I just told Jed…

I just told Jed yesterday that I had triumphed over my sleeping difficulties. It's true that in California I went a little short on sleep, but there was none of the queasiness/panic attack symptoms that have been harrowing my nights every time I travelled (and often when I didn't) for close to the last year. And in New York, I actually slept close to ten hours two nights in a row, dropping off to sleep like a baby; walking what felt like miles and miles and miles each day may have helped with that, but the point is, no anxiety. So I was feeling like my subconscious was agreeing with my conscious -- all the crazy stress of the last year is finally over, and I can come back to my normal self.

And then last night, or rather this morning, I had a dream in which I was explaining to David what a terrible, underprepared teacher I am, and how usually the students put up with it, but that doesn't make it right. And I woke up stressed and anxious at four a.m., and couldn't go back to sleep. Argh.

Sometimes, it's true, I'm not quite as prepared as I should be. When I do prepare, I think I'm a decent teacher, but occasionally I think I have enough material to teach a class with, and I have enough to get by, but it's clear to me by the end of class that I haven't used the time nearly as productively as I could have if I'd prepared better. I think practice will cure that. I had a pretty good routine down for intermediate comp by the end of my time at Utah, because I'd taught the course seven times. And part of my anxiety now is because I thought intermediate comp was essentially what I was teaching for my second course this semester but last Thursday I got an e-mail saying enrollment was too low for my section, and they wanted to cancel it and switch it to something else. What exactly I'll be teaching is still being finalized. It may be an intro to literary analysis, which is going to require a lot more prep than intermediate comp. It may be something else entirely. Hopefully I'll know Monday. Orientation is Tues/Wed, and classes start the week following.

In the meantime, I should be prepping my graduate fiction class. It's a workshop, so if I wanted, I could just plan on doing workshop the entire time, which requires no advance prep of lectures -- just reading and commenting on the students' work each week. But I generally would rather incorporate readings and craft discussions into a writing class. But since I'm not really familiar with the level the students are working on at Roosevelt, it's a bit difficult to know what kind of materials to prepare for them. Are they ready for Delany, or should I ease them in with LeGuin? I feel like I should've made a reading packet for them, and assigned a craft book or two, but in the absence of sufficient data, I think it'll actually serve them better if I stay flexible and just plan on photocopying whatever handouts seem most useful, week to week. But even if that's optimal for teaching, it's making me feel underprepared right now, like I'm a bad teacher for not having my books all selected and my lecture plans all written.

You know that dream about showing up naked in class, or the one where you realize that you've forgotten today is the day of the final exam (or in one memorable dream, that you've forgotten a course entirely, and that you're supposed to graduate next week, which is actually eerily similar to something that actually happened to me in my MFA)? I promise you, the dreams are even worse from the teacher's point of view.

4 thoughts on “I just told Jed…”

  1. Hey.

    Point of view of a (perpetual) student? I appreciate it when a teacher takes the time to assess the class and tailor the coursework to that particular group of students. And I always disliked classes where the teacher doggedly tramped through a prepared curriculum that was not appropriate to the level of the class.

    I think that in the long run your students will learn much more from you and you will all feel better about a class that actually addresses the needs of those students. It will be a class that will teach them what they want and need to know rather than something they may have already learned.

    And lets not even go to the waste of a poor learning experience vs. tuition prices. 🙂

    You’ll be fine, MA. You think best on your feet and you are an excellent teacher. I learned more from you just being your friend than I learned in some of my English/Comp classes. (And probably from that old writing group, too. 😉 )

    Try not to doubt yourself. I don’t doubt you. Does that help?

  2. Yes, often improv is the best form of lecture. Asimov did it; I do it; I think all teachers/professors need to do some of it.

  3. I feel WAY underprepared this semester, so I can empathize, Mary Anne. I got two last minute classes (one on the day after it began!), so I feel very much in the deep end at the moment. I like improvisation too, but when I have no experience teaching the class, I need a little structure just to get me through.

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