Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Ready or Not, Here I Come!

Today was the first day of classes for me.

As many of you know, I was approaching this day with a great deal of trepidation. How would the students respond to me? Would they KNOW I was denied tenure? Would they treat me differently? Mock me? Scorn me?

I was a bundle of nerves. Raw energy. Ready to be labeled a failure before I even began.

And I walked into my classroom at 7:50am this morning to find two thirds of the class already there. Many greeted me with a cheerful "Good morning!" I responded in kind, sounding much more confident and upbeat that I really was.

And I proceeded to the podium to open the computer and get set up for class. Of course, I was having technical difficulties (par for the course at my institution).

As I was working, I glanced around the room, registering faces and scoping the students to gauge the tenor of the class.

And I heard a bright voice ring out "Are you ready for us, Dr. Kern?"

Following the voice, I found a female adult student, smiling with bright eyes, gazing intently at me. "Are you ready, Dr. Kern? Ready for us?" She repeated.

And I smiled back at her, broadly, and responded "yes, I am! Are you ready to be back?"

And in that moment, I knew I was, indeed, ready. I have always been ready. For the classroom is exactly where I belong.

And this morning, in that 8am class, I had one of the best class sessions ever. I felt alive and vital and on top of my game, and the students responded. My passion for history and for teaching shone through all the crap and crud of the past year, and everything fell away except that passion. The students felt it. They grasped it. And I reveled in that moment.

That student, with her casual charge, "Are you ready for us, Dr. Kern?" reignited me.

So, despite the difficulty of facing my colleagues on a daily basis, and the stress of being in a place where SOME of my coworkers don't want me, I will have a good year.

Because it's not about them. It never has been.

It's about the students. It always has been, for me.

The rest of my day went well, too. I had two other good classes (though not as good as that first one), and I had a visit from a student, interested in World War II, who just stopped in to chat about his interests.

All in all, a highly successful first day back.

The first of many, I hope. It's time for my to fly, and teaching gives me my wind.

So watch out, world. Ready or not, here I come!

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