Things have been better since Weirdly Hellacious Wednesday. Yesterday, in fact, I was able to have a long nap in the afternoon--I can't remember when I last did that on a weekday. I felt like I was playing hooky or something, and kept getting a weird panicked feeling that I'd forgotten to go teach a class. But no, I actually just had some time to relax.
Teaching has been good lately, too. Dante is kind of dragging down my upper-level course (myself included), but the end of the semester could also be blamed for the lethargy. On the whole, however, looking back over this semester, I feel good. And as it turns out, I actually enjoy teaching.
It might seem strange that this comes as a surprise, but the fact is that I'd had very little teaching experience before this year. Attentive readers may have detected a certain level of stress and anxiety at the start of the semester. "At the start?" you scoff. "And what was Wednesday, then, if not stress and anxiety writ large?" Fair enough, I reply--but the act of teaching itself is no longer terrifying and stressful. I have off days, of course, but most of my days are "on," and what with four courses this semester the memory of each off day rapidly gets absorbed into the general morass of what-the-hell-did-I-do-yesterday and loses its sting pretty quickly.
Right around the sixth week was when I quit being so nervous. And I've discovered a certain pleasure in performance; in my largest class, in particular, where I have a good group of funny and engaged students who can be counted on to find me entertaining, I really get into my role. (I also have a bigger audience; maybe I enjoy that? I wouldn't have guessed that I'd like my biggest class the best.) But beyond this ego-driven pleasure, I love it when I see a student's eyes light up with that sudden "getting it" look; it thrills me when one of them asks a good question that shows that she's really thinking about the text, especially when it's a question I hadn't thought of; and the individual conferences I've been having with them over the last couple of weeks have been truly pleasurable. Even the quiet and/or struggling students have something to say, for the most part, and I enjoy getting to know a little bit more about them as people.
That said, I do have some weird encounters with my students, and I'm quite sure that today's odd exchanges stem entirely from the fact that I am a youngish (and youngish-looking) female professor.
Both happened after one of my comp sections and involved the same students who inquired about my tattoo a few weeks ago. This time, the guy who had asked about my tattoo approached me after class to ask how many piercings I have. Luckily, all my piercings are in my ears, so I didn't have to navigate any problematic terrain (of course, I would have lied if things had been otherwise, but I don't like to lie, so whatever).
Not sure what he was hoping for, but there you go.
He and another (male) student then asked what sections of comp 2 I was teaching. I told them, and they asked if it was too late to switch into my class. This warmed my heart, of course, although a) I'm a little surprised that they liked comp 1 so much, since it has certainly not showcased my finest teaching, and 2) I already have 54 comp students lined up for next semester and am not exactly gunning for any more. Nonetheless I was pleased, and I told them that I still had a few openings and they should talk to their advisors.
So then the other student--not the piercing-question student, but the one who himself has a number of visible tattoos--said, "Actually, I shouldn't sign up for your class, 'cause then we could hang out next semester."
"Ah ha ha," I said. "Have a nice weekend."
I assume that he was kidding. To an 18-year-old, I am as ancient as the hills. But I'm still not sure how to read his comment, and grateful for the power dynamic that allows me to ignore it.