It's THAT time of year again, when universities the breadth of the country are once again flooded with a fresh intake of students. Picking my way through the crowds to my first class yesterday afternoon, I was once again led to ponder that perennial question: are students getting younger, or am I getting older? At nearly 37, I am now at least fifteen years older than the third years whom I teach; in many ways we are of different generations. I wonder whether I must seem terribly old in their eyes.
Over the past few years, I have seized upon every teaching opportunity that has come my way. When you are struggling with infertility, it is very difficult not to let those feelings of hopelessness and despair seep into other areas of your life. In my case, the profound sense of failure associated with my inability to conceive translated into an absolute inability to write. For months and months, I sat in front of a blank computer screen and cried. If nothing else, teaching forced me to get out of my pajamas and interact with the world: while I seemed to be going nowhere fast as far as the thesis was concerned, teaching became the one area of my life in which I could at least retain some sense of myself as a competent professional.
Even though I absolutely love teaching, I still find it just about the most nerve-wracking thing in the world. Every year, the responsibility that has been entrusted to me weighs heavily on my shoulders. As I take that first deep breath and bang confidently on the lecturn to call them all to attention, I am shaking inwardly. As I start delivering my lecture and as they start frantically scribbling down every word I say, doubts are running through my head: do I really know what I am talking about? Am I able to communicate what knowledge I do have effectively? Somehow, I can never quite escape the feeling that I will be exposed as a fraud, that the students will complain that they want a 'proper' lecturer.
This year, however, I had to contend with an entirely new anxiety. Over the past few days, I have been really struggling with morning (noon and night) sickness. Would I make it through a two-hour class without vomiting into the wastepaper basket?
Thankfully I wasn't sick, nor (to my knowledge) have any of the students complained that I don't appear to know what I'm talking about. And so I have managed to conquer my anxieties for another year.