Thursday, September 01, 2005

Some Days Are Like This

Yesterday was my first day back at my little school on the hill. It is good to be back, even though I had been ill most of the week and I was anxious to the point of nausea all morning. When I mentioned this, several people smiled knowingly and said my anxiety was due to "nerves", even though I was determined that this was not "nerves" at all. How could I possibly be nervous after all the teaching I've done recently?

I am teaching three lab sections of Anatomy and Physiology this semester, each of which has 16 students, except one lab section that was overloaded by an overpaid administrator in the biology department. Because there is only enough bench space, chairs and microscopes for 16 students, and not one of them could be convinced to enroll in a different section, the poor Lab Tech ran around for much of the class period, trying to find another set of functioning compound and dissecting microscopes, skeletons, histology slides and other things that are essential for this class.

Almost all of my students are studying for a degree in Physical Therapy or Nutrition/Dietetics (none of my students has yet been able to describe the difference between Nutrition and Dietetics, by the way, but these are separate degrees), with one or two wishing to become a Physician's Assistant or to go to medical school. So far, my students are a great group, just as they were this summer, although it is still too early to know if they are fans of the Harry Potter books.

I have an office; a real office with a window and an air conditioner and a door that locks that I share with only two other people (neither of whom I've met yet), with a desk and filing cabinets and book shelves that I don't have to share with anyone. It also has a slanted ceiling and walls that protrude into the room, giving it an interesting shape and lots of wall space.

How different this office is from Sweatshop U! At Sweatshop U, there were only three desks and a similar number of filing cabinets housed in a long, narrow and windowless room that resembled a janitor's closet, that were shared between 82 Adjuncts. Of course, I am not an Adjunct now, I am a full-time temporary professor. I feel almost like I am a real person!

My office is located on the fourth floor, and walking up all those narrow stairs is quite painful right now because I am still recovering from hauling a 70 pound steel parrot cage up four flights of stairs to my apartment a couple days ago (for my gift parrot, Zazu).

I also have my own mailbox in the department mailroom. When I arrived, I checked my mailbox for my text books (which had not yet arrived -- of course!), and was surprised to find a direct deposit slip informing me that I had already been paid, even though it was only the first day of work! I breathed a sigh of relief, hoping that I would not experience another midnight panic attack for a few months, at least.

Even though it is only the first day of class, my students are already telling me stories, stories about professors they've been tortured by in the past. (Why don't any of them tell stories about professors they liked or admired?). For example, one student told me that the lecture professor for my class began by informing everyone that she could fail half the class or even the whole class, that she didn't care if she did so, that failing them was not her problem. I am not sure of the context for her comments, but several students were really upset by them. These students proceeded to tell me that this professor received very poor ratings on a cute little website where college and university students can anonymously evaluate their professors publically. [I wasn't listed, but even if I was, I would not reveal my identity here so blatantly! .. so I instead checked out my blog pal, PZ Myers from Pharyngula, and sure enough, there he is! I can only hope that my students complain about me because I am "too smart", but I suspect they will instead believe I am a mindless bimbo because I am blonde and female.]

So after checking out that website from the campus student computer lab (a professor could become obsessed with that website, I suppose), I then discovered that my former students from summer semester were pleased to see me again. Throughout the afternoon, they approached me and told me of their summer adventures after the semester had ended; of the books they'd read, of the places they'd visited. Their frequent visits and cheery "Hello Professor!"s cheered me. I haven't answered many emails yet, but I find I am not yet disappointed by this.

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© 2004, 2005, 2006 by GrrlScientist

7 Peer Reviews:

Blogger Tabor said...

People who always want to do their best are prone to a case of nerves now and then. As your experience grows you will gain more confidence and less nerves. Students will always talk about the negative because they want a break from you, the new professor. Ask them to tell you about their good experiences with professors!!

5:39 PM  
Anonymous Dawn said...

Congrats on your first day!!

sounds like it went very well, and who knows you may have a few HP fans in one or more of your classes. When you get a teacher that gives a shit, it makes your class really worth showing up for.

and remember to take care of yourself. Rest, plenty of water, etc...

6:04 PM  
Blogger Alon Levy said...

It sounds like your new employer is taking rather good care of its indentured servants.

7:37 PM  
Blogger jamie said...

Good lucks and congrats. FWIW, I looked at that little website, and lo! most of my teachers were on it. Funny, the most bestest teachers I've had received markedly polarized ratings, mostly "this teacher rocked and was difficult and I learned so much" or "don't take this class, it's hard and the teacher doesn't spoon feed everything to me." Heh. Who 'da thunk it?

8:01 PM  
Blogger PZ Myers said...

Yikes, I cringe at the thought of that ratings site.

Maybe it's because my "hotness" is ZERO.

8:43 PM  
Blogger James said...

Good for you. Keep plugging kiddo, and congrats on Zazu (cool name by the way.) Things are slowly coming along.

10:11 PM  
Blogger GrrlScientist said...

Tabor; hey, thanks! That's a really good suggestion. I will ask my students about their favorite professors and what they did that made them enjoy them so much.

Dawn; thanks!

Alon; yes, they are, and I am so pleased and relieved. I think the Dept Chair is rather unfriendly/confrontational in her communication manner, which does not reflect positively on the school. But I am happy to have a pleasant surprise for a change!

Jamie; I also noticed that the professors I knew received dramatically polarized ratings. It's so frustrating to read those comments and to realize that THIS IS COLLEGE, PEOPLE! WHY DO YOU WANT TO BE SPOON-FED? The fact that a college degree is almost required for a decent job makes college into a trade school rather than a scholarly pursuit, and that is yet another travesty to which higher education in American is being ravaged by.

PZ; I know what you mean about cringing at the thought of that ratings site. I was afraid to look for myself there, and was grateful to find I wasn't listed (yet). I am sure I will make my appearance on the line-up this spring semester, though (if not sooner)! Urgh.

James; I am feeling much more positive about this teaching gig than I was a week ago (obviously). The entire biology department is friendly (with one exception), and were all happy to see me back, so that was nice. Several of them thought I'd been hired as a tenure-track professor, and were disappointed to learn I was not. Now, that especially bolstered my waning confidence.


10:01 AM  

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