Friday, September 01, 2006

The first week, in review

While it's true that I'm only teaching three classes this semester (rather than the four that I taught in the spring), and that they're all classes I've taught in some form before--and while it is true, further, that I only teach two days a week--I just can't believe how tired I am now that the week is over!

I think I wasn't fully aware of the additional energy that a tenure-track position demands: so many emails to answer about this committee and that program; so many policies and technological advances to keep abreast of; and frankly, just so many daily interactions with so many people--whether social, administrative, or otherwise. As a lecturer at Big Urban, I came in, taught my classes, hung out for office hours, and left. I did speak regularly to the DUS, the secretaries, and the department chair, but fundamentally, I had no reason to know or really care how the department as a whole functioned. I didn't like feeling disconnected from the department in that way, but it did free up some significant mental space.

But onto the specifics:

My classes are going well so far. The biggest surprise was my 3-hour evening class on Big Willie. Since it was the first class, and since reviewing course policies and doing introductions only takes so long, I had my students do . . . scansion. For a solid 2.5 hours. And they didn't mutiny! In fact, they seemed very prepared to believe that the form of the verse contributes in important ways to its content, and they gamely attempted a number of passages and even got into serious arguments with each other about why the stress ought to be here and not there. (It probably didn't hurt that for some of the time I showed an RSC workshop video in which a 1970s-a-licious Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart did much the same thing, from the actor's perspective. There's nothing like seeing Gandalf in tight pants to perk up a classroom.)

Brit Lit I was a bit shaky on Day One, but after putting the fear of God into my students (telling them exactly what taking the course would demand of them, reviewing my Very Serious list of policies, and giving them a written assignment for the next class meeting), I did scare off a few people and Day Two went very well indeed.

As for my students themselves: they seem great, and not noticeably different from my students at Big Urban. Regional U isn't a research institution, but it attracts roughly the same mix of students: smart suburban kids who want to stay local and for whom the public-school tuition (and/or a big scholarship) is very attractive; first-generation college students; transfers from local community colleges; a small but noticeable number of non-traditional or returning students. Their ability levels differ, no doubt, but by and large they seem like good kids, adequately prepared, and who are fully capable of doing the work if they're given the right tools.

(And lemme tell you: after having taught remedial comp at Big Urban, it was such a treat to read the diagnostic essays of my regular-comp students here. Imagine! Virtually every student began his or her essay with some version of: "In [article title], [author's full name], a professor of [subject] at [institution], argues that [reasonable summary of the magazine article]." I almost fell over. Someone actually taught these kids something in high school!)

I was also very happy to see that several of my new colleagues also believe in wearing a suit on the first day or week of classes. This is more true of the women, but I did see one man wearing a full-on suit (sans tie) and another wearing a very nice jacket and trousers combo (also sans tie). I do love my suits, and it was nice to take a couple of them out of the mothballs.

The only negative, other than exhaustion? The seasons already seem to be turning, and I'm actually rather cold--at night it's in the low 50s. Since when do people wear long sleeves in late August?


G-Fav said...

My goodness are we in different fields. If we had watched Gandalf in tights for inspiration in our undergrad EE320 (electrical engineering) course, we would have... I don't know... laughed? thrown up? felt uncomfortable?

This reminds me though, of our EE348 [computer architecture] course final exam, down in the bowels of Becton. Our professor was 8 months pregnant with twins. She handed out the final while lugging around a gallon jug of milk, and then her husband entered to unfold a large chaise lounge in front of the lecturn. She sort of - what's the word - lounged? there for the next two hours.

No, lounged isn't it. Jabba the Hutt didn't lounge, he presided. Languidly. He languidly presided. With torpor.

Anyhow, it's clear I didn't major in English. Can I use the word "callipygian" somewhere?


Unknown said...

Ha! Gandalf in tight pants! I'd pay to see that...

Anonymous said...

Had to say something about how right you are regarding the way that the details of departmental/university life suddenly take up so much more time as a tenure-track faculty. What no one tells you as a graduate student is that in addition to becoming a scholar and teacher, you are becoming a middle-manager. I don't know of a solution to this, except to advise (for what it's worth) new faculty to try to contain this somehow, and definitely to keep detailed records of their service.

Anonymous said...

It is a big adjustment, moving to the tenure track! You seem to be adjusting well, though.

But really, this is just a brief comment to say that I would LOVE to wear long sleeves in late August, so send your weather my way!

Hilaire said...

Where I am it's been weirdly chilly, too...

Your week sounds great, if tiring. I'm so happy that the scary Big Willie class went so well - that sounds like a deliriously fantastic first class...arguing with each other! It's what we all long for!

Hope you can catch up on rest this weekend.

Have a

Tiruncula said...

Scansion for 2 1/2 hours! You go, girl! (I remember that video; I think I'll have to show it next term.)

It is cold, isn't it? I've been digging out fall shoes and am almost at the point of succumbing to socks! I wonder whether we'll still get Indigenous Peoples' Summer later on.

Flavia said...

I can't make up my mind whether I'm laughing at the image of G-Fav's comp sci prof stretched out on a lawn chair, gallon of milk by her side, or at "Indigenous Peoples' Summer."

But something here is cracking me the hell up.

Dr. Crazy said...

What everybody else said about the transition to the t-t, though I'll add that I do think that while the re-entry into a new semester can be particularly grueling in terms of getting used to the number and intensity of interactions with people, I find that after the first couple of weeks I adjust to it and things get less exhausting, even though you may actually have more going on work-wise. In other words, you won't always be so wicked-tired :)

anummabrooke said...

LOVE to suit up for the first day! Hardly anyone does here either.

Had my first-day haircut, and my shoes shined, also. All of these, of course, really amount to pump-me-up exercises.