Because so much stuff has happened in the past year and the only time I’ve had to reflect on it all is during my 2-plus-hour-a-day commute or just before I’m falling asleep, I’ve decided to write and backdate some posts that I didn’t get a chance to write before. So here’s the first: a contemplation of my first semester of full-time teaching.
As I wrote over the summer, I enjoyed teaching more than I thought I would, not least because I kept learning things. But even though everyone tells you how hard the first year of teaching is and says that you should really finish your dissertation before you start, you don’t really absorb that lesson.
Heed my warning.
It wasn’t even so much the teaching – I taught three classes this fall, two undergraduate at my VAP position at Pomona College and one masters-level at Chapman University as an adjunct. They were all brand-new preps, and I particularly underestimated the students at Pomona, who are exceptionally well-prepared for college and expected a great deal out of me. When I knew the material really well, I was relaxed and things were fine. On other subjects, I was intimidated, which showed in my teaching. Overall, the students were great and generally kind to me, but I do feel pretty bad for them. Sorry, guys!
What I didn’t expect was how the last few months of dissertation writing, editing, and defending are all-consuming. I’ll go into this process in a later post, but my mind had next-to-zero space for anything else, including a bit of creativity in teaching. It was all I could do to write a lecture and ask questions in class.
Additionally, I was on the job market for the second time this fall (again, a later post), which was, of course, a bit smoother than last year, but my stress was still high while teaching and dissertating and driving.
The best thing about teaching this fall was that I couldn’t think about anything else during class. So even though teaching was stressful, I had to focus on it and not dwell on anxiety about my dissertation or the job market.
I guess I owe my students a giant thank you in addition to the apology!
Travel and research notes
Fieldwork and travel in Côte d'Ivoire, Senegal, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Mali, as well as Burkina Faso, Morocco, Tanzania, South Africa, and wherever else I end up. Plus occasional research-related thoughts. And now ... Teaching!