Thursday, May 14, 2015

on my first semester of teaching.

I've been thinking about this time last year--how I was in such a bad place. A lot of things were happening. I had just graduated college, I was about to get married and move away to start my graduate degree. I had no idea what was in store for me or how to cope with everything. I was scared. I was depressed. I had no idea if I was on the right path.

People always asked me if I would become a teacher. That's the standard response to English majors, "Oh, are you going to teach?" It frustrated me; teaching was the last thing in the world I wanted to do. My education pursuit seemed neverending: I started college while I was still in high school, then dove right in to the last three years of my undergrad without taking time off. I graduated in the spring of 2014 and then started my graduate work that fall. It seemed like my entire life was rooted in the education system. I longed to break that chain, to get a job doing something that felt meaningful. Something new.

No, I didn't want to teach.

Last year was one of the most difficult years of my life. I was supposed to be happy--and I was. Graduating and getting married are miraculous events. But I was caught in an unfamiliar state of being, one that I had never experienced before. Sure, I had experienced tough years--2010-2011 was probably the hardest period of my life, but this was different. Back then, I knew exactly how I felt and why I felt it. Terrible events had happened, but I had a network of friends to help me through. But last year, in 2014, it wasn't a bad event--it was the happy ones. The ones that people kept smiling about, kept talking to me about, kept anticipating.

It wasn't that I was sad. It was that I felt numb. It was uncertainty about what was ahead--about what my future plan was. I wanted to get married. I wanted to graduate. But I didn't know what would happen after that. I had already been accepted to grad school for technical communication, but I didn't even know if that was what I truly wanted. It felt like a decision that was made for me, based on the circumstances. I had applied for the GTA program for the money and experience, but the thought of actually teaching a classroom terrified me. It wasn't a choice that I would have made if there had been an alternative available.

The fall semester, I started classes. I wasn't the head of the classroom yet--they let you observe a classroom for a semester before you teach. Overall, it went well, but at the end of the semester, I still felt inexperienced. There had only been about two class periods where I actually stood at the front of the classroom, both of which felt awkward and nerve-wracking. The material was largely unfamiliar to me; the students rooted in their science and engineering realm were foreign to me, an English major. I felt disconnected from everything.

January approached and I attended a week-long workshop, after which I had to give a ten-minute practice lecture in front of a group of students and teachers. I was required to pass in order to teach in the Spring. Everything went really well.

But when the semester started, I still felt terrified and unprepared.

Today, I left my classroom for the last time this semester. And I can't help but feel...a bit sad. Empty. Like I helped raised these students all semester long and now we reached the end and they're going to go off and graduate and start their careers and I will never see them again.

I had 25 students. They were all fabulous.
And I can't imagine how instructors handle getting a new group of students every semester.
I grew surprisingly close to them.

Looking back, this semester wasn't perfect, especially towards the beginning. I learned more than I thought I ever could, but above all, I learned that I feel comfortable standing in front of a classroom and working with students.

I learned that I really enjoy teaching.



  1. Aww, this is a wonderfully sweet post (THAT END PICTURE THO. YOU LOOK SO WONDERFULLY HAPPY). I'm glad it worked out for you in the end! I toyed with going into teaching a while back, but omg, the idea really terrifies me. I'm too shy. XD But so great that you had an excellent class too!!

  2. CONGRATS EMILY! Also, I just wanted to let you know that I nominated you for the Creative Blogger Award. No pressure to keep the tag going, I just wanted to recognize a few of my favorite blogs.

    Keep writing forever,


  3. What a wonderful candid post. Congratulations on a successful semester! I really believe teaching to be one of the most difficult and rewarding professions out there.
    Have a lovely day!

  4. I was trying my best to look happy--I was actually really sick. I wasn't able to attend the award ceremony the night before, sadly.

    Teaching is one of those things that you don't really know how it's going to be until you're doing it. I was lucky enough to have a great group of students to help me along the way. =)

  5. I didn't know how rewarding it would be until finishing this semester, but it's really worth it. Thanks for stopping by!