i've been really, really lucky so far in my college teaching opportunities--all TA-ships except that one class with two students--to have had a lot of--a week or even two--orienting, prepping, and good quality advising before winding up in each semester's classrooms, & gearing up for tomorrow has really brought that into sharp relief.
after one meeting with my coworkers & my supervisor, & a couple hours of very informative campus-wandering that wasn't on anybody's schedule but happened because my new friend teresa is terrific (thanks to her i have a parking pass, an ID card, health insurance handouts, and at least a visual for where my office will be!), i'm going in tomorrow to teach 4 classes in rooms i've never seen, with no idea what their layout or technological capabilities might be (or even where in their legendarily maze-like building to find them). i'm meeting 88 students tomorrow & have yet to see one roster, because i'm in some of the computer systems but not all of them, & so with 12 hours to go they're still a batch-count instead of people (& i don't know why that makes so much of a difference to me, because there's nothing a list of names would tell me about them that i don't know already--they're freshmen, they're majoring in *something* they don't know much about yet, and they will be unique & fascinating people no matter what they're called. but i like names, i want human words instead of numbers, and so it adds to my un-balanced-ness). i think i've followed the right procedure to request copies of my syllabus to hand out in the morning (and handouts for wednesday's classes) but i'm not sure, so i have to go in braced for what to do with a 2-hour first-day class if i don't have a syllabus.
i think there are keys waiting for me to get me into an office that, last i heard, was a storage room for computers that weren't for my office-mate and i; ours are reputedly there but so far don't have monitors. i know where the mail room is, i think, and last time i saw it it was stuffed with office supplies, so i have faith that somebody believes i will soon have an office! i don't know if there's a fridge to put a lunch in or a microwave if i take leftovers, thought, so i'm not packing anything yet. i've been told there are cafes in a couple of the close-by buildings, but i don't know whether any of them will still be open by the time i get my first break at 4pm. i don't know how to access the campus wireless, so i won't be taking my computer tomorrow--especially as there might not be an office to leave it in. (to be entirely fair, logistics is also a significant part of this; i had email late last week saying my key(s?) were left at campus security & although nobody knew why i couldn't access electronic rosters, there were paper copies in my mailbox, but in the interest of both the environment and my economics (for the first time, too, i'm not working at a campus i can walk to), i couldn't justify a 100-mile round trip just to collect those things and prowl dark halls looking for room numbers!)
none of this is a complaint, of any kind, about the institution where i'm starting tomorrow--it's really important to me that my readers get that. the people i've met so far have been nothing but kind, interested, helpful, interesting, encouraging, and above all student-centered in their thinking & in the things we talk about, and i have no doubt that it's a good place, that i'm in good hands, that everything will eventually work out just fine, and that at the end of the year i'll be the one telling folks what a great place it is to work, just like folks have been telling me. i'm really excited about it. it's just that it's a suny school, which means in non-new-yorkers' terms that it's essentially a state-funded community college, and this is how things work. & although i've been spoiled rotten TAing for R1s, i was first, way back in the day, trained for and inducted into education in the public schools--i'm an old hand at ad-libbing, and at answering students' questions with "let me write that down so i remember to ask, and i'll get back to you."
but i know that answer, while honest and just and right, doesn't instill the same confidence as knowing how they get on the wireless, what's allowed at the library, how late the gym's open, or where to go to declare a major, complain about a roommate, inquire about counseling, get an allergy shot... things i would likely have known at tech, or even things like what the grading scale is in arts & sciences, what counts as a "pass" for a course, or what happens if they flunk. can they re-take a class? do failures & successes get averaged together? is there a "freshman rule"? & it's that part that i don't like--i don't need to have everything figured out, but i wish i knew the stuff my students were likely to want to know, so that in their messy, confusing, complicated first days, i would be a useful, stable-seeming stone of some sort, not another source of confusion. nobody wants to hear their first-ever college teacher say "i don't know either; i'm new too!"
& here's what all this has me thinking about, other than about that list of stuff i wish i knew: when i was an undergrad, i had no idea what adjuncts even were. as an adjunct, though, i'm perceiving myself as potentially being somewhat of a liability to these undergrads--surely, they'd be better off in the hands of somebody who knew what the heck was going on! so i'm wondering how much of a disadvantage the out-of-it adjunct really is to the newbie undergrad, how much i need to compensate for; i wonder if i had adjuncts, and was just so self-absorbed and trusting not to notice if they were half-prepared and clueless, or if they were so much less pervasive 15 years ago that i might have gone through school without any (or maybe my school had the resources to prep them with the same week of training the TAs got!). i wonder if my number-batch of 88 yet-unnamed bodies will be done a disservice by all of the things i won't know tomorrow. and, too, i wonder if they'll ever notice!
it's also possible, of course, that i'm stressing out about minor details because the first-day jitters i say i don't get look instead like control-freak-ism over here. wish me luck with the logistics coming together tomorrow (and a syllabus!), and wish me good faking-it juju, and envy me the cool people i get to work with (although our schedules don't have much overlap, so i may or may not actually get to see any of them)... it should be an adventure.