Wait, I’ve Made a Terrible Mistake…

Posted: August 10, 2008 in creative nonfiction, Morgantown, Sarah Einstein, West Virginia, writing
Tags: , , , ,

I’m halfway through the two-week seminar that is supposed to make me ready to teach English 101.  I am not halfway ready.  In fact, I am much less ready than I was before I started this process in a room full of people almost all of whom seem young beyond my imagining and they have a good five to fifteen years on the freshman who will be walking into my classroom in exactly two weeks and one day.  See, I am reduced to panicky, run-on sentences and on the verge of paranoia.

I spend a lot of time on the couch, imagining what I will say on that first day.  I see myself as a frousy-haired, rumpled but kindly old woman who will remind them of their mothers–or, God forbid, their grandmothers–and win them over with lots of corny encouragement and sometimes homemade cookies because they are, after all, college freshman and so by definition broke and hungry.  Or maybe I’m the funky old lady who has been there and done that and wins them over by not being shocked when they forget to come to class because they’ve fallen in love for the first time since leaving home and couldn’t force themselves to crawl out of bed to make it to class for almost an entire week.  But probably I am not.  Probably I will just be some alien with a gradebook and a frown that they have to suffer in order to become physical therapists and computer engineers and novelists who will dedicate their first books to some other, better English professor they will have down the road.

English teachers are supposed to be cool, and I am so not cool any longer.  (If I ever was.)  I think I have made a horrible mistake.  Now excuse me while I go stand in front of the mirror and practice asking if you’d like fries with that.

  1. Beth W. says:

    You are a published author. That, de facto, makes you WAY cool.

  2. inktarsia says:

    I suspect you are the instructor who sees the invisible kids who have struggled with school all their lives, and finds a way to help them connect with their potential. Encouragement goes a long way.

    There are students who couldn’t care less, and push boundaries on every front. They’ve spent their high school years mastering their manipulation skillsets. Their grandmas and aunties tend to depart this life just before the final paper is due.

    But the first type of students make it all worth it. I think you are going to rock this. Even without the cookies.

  3. James says:

    Hmmm, where is your confidence Young Lady? When did “cool” trump knowledge and experience? While you will be heavily scrutinized by the young and cocky, when did that matter? These same “kids” are evaluated and criticized by their peers, their parents, and their professors. It is not difficult to remember yourself in their position. I am sure that you carved up your professors and teachers, but they expected it. My daughter is just starting her university career at a small private school in South Carolina. I’d be happy if you’d head down there to teach her English 101 class!

    While I am sure that you will have a few Junior Shakespeares or Little Eliots in yor classes, most will struggle to identify adverbs. Such is the folly of the false promise of public education. I fully imagine your greatest headache will not be the inability to feed the hunger of ravenous sponge-like Byrons, but your lack of preparation to handle the mass of students more apt, and better prepared, to imulate the stylings Ludacris and Eminem, rather than the Two Dylans.

    Good luck teaching a language destined to join Latin!


  4. I used to think that too, but then I realized they about but 18 years old. they have no idea…and, I know the right answers. I think the fear helps you get cracking with the work–adreneline and all.

  5. Lori Ann says:

    You will be great! I wrote you a longer post and, of course, there was an error message so now I’m retyping and it’s not the same at all. But one little tip that helps with the first day is get there right on time like exactly as class is going to start and then walk into the room without saying anything. Someone told me to do this and it helped. A lot of the freshman think they have to wait out in the hallway till you get there and ask permission to use the restroom. And no one is going to think you’re an old lady. They will just assume that you have more experience and I would play up the experience that you have and just play down the fact that you’re never done this before by saying I have x years working in x industry and I’ve tutored people in this subject for x years. I really don’t think you need my help. But it’s natural to be nervous. I was terrified and convinced that they would tell me I wasn’t allowed to teach anymore, and after two years, it’s gotten so much easier and I’ve gotten so much better and yet there were some students that I had my first semester who thought I did a good job. Remember they’re freshman for the most part so they’re new to this too.

  6. sarahemc2 says:

    Thanks to everybody who is trying to keep me propped up as I do my best to tumble down the slippery slope of “Oh shit, what have I gotten myself into this time?” My new mantra: The soft spots on the tops of their heads healed years ago. so at least I don’t have to worry about that.


  7. brevity says:

    You’ll do just fine. I can see it in your eyes.

  8. Aviagra says:

    I loved the post. I think your thinking is nearly matching the great sukrat’s cocept.

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