Over the past few years I've been assigned some new faculty members to mentor during their first year.  It's something I don't mind doing, although I doubt I have much wisdom to impart about teaching or learning.  Mostly I agree to mentor because I can still remember what it was like during my first year of teaching.

The department chair just gave me a slip with the course titles on it and that was that: no syllabus, no standard text, not even a department manual or instructions for the photocopier. Just the course titles and an implied request not to suck too badly and certainly not to add any complications to their job.

I recall typing up course schedules for each of my four classes and staring at the abyss of those blank calendar squares. Keep in mind that I had never taught before other than  two semesters as a TA in grad school.  And as TAs, the department had given us a script, assignments and texts.  It was all laid out for us.  But now it was up to me and no one seemed worried.

But I was.  I was terrified. 

It's funny, but now--more than two decades into the job--I can still get the same heebie-jeebies I had that first year.  This semester it's especially bad.  I am teaching two new courses and I'm none too sure about anything I have planned. There are even a few yawning abysses on the course schedule that I'll need to fill by late November. Heck, it's only the first week and already I'm feeling that familiar baseline hum of rookie anxiety about my next class.

I keep telling myself to relax.  I've done this before.  I'm not a rookie.  I'll figure it out.  I know on some level I will, too.  But that doesn't stop the heebie-jeebies or this feeling of being the worst kind of two-left footed greenhorn.

All during my first year of teaching I kept saying to myself, "If I knew what I was doing, I would probably be more afraid."  This would be followed by a nervous little laugh.  The problem now is that I do know what I'm doing, which no doubt accounts for my being more afraid.

(Insert nervous laughter here.)


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