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Chaos, Uncertainty and Teaching

August 8, 2007

Over this past weekend I packed all of my family’s worldly possessions into a rental truck, drove close to four hundred miles and unpacked the truck in the space of two days. Since then I have battled with DSL support, argued with charge-happy rental representatives, and interviewed for an adjunct position. I got the job.

Now, surrounded by boxes and unsure where my copy of the CAD is, I find myself in crunch time to finalize syllabi for two classes I’ve never taught, at two universities that I’ve never taught at before. This is the first time I’ve taught at a university that I wasn’t currently or recently attending. The dynamic is different. I know little of the culture of one of the universities and the other I haven’t been associated with for over ten years. While conversations with other professors can help to get a feel for the place, there is nothing that can compare with actually getting one’s hands’ dirty in the process of teaching.

Which brings me back again to the boxes that surround me. I need to be ready to go, with syllabi completed and readings finalized in less than three weeks (ideally by the end of next week), and yet I don’t even know where my office space will be in our new place. I can’t control the uncertainties inherent in teaching at a new school, but I can control my half of the teaching equation by knowing the material cold and having detailed lessons plan that will keep the classes involved and interest while communicating the need materials and methods. However, it is hard to do this when you are still sleeping on an air mattress in your living room surrounded by boxes.

While the ancients often represented chaos with water imagery, a better image for our contemporary world would be cardboard moving boxes.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. August 8, 2007 5:27 pm

    Hope all goes well. Good luck in those classes. If it is of any help, in my first teaching role-also at a college I had never been too before-I found I was almost over-prepared. While I would rather this, the worrying I had done about the small details that never came up, in retrospect, was unneeded. But, of course this does not discount a stressful situation. I am sure it will all work out nicely.
    S.

  2. Jake McCarty permalink
    August 9, 2007 11:30 am

    Hey what colleges, BTW?

    Are you hoping it turns into one full-time job soon, too? I’ll be hitting the job market in a few years and am a little worried about the process. Care to share your thoughts?

    Best of luck!

  3. jimgetz permalink*
    August 14, 2007 12:33 pm

    Shawn,
    I often find I’m over-prepared as well. I think that’s a good thing — we should know more than our students 😉 I think I’m more worried about the how rather than the what that I’ll be communicating.

    Jake,
    I’m teaching Bible 101 at Eastern University and Intellectual History at Temple University. I’m still trying to negotiate the academic market at the moment, so I’m probably not the best to speak of the full-time job process. My basic assessment at this point is that if you can do everything (teach, research, administrate, publish) you might get a job.

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