Thursday, February 28, 2008

Teaching 101

Finally, after three weeks of delays, I taught my first class last night. After I got all good and worked up before the first class was supposed to start, I read David Sedaris’s essay, “The Learning Curve” from Me Talk Pretty One Day, while waiting for an oil change and felt much better. If all else failed, I could always show taped episodes of One Life to Live. As I drove back to work, the sun came out, the snow started melting, and I actually started feeling OK, even a little excited about teaching. And then I got a message that they cancelled adult ed for the evening. Deflate. And then it snowed the next Wednesday. And the next week was February break. Then it snowed again Tuesday night, by which time I was feeling like the gods of the written word really did not want me messing around with their stuff. I made all my photo copies Tuesday and looked over my notes, not really expecting to teach again this week. But they did not cancel adult ed yesterday (I think they would have held classes if a freak winter hurricane came inland and drowned the entire county).

When I left the office last night, the panic started to rise again. I ate dinner at a local café, read over my notes again (I really did make a lot of notes), feeling totally under-qualified and under-prepared. I got to the school an hour early, and as I walked in the front door, I felt that lurch in my stomach that I always feel upon entering a school (all these 17 years later!!) I found the adult ed office and turned in my paperwork. The adult ed director led me to the teacher’s lounge, where the class is held, telling me about how she has just been accepted to the MFA in writing program at USM. Which is what I should be doing—learning to write, not trying to teach it.

I spent the next hour cleaning about an inch of coffee goo off the surface of the table, arranging chairs a comfortable distance from each other, reading and rereading my notes, running to the bathroom and reviewing my class list. I have four students—three of whom I already knew. When they all arrived we introduced ourselves and talked about our expectations for the class. One student is a teacher, one a retired teacher and the other two seem to have taken extensive writing courses in the past. Not intimidating at all.

It went well—I think. I’m glad there are four students and not the ten I had originally envisioned. We have a range of mom-stages, from a new mom with a seven-month-old to a mom with three grownup-kids and a grandkid. They all seem really enthusiastic and I can’t wait to hear their stories. About halfway through the class my arms started shaking uncontrollably and I had to press them to my sides to keep them still. It was a little chilly in the room, but I think I was on the letdown from the adrenaline generated while panicking prior to class. Driving home, in the snow, I relived the class in my mind, dwelling on my weaknesses—I talked too much, and referred to my notes too much (all four single-spaced pages of them)—then I remembered that the goal of our class is to silence our inner writing critic, and that I should probably try to silence my inner teaching critic too, or at least give him the night off. As I neared home I realized I felt kind of good—energized. I think I may like this.

5 comments:

  1. So exciting. You go, Teach! Will look forward to hearing updates as your class progresses.

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  2. "learning to write, not trying to teach it"

    What's the difference? :)

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  3. Congrats! Sounds like it went VERY well!

    Thanks for the visit to my blog!

    oh, I love David Sedaris. Me Talk Pretty One Day made me laugh out loud.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Congrats! Sounds like it went VERY well!

    Thanks for the visit to my blog!

    oh, I love David Sedaris. Me Talk Pretty One Day made me laugh out loud.

    ReplyDelete
  5. the other day, sensing my feelings of thumbly, fumbling jugheadedness, one of my professors reminded me to "embrace my novicehood"...i was instilled with the confidence to not have confidence...
    embrace your novicehood.

    ReplyDelete

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