This is Not a Story About My First Day Teaching

This is not the story of my first day teaching at a college, but coincidentally I did start doing that today. This certainly isn’t a recounting of how everything that could have gone wrong with my class inevitably did. This story isn’t at all about me which is why it’s totally fine if my students or boss or friends or family find this post. Everything is fine, and of course any resemblance of persons within this story to real people is purely coincidental, and it should not be inferred that any real people were inspiration for the totally fake people in this story.

The Cast:
I: A youthful teacher who did his best.
Student A: The only student to ask a question, probably does charity work/is a superhero.
Students B-X: 23 other people apparently so intimidated or unenthused that they cannot say a word. Not one word.
The Projector: A real piece of work, just awful, probably steals money from blind panhandlers then uses it to buy liquor for children with addictive personalities.

The Story:
It was an aggressively bright Monday like the sun wanted to show off what it could do, and the birds were coughing phlegm at the windows. I had spent about as much time preparing a lovely presentation as your standard master chef would spend on meals for the Queen, the Pope, and a live dragon all sharing a table. In short, I went through a lot of trouble to make this presentation work. It was warm yet informative, practical but not stark, a work of art and a stalwart backdrop for what would naturally be a wonderful first meeting of class. I was proud. Maybe I was vain to tempt fate with an offering so tantalizing as that resplendent power point. I should not have allowed the success of a class to be dependent on something so fallible as technology–even if that technology was working fine a few hours before. I was a fool.

The projector’s failing was as subtle as fireworks released in a pet shop. Students A-X appeared to notice, and they made pitying sounds: snorts of “Who is this pathetic wretch struggling with the computer,” huffs of “I have no intention of respecting this teacher after this pathetic display of whatever the opposite of tech-savvy is,” and chortles of “I bet I could fix the projector, but I’m not going to do that because I need to focus on ogling my classmates.” The projector never got to working. I suffered through 16 hours (possibly 5 minutes) of button-fiddling then just wrote everything I needed to on the board. The beautiful power point would never be seen by student eyes.

I moved on. The power point was lost, locked away with a horde of other disappointments in a deep, abandoned cognitive broom closet. I read from the syllabus while students A-X followed along. Occasionally I would look up and speak in a brilliant baritone about different subjects that the syllabus introduced. Even more occasionally, a student would shake off their post-lunch haze and appear to be interested. In this pattern, I crawled through the syllabus like a worm through wet cement, and like a group of people watching a worm in wet cement, students A-X frowned and appeared not to care. But I was wrong. One student–almost certainly the type of person to donate an organ to a stranger or save an orphanage from flooding by carrying it up a mountain–raised their hand. Oh, Student A, if only you knew how much I needed a crutch in that moment. It was during the section on cell phone policy, and I was losing the audience as they vigorously cared about anything other than cell phones in class. Then Student A raised a hand, and I nearly cried. Just after I said not to be distracting when using a phone, Student A asked “Does that mean I can text in class?” And dammit, Student A, I had a fantastic time answering your question. I performed a demonstration, explained the answer, begged everyone to understand, and maybe it worked. Maybe I will nail someone’s phone to the ceiling. No way to be be sure.

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Pictured above: the hero of this story.

Nobody else said a word without being called on. Half an hour passed going through the syllabus and a subsequent activity none of the students will remember. In a 50 minute class, I spent about 30 of it talking. I was a fool. I go back tomorrow. 

2 Replies to “This is Not a Story About My First Day Teaching”

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