confidence-building exercises

by lifeonaxis1

it’s the first week i’ve felt like i can breathe in months.  last week, for example, i literally did nothing but sleep and work, with more of the latter consuming the time.  i slept on the couch every night, and would wake up and flip open my lap top to keep going until i couldn’t work anymore.  i had no food in my house, and no time to shop, let alone cook, so i ordered food to be delivered every day.  dominos boxes piled up several feet high as i plugged through grading hundreds of papers and setting up my winter course which is, fortunately, online.

the good news is that i successfully taught my two courses…two courses that amounted to over 150 students.  having gone from being completely dysfunctional over the summer to providing a level of instruction i’m proud of, all while remaining stable and fulfilling most of my other obligations as well, is something i’m extraordinarily happy about.  i was pretty concerned that i would just completely fail or collapse, but i’m glad to say that that fear was not realized.

i gave myself permission to limit my real responsibilities to teaching those two courses.  i put research on hold, as well as several other personal goals that i would like to pursue.  i needed to see that i could function again.  i needed to rebuild my confidence that was completely shattered over the summer, when i found myself unable to finish sentences, follow conversations, or think at any complex level.

i wasn’t perfect.  grades lagged, often way too long to be fair to students.  sometimes i didn’t respond to questions in time.  i’m sure several students were pretty annoyed with me at times.  i accepted that too, and promised myself that i would do better next time.

the important part was that i successfully designed and implemented an online class, despite its being my first time teaching online.  i’m actually pretty proud of how well i structured the class, and with the assignments i created (although i definitely created too many).  it was such a pleasure to get to observe learning in an online environment, and to see my students engage with the material.  i really feel that my students learned a *lot* in that class.

i also taught my first large lecture class at the community college.  i remember visiting the room before classes began, and my stomach dropped at the size of the room.  my previous classes were quite small, ranging from 10-20 people.  this room had a capacity that could accommodate over 70 students.  i was able to create an atmosphere that encouraged a lot of discussion despite the large class size, and students gave me a lot of positive feedback about the class and my instruction.

when i received negative feedback, i listened sincerely but also kept in mind that major transition that i was making in being able to actually function.  the standard of comparison was not being a perfect teacher; it was being a capable one.  it was relative to my functionality over the summer, so i could have done much worse and still have been successful.

happily, i wasn’t just adequate.  i was awesome.