts on my performance, and any issues with students that came up. It's still pretty early in the year, so I haven't reread any of this yet, but it's helping me to think of the development of my teaching skills as a process--something that will change and (presumably) improve with time. It's also nice to reflect on things that worked. Such as having a great discussion on X topic (I try to note the topic), or really feeling confident and in control of the material, or actually having fun now and again. I think that this diary will be a good tool down the line, too, and will help with all kinds of things, such as answering teaching questions in job interviews or remembering how in the hell I've taught Spenser in the past. Also--while I don't think that this'll be an issue--in the unlikely event that I have a real problem with a student, I'll have a record of any questionable interactions with him/her from the beginning.
(No, I haven't had any questionable interactions yet. But I'll write them down if I do.)
So yeah. It's a challenge. It's a challenge, quite frankly, just having a proper job: In grad school, I never had this many obligations--of the kind that have to be met immediately, with dire consequences if they aren't. And I'm learning. It'll be fine, just fine. All shall be well and all that.