Sunday, April 17, 2005

A bit of calm (before the storm?)

Things are looking a bit better, work-wise, since my meltdown post last week. I'm ahead on the class prep, by some miracle---it helps that the material I'm covering is material that I'm very comfortable with, and thus requires much less prep work. (I've been working really hard to minimize the class prep in general this year, to not let it take over my life, with varying levels of success. Last week, clearly, was one of those less-successful times.) Plus I have the next few assignments ready to go.

I still have tons to do, but for some reason when the "tons to do" involves research and/or long-term planning tasks, I don't feel quite as stressed. Maybe it's because teaching is something that gives more immediate feedback, while the other tasks do not---research feedback, for instance, pretty much only happens sporadically, when something gets peer-reviewed or a talk is given. So maybe that's what makes teaching seem more pressing, more important, more worthy of the time commitment.

It's amazing how much of my self-worth and how much of my mood is tied to how well my teaching is going. Right now, even though this week will be extremely busy, I am approaching it with serenity and not trepidation, all because I am prepared for my classes. In the previous few weeks, I've felt something closer to dread on Sunday nights (going back to school), but also on Thursday nights (realizing that only a small fraction of my unrealistic "to-do" list was going to get done). Feeling this way makes me tend to blow things way out of proportion too---on Friday afternoon, the simple act of looking at a homework assignment from the previous time my course was taught sent me into full-fledged panic mode, because I wasn't as far along in the material at the same point in the course, and so of course this meant that I am clearly the Worst Teacher Ever and I clearly Cannot Teach My Way Out of a Paper Bag. Luckily, a colleague was around to set me straight and get me to see how ridiculous I was being. But when I'm working at home alone, I've worked myself into crying fits over things as stupid as the format on my slides being messed up. And at those times, even Mr. Jane can't do or say anything to console me. It's not healthy at all, but unfortunately that's how I "handle" things, sometimes.

So for now, I'll ride the positive teaching wave and use it to get some much-needed work done in other areas of my life. And as I move towards tenure, I hope to gain the wisdom to bring the teaching part of my life more into balance with the rest of my life.


Alfred Thompson said...

When I was teaching I always found the first time I taught a course to be very stressful. The second time was much easier. The third time I thought I could do it in my sleep. Some of it is knowing the topic but most of it is just having the assignments and knowing the pacing of the course.

Ianqui said...

And always keep in mind that different students go at different speeds, which could explain why you get behind in some years. As Super G always says, it's better for them to know something well than barely know a lot of things.