Friday, December 01, 2006

That's Professor Hardass to you

Today marks the last day of my first term as a full-on instructor. Overall, it's been fabulous. The students, for the most part, have been incredibly engaged and interesting. Class discussions have been lively and have yielded new insights in the subject matter we've been covering.

I thought my first teaching carnival post would be about conquering stage fright. For the three months up to my first class, I felt queasy at the thought of standing in front of a class again. I surfed the net obsessively looking for yoga stretches, breathing exercises, visualization, anything that might help me not completely freak out on the big day. I showed up an hour early and tried out my laptop on the university's projection system. That advice about always checking your technology before your class or presentation? Spot on. Nothing happened. It took a full hour with the tech guys to figure out the problem. On the upside, the tech department now loves me. The other benefit of having an hour long freak-out over my technology is that my nerves melted away and never came back. I thought I would stammer or blush, but I haven't had a problem with standing there in the spotlight for 3 hours in a row. When I spoke at my grandmother's funeral last week, my uncle came up to tell me that it shows which profession I'm in.

The one thing I hadn't really thought about is that I am now the point where the buck stops. As a TA (working for a supremely incompetent new prof), I pretty much ran the show. I lectured, marked everything, organized discussions and dealt with the frontline of unhappy and confused students. But I always had the recourse of saying "well, Prof X's policy is such and such". At the end of the day, I wasn't the bad guy. For the first time, I am the one doling out the zeros to plagiarists and saying no to ridiculous requests for midterm re-writes. It feels weird to be the hard-ass. I guess I'm still kinda amazed that I am actually teaching my own class, that I'm the prof.

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