Since I haven’t officially taught a class since last May, I had almost forgotten the simultaneous feelings of elation and horror that accompany a brand new semester–the wondrous sense of starting over with a clean slate accompanied by the nausea of confronting a room full of silent, groggy, impassive faces. The start-of-semester nightmares arrived right on time for me this year, and none of them came true. My session today was not held in an out-of-the-way building reachable only by a single bus that arrives 15 minutes after the start of class. I did remember to dress myself this morning. I did not speak in a stream of incomprehensible and uncontrollable babble. My mother was not in the classroom taking pictures of me while I lectured.
Even though the first day wasn’t the disaster I dream about at night, it wasn’t quite the triumph I fantasize about during the day, either. Here are the highlights (and, uh, lowlights):
- I got all of the classroom technology working all by myself.
- Said technology crashed in the middle of class.
- The helpdesk person (who was sitting right next door, thankfully), reassured me that it was an ongoing problem and therefore not my fault.
- When I asked students to introduce themselves and talk about why they were taking the class, even if it was just to get a Writing Flag credit for their major, the third student to introduce himself says, “I didn’t know this was a Writing Flag class. I might have to drop.”
- Several students said they had enrolled in the class because they found the topic interesting. I don’t play favorites, but just between you and me, those students are rapidly becoming the front-runners.
- As I laid out the broad themes of the course during my carefully planned-out opening speech, a student threw me off script by asking me to define “rhetoric,” something I was not expecting at all. Even though I taught an actual Rhetoric class for two years, I could not, for some reason, came up with a definition that completely satisfied him on the spot.
- After class, this very same student looked me straight in the eye and said, “I need an A in this class to graduate, and I need you to tell me if that is going to be possible.”
- An hour after that, I received an email from a student who said he had taken too many downers the night before and had overslept his alarm and wanted to know if he missed anything.
Happy start of term, everyone!