Yesterday’s post was meant to explore the role of authority in HE teaching. As you may have noticed, there was no post yesterday. This is due to exhaustion.
I love teaching, and I am very fortunate that I am teaching subjects and themes that complement my current research. Not all teaching fellows are as lucky as I am. Nonetheless, when it came to putting pen to paper, or rather, fingertips to keyboard, on Wednesday night, I found that I simply did not have the energy.
This week was my first full week of teaching. I
- Led 13 seminar groups of 12 students each
- Delivered 2 lectures on new topics
- Wrote 2 (additional) lectures on new topics
- Worked through mountains of administrative paperwork
This was in addition to:
- Continuing preparation for my upcoming workshop on Network Science in Historical Research
- Completing 2 funding / fellowship applications
- Meeting with the departmental post-doctoral reading group
- Continuing my current research project
- Continuing to write up my previous research project, and
- Having my departmental photograph taken
Not to mention little things such as eating, sleeping and acknowledging my family and friends still exist.
As I sit here, rest and recovery finally in reach, I have come to the conclusion that no matter how much preparation you think you have done in the preceding weeks or months, something will always throw you for a loop during that first week. Yet, despite the utter, crushing exhaustion, this week has taught me several important things about surviving (hopefully thriving) as a teaching fellow.
- You will have to reorganise seminar groups for at least 30% of your students over the course of the first week. Using the word ‘final’ at any stage is merely tempting fate.
- At least 50% of your down time will be spent in administration, so its best to schedule this explicitly into your schedule. Optimistically earmarking off-hours as ‘research’ will only depress you when they are spent reorganising seminar groups for the 6th time.
- Just because a room fits 10 chairs does not mean it will comfortably fit 10 people.
- The one student who admits that your module was not (remotely) her first choice will not devastate your self-esteem.
- You should never take your departmental photograph after 6 hours of teaching.
- If the seminar discussion (or lecture) has naturally concluded, letting your students leave 5-10 minutes early is not a failure.
- If you mistakenly ask questions relating to next week’s reading material, your students probably won’t correct you.
- There is always at least one name on the roster you have no hope of pronouncing correctly.
- Students expect you to hold the power in seminar discussion. You do not need to demand it and you probably won’t be able to relinquish it.
- Permanent and research staff genuinely do appreciate your efforts and will sympathise with your exhaustion.