Preparing for a new semester has always been simultaneously the best and the worst part of teaching. There’s nothing more exciting than imagining what kind of thing you can teach in class – especially if it’s a new prep – and what kind of readings you can give to students. You wish and hope and pray that you won’t be treated to a sea of blank faces, of students who want nothing more than to escape your classroom and hide behind their screens, shielding their eyes from view. You hope that you’re not giving them too much work; you wonder if you’re giving them enough work; you hope you’re not one of those teachers who give too little work that they end up complaining about you on social media or one of those student-led websites that gives ratings to teachers.
You wish someone would make a website that could also rate students.
You remember that you are the one who rates the students – it’s called grades.
You want them to come into your classroom, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. You hope they are enthusiastic. You hope that you do not run out of steam in the beginning, or the middle, or the end of the semester. You are trying to imagine your best-laid plans. You know there will be at least one or two assholes in your class – the students who think that just because you’re a small, chubby girl in a dress, they can try to intimidate you. They don’t know that you’ve been through worse – that you’ve done a number of things that have shocked you as well, in their audacity. You hope that they don’t test you. You don’t want to know your limit.
You wonder if you’re doing the right thing. You always second-guess yourself. You wonder if you know enough to even be teaching these kids – have you read enough? Do you know enough? Can you quote this or that writer, philosopher, literary critic, off the back of your head? (Probably not; your head is full of fanfic right now.) Your brain is starting to run circles around you again. You try not to panic.
(Oh god, what are you doing?)
You ask yourself why you’re giving them all of these readings. You’re wondering where the heck your copy of a particular short story is. You remember that it burned, last April, when your office became a conflagration of sorrows and loss. You wonder where the heck you’ll get a new copy of the story. You can’t even remember where it was published. You wonder why you’re assigning the writer to your students – you’re not particularly fond of their work, anyway. Oh that’s right; you need to kowtow to the canon.
You realize that you barely had any kind of vacation between last semester and this one. Maybe four, five days, tops? That’s the problem with being a teacher; you never earn enough with just one job. You need to hold down the fort and figure out how to make ends meet. You wish you stayed in advertising. You wish you never wanted to be a writer and a teacher.
But maybe that’s just your early morning brain talking. You have more work ahead of you: more classes to prepare for, more words to read and write, more students to figure out and learn from. You hope you’re not being naive; you hope you’re just doing your part.