Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Much Better Now

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.


Hilaire said...

I'm glad you're feeling so much better now.

I'm so impressed that you're keeping a teaching diary. I've thought of doing it so many times, but never have gotten into the habit. (Except for my first TA year, many moons ago - when I didn't even need it!)

And: That's the thing, isn't it? The immediacy and constancy of deadlines. I'm thinking about this a lot lately - how this job is always, always chasing deadlines of a sort. It's really, er, far from relaxing!

Sisyphus said...

The teaching diary is a great idea. I did it off and on (mostly off) when I was first starting, but I couldn't keep up the effort. This summer I did take the time to make a little note on my syllabus on how each article went --- that way if I teach the same class later I'll remember what I hated/they hated.

Belle said...

Teaching diary - great! And keep it; when it comes time for producing a portfolio, those kinds of things show that you are interested in your teaching. So not only is it good short term, and as sisyphus noted, as reminders - it's also good to document your teaching for others. I did a blog last year on my teaching experiment, and it was a great thing for me. Really made me reflect on what worked and why, and by making it public (although few read it), it made me more careful and thoughtful.

Good for you. Hope you're feeling back on top.