Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Teaching -- the beginning...

For some reason I've been thinking about the first class I ever taught -- and my first class meeting for that class.

I finished my MA in the end of 1999 and was working on the classes I needed to be ABD when, in June 2000 I was "laid off" from my non-academic job. They wanted to move my job to Marinette, WI -- and it wasn' worth my going there to do THAT...

As part of my job search, I put out feelers to my undergraduate college (we were still in town because hubby was in the military...). The chair of the department came back saying that he had one section of Ethics for me, and I was welcome to it. He also needed to know what my books would be ASAP, as the bookstore had wanted the book order 2 months ago..

All of a sudden, I'm a teacher -- yikes! Sure, I'd thought about it, as I'd gone to a job fair for teachers at the local CC -- and was encouraged to apply for the full-time job there (for which I was a finalist... in retrospect, wow). A couple of days later the snobby private school AND the CC had a section each for me to teach.

The sad part about this was the pathetic salary I'd accumulate from teaching three courses at three different schools, but the cool part was that I'd actually be doing a job that required my MA --- instead of jobs for which my MA was a reason NOT to interview me. Hubby was still in the military then, so we could afford a bit of a pay cut. That summer I also took a job as a customer service person at a credit union -- which was a nice job, but one I quit by December...

Anyway, all the schools pretty much said, "tell me what your books are" and "if you want, you can come in and look at previous syllabi we may or may not have on file" as the ONLY guidance about what should have been in the course. In other words, the message was clear, 'you are on your own honey, good luck -- don't bother us Mrs. Adjunct'. Since I'm probably more headstrong than blessed with common sense, I went for it.

My first day was at undergraduate school... I thought I had it nailed. I knew where the building was (lots of undergrad classes there in my time...) I had the parking situation scoped out and I had been in the week before to make copies of the syllabus. I dressed up (when I still did that... yikes), grabbed my stuff and left an hour early for campus.

Sadly, it started to rain. In undergraduate city, rain has the same effect as snow -- people can't seem to drive in it. The traffic was horrible, and even worse around undergraduate school. By the time I hit the campus I had less than 10 minutes before class.

Then, the parking card I'd bought the week before didn't work. Now I'm in a panic... at the garage, but no way to leave my car. I quickly calculate that I'm better off parking in the handicap spot than MISSING my first class, so I park illegally, grab my bag and run into the building and up the stairs.

I run -- straight into a construction zone. I can get to a group of classrooms, but my room number isn't among them. Panic -- complete and total panic --. I run downstairs to find the department office and the secretary who has a very cool head... sure she can help me. It is now 10 minutes PAST the time class is supposed to start... double-eek.

Cool secretary tells me the secret -- go DOWN the hall on the second floor, then up the stairs. I'll find my classroom on that end of the building and avoid the construction zone in the middle.... after a quick 'thank you' I'm off and running again..

I walk into my classroom to find them ALL sitting there waiting for me. In the end, they were my favorite class -- I loved them, took care of them and they did well. I think they felt sorry for me the first day and instead of deciding I was a hopeless idiot, they decided that I was a person who makes mistakes and has bad days just like they did--- and they treated me with respect and concern.

In retrospect, that class at undergraduate college could have shown many other classes how to treat a teacher.. of course, I liked the students there the best of ALL schools I've taught at... so I guess it is no surprise that my favorite class ever was there as well.

Over then next couple of weeks I started the other places as well having learned my lesson -- and developed a habit I've kept up to now.. namely, being on campus and out of the car at least 30 minutes before class time.


academic brat said...

Wow. What a "classic" story. Thanks. I wonder if we all need an experience like this to help foster good habits. I too need to arrive at least 30 minutes before class starts or I get really panicky. I have colleagues, though, who go straight to class (with a minute to spare) after parking their car. I don't know how they do it.

Zeno said...

I did the "half hour early" routine for my first day at my new full-time job at the college where I still teach. It really helped to decompress just a bit before plunging into elementary algebra. My standards have rather slipped since then, at least as far as campus arrival time is concerned. This morning I was there just five minutes before it was time to begin. Sure glad my office is in the building next to the classroom building!