Thursday, September 16, 2004

Someone to watch over me

This time last year, Adam and I attended an orientation for new faculty. While in the campus museum, the tour guide offered up a wildly incorrect date as the year of a significant (but obscure) court trial. I whispered the correct date to Adam. At that exact moment, another of the new faculty — one brought on as a senior hire — offered the correction out loud. She wasn't being obnoxious. She simply knew the right date, and offered it. I watched her across the room and decided that I had found a kindred spirit — albeit one far more confident than I.

It turns out that the "Trial Woman," as I dubbed her, had been hired in our department. Not only that, but she had spent years as the director of a program in my specialty. The more I get to know this woman, the more I admire her. Sure, I'm apt to idealize her a bit. But I can't help poring over her emails, which are always clever and wise. And I marvel at how she always knows exactly what to say — and how to say it — in contentious faculty meetings.

Here's the scary new development: Trial Woman is going to observe one of my classes next Monday, so she can then write a teaching recommendation. She just sent an email to confirm the date. For about three seconds, I was pleased as can be. Then I dissolved into a puddle of anxiety.

SHE is coming to watch ME?

Normally, I'm a very confident teacher. I've been observed maybe three or four times before. It's not easy, but, apart from a few minutes of drymouth at the outset, I usually do just fine. But right now I'm having a physical reaction — one of those "just-had-a-near-death-experience" body shivers — at the thought of Trial Woman sitting in the back of my classroom.


At 2:04 AM, Blogger Mel said...

Being observed is always anxiety-provoking. Even if it isn't someone who you look up to. But there are things you can do to make it better for the person observing you, and hopefully less stressful for you. Like emailing her beforehand to let her know what the class will be discussing/reading -- along with a sentence that sounds welcoming, calm, not frantic. Like "I'm looking forward to seeing you Monday and I hope you'll share any comments or feedback you have with me." So that it sounds like you're inviting her and she's doing you a favor (which she is, in writing you a letter) rather than that the Spanish Inquisition has decided to descend upon your classroom. It's helped me a lot to practice going into it with that mindset rather than the anxious one.

At 9:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, Mel, for this good advice. And you're right -- she certainly is doing me a favor. She also has my syllabus, so she knows what we'll be doing in class on Monday. (I let her pick the day that most interested her, topic-wise.) On some level, I am looking forward to her visit and her feedback. And that's what I need to keep repeating to myself...


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