It’s that time again. That time when I’m preparing for the 30 or so students eager to get it over with: my class, precalculus. Every semester for the past two years, I say this is my last semester teaching and I say it with conviction. It’s not the students, the administration, the workload, or the working conditions. It’s that nervous feeling, anxiety if you will. Yes, I am a college instructor and I get nervous and experience intense anxiety on the first day of class, every semester.
My heart races, my palms get sweaty, my voice quivers… I always give the credit to some random epiphany: this isn’t for me, it was only temporary, I should be doing something else, and whatever other excuses I can conjure up to justify wanting to quit so I don’t have to have a quasi-anxiety attack.
Then I go into the first class, take a few deep breaths, and begin to speak. Yes, my voice still quivers for about 3 – 5 minutes. After a while, I calm down, get into the lesson, and go into my “zone.” Last semester during office hours one of my students told me I go into a zone when I’m teaching. She said it’s interesting to watch, because I look as though no one else is in the room. I know that feeling and I can imagine that look. I feel it when it happens.
While I’m teaching, I become absorbed as new ways of teaching the same material emerges out of nowhere. Every now and then I pull back, look around the room, and ask if there are any questions. I can feel the intensity of their stares, so I smile, realizing they are more nervous than I am. I remember that I am the instructor, they are the students. I must be calm and confident or they will retreat. I search my memory for a story that will make me seem human again. Something always surfaces. I share the story, they lighten up, and I go back to teaching.
It’s a little after 6 am and I’ve been awake since about 5 am. I’m, probably anxious about the 30 or so students who will sit in my class next week waiting for that “aha moment” that happens later in the semester. Some will sit there hoping I will take it easy on them, but of course I can’t. It’s summer session and we only have 6 weeks to cram 14 weeks of material into their minds. But they asked for it so here I go.
Writing this blog actually helped me relax a little, but I know this is temporary. In about a week, I will be nervous, anxious, and ready to declare that this will be my last semester teaching, again. Then this process will start over again 7 weeks later.