I was talking to a client who was feeling a bit like she’d been hit by a truck.
She’s teaching a class for the first time. Even though it is directly in her area of expertise, she’s overwhelmed by how much work it is. And surprised by how exhausted she is.
Even if you have been doing this for years the first couple of weeks of term are chaos. If you are in a new position, it’s crazy.
It’s not you
Teaching is a human interaction.
Even if you’ve been doing it for years, each class is a new group of people. It takes a week or two to get to know them. And for them to get to know you.
People vary. And group dynamics depend on the people in the group. Being a good teacher involves adapting to the particular group in front of you. While experience helps, it still takes time, and a bit of experimentation, to figure out what is going to work for this group.
If you are new, this part of teaching can feel very unsettling. And yes, all that emotional work is physically exhausting.
There are other things contributing to the overwhelm
There are lots of new people on campus. They aren’t sure where they need to be. They might not even be sure what they are meant to be doing.
There are extra meetings. Receptions for new students. Paperwork to deal with.
The logistics of timetabling and room bookings are pretty complicated. It would be more surprising if no rooms were double booked and everyone had exactly the size room they needed.
All the photocopiers on campus have been working overtime trying to get those course outlines and reading packs ready. Even if you are delivering electronic copies instead, it’s going to take a while for students to get their accounts and figure out the system.
This happens every year. It’s structural.
It will get better very soon
You have a better sense of who your students are. There are fewer lost souls wandering the corridors. You get into a rhythm with your schedule.
Teaching will still be hard work, but the particularly disruptive aspects of the first couple of weeks will disappear, making the core issues easier to deal with.
This post was edited August 10, 2015.