Thursday, July 08, 2010
Lights. Camera. You're on!
I stand blinking in front of a new college class.
More and more, teaching feels like acting to me. I have to be "on" in front of the class. I have to be prepared. I have to be entertaining yet informative.
Truthfully, I love it.
Last quarter and again this quarter, I've had four online classes at the main college where I teach. This week a new semester started at my back-up university. I have two classes where I get to be in front of actual students.
I'm always nervous before I start.
I have my lesson plans. Is this enough to get me through four hours and keep them awake? Where will I add the ice breaker that makes them get up? Where should I include the small group sessions so they start to know each other? How about the youtube videos that will make them laugh?
I dressed carefully. A linen dress with a straight skirt that nips in slightly at the waist and pooches out a little where my belly isn't quite flat. My Jambu shoes that are comfortable to stand in for four hours. My hair is curly, pulled back from my face.
The first few minutes are chaos. Students who have been reassigned to my class coming from another class. Conferring with the other professor. Done. 21 students sit before me. Some like baby birds ready to be fed. Others like Missourians with their arms crossed daring, "Show me."
There is Mulu who was in my class last session.
"How'd you get stuck with me again?" I tease.
"I knew it was going to be a tough session," he replies. "I asked for you."
I smile but I'm flattered. Mulu is from Africa and English is his second language, although his speaking and writing are excellent.
I begin class.
The computer isn't working so I can't flash the syllabus onto the screen. I move on to the next thing on my lesson plans. I ad lib. If students start to look bored, I tap dance faster, trying to keep their attention.
By the end of the evening, by 9:30 p.m. as we move to the computer lab, they are approaching me individually to clear up questions. They are handing me their prewriting for their first essays. They are asking for confirmation that they're on the right track.
I soothe them. I flash smiles. I offer words of reassurance.
And then they are gone. I sit alone in the computer lab, plugging in attendance and going over the successes and failures for the evening.
Probably 15 years ago I took a personality test that confirmed I was an introvert. That means I gain energy from being alone rather than being in a crowd. But these things can change, I think as I walk toward the car.
I call Earl so his voice can keep me company through the dark parking lot. I regale him with my performance.
The voices of the students echo in my head like so much applause.
I'll be back for an encore the following week, perhaps to a more receptive audience or to a tougher audience as they judge how successful I am at performing.
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