Thursday, August 23, 2007

Racehorses at the gate

Originated as a comment over on Terminal Degree.

Sometimes people get nervous or intimidated before the semester starts, especially if they have not had a lot of prior experience upon which they can rely. My response to TD was:

If you know this about yourself just prior to the start of every semester, then you can anticipate it, yes? You say that within "two minutes" of the class starting, the anxiety melts away. If you can anticipate the anxiety, and can predict that it will melt away, then maybe you can see it not as anxiety but as another, more useful/usable emotion.

I myself hate waiting for the first day of classes, but not because I'm anxious about the classes--rather because I just want the damned hovercraft parents to leave and let me get on with my job of educating their little darlings. I'm very fidgety just before classes start, but that's because I want to get at it.

Maybe it's not anxiety at all. Maybe think of it the trembling of a race horse or a sprinter at the gate. You know you can do that job--take that nervous energy and consciously direct it toward the teaching. As I'm sure you know, students--even the most outwardly-blase, alienated, Paris-Hilton-imitating students--are inspired by positive energy. Maybe this is because they've encountered unalloyed intellectual joy so seldom, but whatever the reason, even those big-sunglassed iPhoned nimrods in the back of the room are more intimidated than they let on. You know that you will walk in the first day like a blast of pure positive energy--now you need to trust that you will, allow yourself the nervous excitement, and wait for that starting gun.

It's clean work, right? Feels good, doesn't it?

1 comment:

Dharmonia said...

I envy this - unfortunately, I'm right there with Terminal Degree, having nightmares. Mine usually involve either a cavalcade of busted gadgets, suddenly having to teach a class on applying particle physics to modal counterpoint, or realizing 40 minutes into a class that I forgot to show up (this is the most common nightmare - honey, I spaced the kids.)

I can't imagine what it must feel like to walk into a semester without having one's stomach in a twist. Then again, I can't imagine yet what it's like to teach a semester in which I am not either teaching a new class, teaching one that I've completely revised, or teaching one that involves around 900 eyeballs staring at me in anticipation of being entertained.

Everything Coyotebanjo says is true, of course - good advice, and makes perfect sense. I'm sure that students DO respond positively to unalloyed intellectual joy; I gotta get me a bottle of that.