I’ve had a lot of anxiety the past two weeks. A week from tomorrow, I start my new full-time job as an adjunct English professor. Of course I’m excited: excited to leave my current food service/management job, excited to sleep in later than 7am, excited to be back on a college campus and spending my days talking about reading and writing. But, but – I have to stand in front of a room of strangers and talk to them for 3 hours a week. Welp.
I’m fortunate to be receiving nothing but positive reinforcement from everyone around me (a few of my friends are also full-time teachers, so the support group is nice). And I’m preparing, a lot, like minute-by-minute lesson planning. But that still doesn’t change the fact that Tuesday night at 6pm, 25 people will sit down and look at me and listen to me and form an opinion of the class based solely on how I represent the material. I freaked the fuck out.
Then I decided to just get over it. I just have to get up there and do it. And I really like the subject material. And I really care. That has to count for something. I came across this Slate article today that offered some helpful advice:
There are two things, above all, that students want from their professors. Not, as people commonly believe, to entertain them in class and hand out easy A’s. What they really want is that their teachers challenge them and that they care about them. They don’t want fun and games; they want the real thing. For all the skill that teaching involves, you ultimately only have a single tool: your entire life as you have lived it up until the moment you walk into class. Students want you to be honest, not least about yourself. They want you to be yourself. You need to step outside the role a bit, regard it with a little irony, if only to acknowledge the dissonance between the institution and the spirit.
It was calming to read; a lot of my anxiety stems from the fact that the students, some that will be older than me, will not take me seriously as their teacher. I don’t want to put on some pseudo-teacher act that will seem disingenuous. I do really want to be myself. And the idea of doing just that next Tuesday night calms me down. Suck up all that anxiety and fear and use that energy on creating the best lesson plans and assignments possible. Be fully engaged in the classroom and not wondering in the back of your mind if they like you and if you’re doing a good job. It won’t help anything. Put on your big girl panties and get to work. You’ve got students to teach.