After 20-something years of teaching, the first week of classes still stresses me out.
Every year, during this first week, I think with amusement and appreciation of a brief exchange I had with a Skidmore College colleague many years ago, when I was a fledgling assistant prof. I barely knew this fellow – a quiet, shy, and odd guy who, after two or three years as my hallway neighbor, may not have known my name.
On the first day of class, minutes before our 9:05 classes were to begin, we happened to be washing our hands side my side (a bit awkwardly, it seemed to me). He suddenly looked at me in the mirror, dead in the eye – a bit unsettling -- and said “Time to make the f-cking doughnuts.” He looked away, dried his hands, and walked out the door (presumably, to make some pedagogical doughnuts.)
This is not an especially inspiring approach to pedagogy, of course, but I was (and am) grateful for this encounter. It took the edge off of my anxiety. It’s 9:05. The students have arrived. I’ve got a job to do.
This, it turns out, is a helpful mantra in other realms of life as well. Flat tire? An unexpected surprise from my kids? A couple of broken fingers? A flood in the basement? Pause. Sigh. It's time to make the doughnuts. What else can we do?
And so today I'll bring the f-cking doughnuts, as I have so many times before, and hope for the best.