Tuesday, August 25, 2009

First Day Jitters

Yesterday marked the start of the fall semester. I'm teaching this term and had my first class. The kids are bright and eager, perhaps a couple are a bit doubtful about participating fully, but most seemed willing. I was amazed at my own adrenalin rush during the session. It took me several hours to come down afterward. I had hurt my back somehow late last week and before the start of class it felt stiff. I wondered if it would distract me. Once we got going, however, I lost all sense of that. Other things preoccupied me.

The class has 18 students and is meant to run as a seminar, not as a lecture. It's held in the new Business Instructional Facility in a room that accommodates perhaps 60 students, with movable tables and chairs. The tables are such that if kids sit on the long side of one then two chairs fit in comfortably. We rearranged furniture to simulate a conference room, taking nine of these tables and making a not quite polygon, certainly not one that is equiangular, but rather one that tried to emulate a longish ellipse. That part worked reasonably well though, in trying not to be too far from any student, I sat in the middle of one of the lone "sides" and I found it was easier for me to look right than to look left, so had to consciously turn to acknowledge student comments from the left. Also, since I was trying to manage the flow of the discussion, I found I didn't always try to listen to what the students said, but rather could start to think about the next point I should make. I've got to get better at that during the semester.

In the second hour we changed modes so I could show the course Web site, give an overview of what we'd be covering the rest of the semester and make sure they understood their immediate obligations for the course. I stood at the cabinet with the technology in it because I was doing a lot of scrolling and clicking. The cabinet is off to one side of the room and I became more remote to the students that way. I was very conscious of that and it annoyed me. I didn't anticipate the feeling ahead of time.

Then I got a bit flustered because a couple of important posts didn't appear on my syllabus tag. (Back in my office after the class I saw that those posts had no tag whatsoever. The kind of little omission I make all the time and in the normal course of events it wouldn't bother me at all. But with already heightened intensity, it was unsettling.

No real damage done, I hope. Some of the students were a bit apprehensive about the technology use and the work they'd be doing. Making flubs in front of them might actually be helpful to get them more comfortable. Let's see if I relax as well or if the adrenalin keeps pumping, class after class.

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