Posts Tagged ‘The First Day of Class’

The intense thought that I put into arbitrary decisions when creating my syllabi does not prevent me from making (and dealing with) mistakes. This semester, for example, a mix-up between me, the campus bookstore, and a publisher led to me arriving in the classroom with a different version of the textbook than my students and, as a result, a syllabus listing the wrong page numbers for course readings. Last semester my small discussion-based class was assigned to one of the largest lecture halls on campus. Making matters worse was the fact that the seats were arranged stadium-style so that everybody had a good view of the front of the classroom but the students could not hear each other.

Nothing tops my experience when heading to teach my very first class as a graduate student, though. On that fall day I took the bus from my apartment to campus, transferring at the downtown station. I then made my way to my classroom, which was in the business building. I arrived suitably early and started preparing by getting out my notes and syllabi and logging into the computer system while students trickled in. Then, just before my class was scheduled to begin, a man walked in, thinking that it was actually his classroom. I asked him if he was sure he was in the right place and he said that he was. I asked the assembled students what class they were there to attend. All but two (out of approximately 70) said that they were there for this other man’s business course. Since I was logged into the computer I looked online and found that my classroom had been moved late in the summer from the computer building to the basement of the library, which was thankfully just across the street. Publicly revealed as idiots, my two students and I quickly made the walk to our actual classroom, where we arrived about ten minutes late. Thankfully, the students who had gone to the right place to begin with were there waiting for us. There’s nothing like a humbling experience on your first day in a position of authority!

Read Full Post »

Although I’ve been teaching college students for years they’ve only recently started appearing in my dreams. First, there was the pre-ASA dream in which students were talking amongst themselves on the first day of class instead of listening attentively to the details of my exciting syllabus. Then, over winter break, I had two more dreams about frustrating students.

The first was similar to my dream this summer. In the dream it was the first day of the semester and I was going over the syllabus when I realized that I hadn’t prepared the course web page. I was angry with myself for forgetting to prepare for class (I ended up showing them the web page from the previous time I taught the course) but this anger quickly shifted to my students, who were talking to each other from opposite sides of the classroom despite my efforts to discuss the syllabus. Upon waking I realized that both the classroom and the students were unfamiliar to me but the lack of authenticity hadn’t stopped me from being angry.

The second dream is less clear. I remember teaching a class in the computer lab near my office and that there were one or two students that I knew in the class. The only other thing I remember is that I woke up shortly after 4 am and I was extremely angry about whatever had happened in the dream. The hours of sleep before I got up for the day seem to have erased the source of this anger.

These dreams make me wonder if I am witnessing the slow decline of my sanity due to inattentive students. Since I had one dream before the fall semester and two dreams before the spring semester maybe I’ll have three dreams before next fall and four before next spring. Or maybe the dreams are increasing exponentially, so two will be followed by four, which will be followed by eight. This could continue until all of my dreams are about frustrating students and I completely forget that I actually enjoy teaching. The funny thing is that, unlike my dreams, my frustration in recent semesters has been centered on students who do not talk in class rather than on students who do but shouldn’t.

Read Full Post »