For a number of reasons, this is my last semester teaching the class I’m teaching now. Which entirely changes the dynamic. Teachers know that every class — every class period — is different. But we often attribute this to our mercurial students.
This semester is no different in that sense: my demographics are different (although the lawyer dropped, there is still an ad company owner and a nursing student, a couple of animal science majors, and more males than usual), but that happens so frequently that it’s ‘normal.’
What’s different? I am. Because I know this is the last time to make this course packet, the last time to send out the 1st listserv post, each of these ordinary actions takes on poignancy, becomes almost numinous. The choice of a graphic for an email takes on far more significance than in semesters past.
It’s wonderful, really. So many religious paths nudge in the way of living moment by moment, fully immersed in the present. But I rarely manage to make this work outside of meditation, or (occasionally) driving my car on a sunny day . In class this past week, however, every moment has clicked by distinctly, as if a metronome was measuring each one. 12:53. 12:54. 1:14. 1:23. The spaces between are the actions and the experiences filling them, not me off in lala land over-thinking things.
I’ve eased up, I suppose. But it’s not short-timer syndrome. Instead, I feel free to actually enjoy my work. Now please note: I love teaching. Always have, even that first terrifying semester when I was only a few years older than the non-trad in the freshman comp class I was teaching. And looked even younger. Teaching is the most important job outside of parenting I know of. And since it can offset, sometimes, bad parenting, it may even be as important.
So I’ve always loved my work. But often I’ve worried excessively about it. With great impact comes great responsibility. Plus, this class teaches teachers. Pre-service teachers, but that’s perhaps even more pressure. Those of us who work with pre-service teachers realise they are always deconstructing what we do: why did she say that? How does that relate to yesterday? What’s the reason for this? Worse, they’re modeling.
What if I just have a bad day? What if I totally screw up? What if.. what if… what if??
This semester that isn’t so prominent. While I still care deeply — and always at the back of the mind there’s the nagging concern that I help and not hinder, encourage and not inadvertently eviscerate — it’s a concern. It doesn’t cripple me the way my worries have some semesters.
Instead, I can shrug off the mis-copied course packet. The lack of books as a result of my forgetfulness in filing a book request. The inhospitable classroom set-up. And focus on the important elements: the students. Writing. Talking about writing.
It’s incredibly freeing. I wonder what would happen if I did this all the time…? Hmmm…maybe those spiritual folks know something…