|MabelAmber via Pixabay|
The first week of the semester is nerve-wracking. No matter how many years I do this, I still get nervous. No matter how many times I proofread the syllabus, I still miss mistakes. No matter how many layers I put on (or don't), I'm still too hot (or cold) in whichever classroom(s) I've been assigned to.
Week two is a little better. We're through with the preliminary information and beginning to tap content. I know a few names, I know how to work the equipment in each of the classrooms and how to dress for the climate of each classroom. I'm still not in a routine, though, in part because switching away from a writing focus and into a teaching focus is something I do a bit grudgingly. Last week, snow -- both expected and unexpected -- made getting into the swing of things even more challenging than usual.
By week three, it's all coming together. I'm no longer worried about the impression I (or my imperfect syllabi) make. It's about the students (whose names I'm beginning to master) and the material. I've set the parameters, clarified expectations and I can just be myself and teach. My nerves have dissipated and so have theirs.
It took me a long time to get to week three, or to even understand that week three was coming. The ebb and flow of the semester, like the ebb and flow of any job setting, takes time to learn and perhaps even longer to embrace.
In early January (or August), people start asking me when the new semester starts and, as we move through the month and that date gets closer, if I'm ready. Honestly, even though I enjoy teaching, I'm never quite ready to relegate writing to second place. But, once the semester starts and I fall into a new routine, I can embrace the change.
This year, the day before classes started, someone asked me if I was excited and I said that I wasn't, but I would be once I met my students. The person who'd asked smiled and told me that's how she knew I was a good teacher.
I never really thought about it that way, but now that I'm moving into week three, I get it. Teaching a class is a lot like doing a presentation. Both require knowledge of the subject matter, preparation, and an ability to blend information dissemination with interaction and entertainment.
But teaching goes beyond those things. For me, teaching starts to get fun when I know the people I'm dealing with, when I can tailor the subject matter to those sitting in front of me and when I have a sense of who my students are as people.
A presentation shares material. Teaching makes it relevant.
|Kidaha via Pixabay|
And by week three, it has started to feel relevant. Classes are less of a presentation and more of a two-way street. Questions pop up -- both those that are easily answered and those that make everyone (including me) think -- and the material not only begins to take shape but to come alive.
Both writing and teaching require the ability to breathe life into material. As a writer, the responsibility for this is all mine but, in the classroom, the responsibility is shared. Between me and the textbook, the material is set out before the students, who are strangers to me during those first couple of weeks. As we get to know both one another and explore the material, a shift occurs, and that's when things get exciting.
Right around week three.