Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The Blackboard Jungle

Nothing quite prepares you for it. For all the work, all the reading, all the training you may go through, there's still no way to anticipate the feeling of utter humility that washes over you as you enter the classroom on your first day as a teacher. A college teacher, at that. At least, that's what I felt last Wednesday as I began my career as Mr. Hasan. Humble.

As I stood there in front of this class packed to the gills with students who probably wanted to be anywhere but sitting in that room, I was immediately hit by the sheer implausibility of it all. Me. Teaching these kids about public speaking. Me? The same person who mumbled and shuffled his way through high school? The mind boggles! And yet here I was, telling this group that public speaking is no big deal. Not only is it no big deal, but it would actually improve their lives! What a world.

Taking my place at the front and center of the room, I could feel thirtysome pairs of eyes boring holes into the very depths of my soul. Judging me. Judging my clothes. Judging the way I part my hair. Judging that weird way I drag my right foot a teeny bit when I walk. "So this is what it's like on this side of the room," I thought to myself. My brand new blazer suddenly felt very big. Or was that just me, suddenly feeling very small?

Immediately my mind was shunted back to my own first experience with speech class. It was winter of 1997, the class was Small Group Communication at College of DuPage, and the teacher was Marco Benassi. If ever there was an instance of one class changing someone's life, this was it. The "someone" in question being me, of course. Through the sheer power of his personality Marco was able to mold a recalcitrant kid who was gunshy about whispering into someone whose entire life now revolves around public speaking in some form or another -- to the point that now, almost eight years to the day, that very same kid was standing in front of a classroom of his own, hoping against hope to maintain his composure long enough to pass on some of the very same seedlings of wisdom that had impacted his own life so profoundly. Sure, no sweat at all.

Anyway, the ending of the story is ultimately a happy one. Turns out my students were just as nervous as me. And who can blame them? For many, this is their very first post-high school academic experience. And I'm their very first post-high school academic instructor! What a world! Once I nudged to the sidelines any delusions of playing out some variation of Edward James Olmos in STAND & DELIVER (or even Danny DeVito in RENAISSANCE MAN), between my first two sessions, it turns out I did alright. Maybe not spectactularly, but hey, it is my first time, and the semester's just started. There's time.

Now I just have to get used to being called "Mr. Hasan."

1 comment:

Victoria said...

Good old Marco!

Glad you made it through the first class. I have no doubt that you are going to be an inspiring teacher filling all of their empty little minds.

Although I have to admit, I thought I'd be the one as the speech prof. I volunteer coach, does that count? LOL