Monday, August 28, 2006

... and all is right with the world

... and all is right with the world


Today was the first day of classes. I didn't sleep at all well last night. I was too nervous, had a migraine yesterday afternoon, and consequently didn't really get myself as organized for the dread upper division course as I'd planned. All of my classes are on the same days -- which gives me writing days, if I use my time well and carefully. I was a little worried about this, but now? Well, I walked into my first class, and everything just slid into place.

I know I talked a little last week about how this is New Year's for academics. I've noticed elsewhere that other people are writing their Academic Year Resolutions. I'll get to those soon. Really. But it's funny. With all the craziness of the summer, and not getting enough done to feel like I deserved my new job, and panicking about doing the job, I kind of forgot something. I know this job.

So when I walked into my first class -- and boy, were they a tough room: it took most of the hour to get any of them to crack a smile -- I was a little worried. But I thought, it's syllabus day. It's ice-breaker day. You can do this. And I knew I could. What was surprising was that the actual doing of it seemed to lead to a kind of revelation. Nothing particularly stunning, really. In fact, to most of you, it's probably a little lame. But there it was, this complete kind of remembering, of knowing that I not only knew what I was doing in the classroom, but that I knew how to do my job. The whole job. For so long, I've felt like a teacher and make-believe scholar. I mean, I've been calling myself a lion cub, but I've been waiting to be found out and demoted (or maybe just moved) to monkey status. Because They Will Find Out. Every time I've talked about writing a paper, or publishing something, there's been a part of me that felt I was pretending, as though, if I acted like one of the big cats, maybe people wouldn't notice and would let me keep hanging out with them.

Today was different. Yes, I was still a bit panicked about the upper division class (somehow, people kept coming in while I was trying to finish prepping it). After meeting the students (two of whom were there when I gave my job talk, and whom I really liked and want to both impress and not let down), I was a bit more worried, but they all seemed ok with the, "the class is still in development stages, because the schedule to some extent depends on how many students we end up with and how much time we consequently allot to presentations" explanation. Possibly because it's true :-) But somehow, all the second-guessing was gone. I taught. I went over what I needed to get done after classes. I took care of administrative stuff, answered panicky student e-mails, tweaked the Blackboard sites ... and then went to pick up ILL books, e-mailed a panel organizer, thought about ways I might write the abstract that could fit the panel without substantially changing the nature of what I want to look at ... and then I talked to my department chair for a while about course offerings, my responsibilities, program assessment and how the department planned on working together to do well ... And I realized that I'd made this tiny mental shift. Yes, I was checking things off a list ... "I need to do x for class, I need to write this abstract and I have a review due this weekend (Oh crap!), and I have to start checking out editors for the project" But it was a different kind of list. I guess it was a shift from "Here are all the things I have to do to have this kind of job" to "This is what I do, and here are the things I need to get done." It's something akin to a fleeting moment last year when I realised that, as an historian, I am a writer, rather than someone who writes papers.

It's late, and has been a long day, so I know I'm not being as articulate as most of my blogfriends -- or even as articulate as I can be. And frankly, I'm a little out of practice. As New Kid, one of my oldest blogfriends, recently pointed out blogging is a kind of writing exercise, and I'm out of shape! But the New Year has started, and I think I have a better idea of who I am this year. I am someone who might actually know how to do the job I trained for and was (finally) hired for (although apparently, I am not able to avoid ending a sentence with a preposition). For the first time*, I feel like everything fits. It's a weird feeling, but I think I like it.



*professionally, at least.

10 comments:

Terminaldegree said...

I'm glad you had such a good day.

I had a similar feeling last week on my first day, too. Yes, some nervousness, but also a real feeling of confidence that I know how to be a prof. It's so nice to focus on teaching instead of on job-searching.

Hope your semester goes really well.

Another Damned Medievalist said...

Yours, too! How funny that so many of us all got jobs this year!

Kelly said...

congrats! You're off to a great start - like all of your friends in the blogosphere knew you would be!

Another Damned Medievalist said...

And how happy I am that you helped me choose the right job last year -- otherwise I mightn't have got this job!

Pilgrim/Heretic said...

Yay for you! Hey, I had a dream about you last night, where we were sitting around gabbing and eating giant hunks of chocolate cake. Must've been my subconscious celebrating your good day. :)

Another Damned Medievalist said...

Yeah, but I miss you! We need to figure out a trip -- maybe meet up at NK's ...

Although my local big city is the bestest.

Another Damned Medievalist said...

oh -- should be no "but" there

New Kid on the Hallway said...

Oh, no, definitely meet up here! (Even though it's a haul between us, ADM, I've checked.) Maybe once it's cooler though...

Another Damned Medievalist said...

Yeah, I was thinking it's probably a full day's drive ... but maybe a cheap weekend flight?

What Now? said...

Hurrah! I'm delighted that things are off to such a great start. And I'm impressed that you've had this professional shift on your first day of teaching in your new school; I think it took me a year into my t-t job before I had that revelation. And now, of course, I'm having to figure it out in a new context; maybe we just keep having these revelatory moments over and over?