Thursday, May 5, 2011

The End's Not Near

This semester has just flown right by.

They all do, but as a first-semester professor, the tempo is more presto than allegro. I remember being nervous for my first lecture, and then being less nervous for my second lecture. Now, here I am, one semester down, and lectures just kind of roll off the tongue.

Needless to say, particularly from the students, it's been a bit of a rocky start. I'm learning by trial and a lot of error, but I'm getting the hang of some things. I know how to use the projector now. I know where the chalk is in one of my classrooms. I can and occasionally do remember to put notes and homework online. Still have a little trouble reading my board handwriting, but hey, at least my students can! No, no, they can't.

I can, however, say that I feel better about things than I did a couple of months ago. I could see students perking up a bit more by the end of the semester. Answers on homework and exams seemed more complete, and more earnest. This despite the ever-looming reminder that summer, and perhaps the real world, were waiting for many of them. That's a start, I guess.

As a student, I was a bit aloof to a professor's life. I knew there was lecture, and preparation for that lecture, and grading of homework, and maybe if there was time, the other thousand things that have to be done (primarily research). I remember feeling that the last thing I wanted to do was get in the professor's way. So I spent very little time taking advantage of office hours, or saying hello before or after class. I came in, sat down, opened a notebook, wrote down some notes, occasionally laughed annoyingly loud at a couple of jokes, and walked out.

I doubt this is universal, but as a professor, I sort of want the students to chat with me. Even if it's not school-related. Here all of these students come in to class and give you permission to riddle their ears with knowledge for 50 minutes without so much as a peep -- you start to wonder: "Who are these people? Why in the world are they listening to ME? What do these people do besides listening to me?" It turns out, they do many of the things I did while in college. Imagine that. But I can tell I was wrong as a student -- professors don't mind chatting with you. Many times, they enjoy the diversion. I sure do.

One student exclaimed during my first class that I looked so young. My response? "Think how it looks from my end." A 21-year-old telling a 28-year-old they look so young -- that's a new one.

Today was the first day that a student has shaken my hand. Hopefully not the last. That alone is enough incentive to give it another go. Maybe next time, I'll find the chalk before class starts.