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.