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A Retrospective on Year 1

It occurred to me today that, despite the fact that it seems like I’ve been in the classroom forever, this is actually the last week of my first full year as a history teacher. From the first day of the first semester, the classroom is where it felt like I belonged, like I’d been waiting my whole life to be a history professor. (Probably, if you asked some of my elementary-school acquaintances, they’d say that I have been.)

It’s been quite the year. I taught my undergrad class as an adjunct in spring 2019, so it wasn’t my first time teaching that. But this fall was my first time teaching a graduate class. And I’ll be honest: I made a TON of mistakes (and the students didn’t hold back about them in the evaluations). I’m still pleased with how the students did, but I learned a lot from that experience and I’ll be changing a lot about my graduate teaching when I teach another grad class this coming fall.

This semester, of course, is a beast unto itself. I taught HIST390 again, and I made changes from the fall that I was happy with. When the covid crisis arose, I wasn’t prepared, by any means, but I wasn’t unprepared either, because I had inadvertently set up the class in a good way from the beginning.

In HIST395, my other undergraduate course this semester, things didn’t go so smoothly. I’ll write a whole other blog post about that course in a few days.

A few things stand out to me about this year:

First, I am so blessed to have a great department to teach in. This year was my first experience interacting with a lot of faculty, and it was great. The faculty in my department are unfailingly kind, generous, and gracious.

Second, my students also make teaching so great. Most of them aren’t really “into history,” as they tell me. But they tried hard, and they adapted under extraordinary circumstances, and they succeeded. Watching them succeed, taking ownership of and pleasure in their learning, is the best part of my job.

Third, teaching is hard and it stretches me in ways I didn’t imagine. I knew teaching was hard. This isn’t my first year in a classroom (just my first in a history classroom). But I didn’t know all the ways in which it was going to be hard.

I’m tired. I’m really, really tired. The emotional burdens of this semester are heavier than I could have envisioned going in. (Plus it turns out I’m not a good elementary-school teacher.) It’s been a long long semester. But in some ways, it’s been a good one. Next year will bring some of the same challenges of anxiety and uncertainty, and I’m sure I’ll find new things to challenge me as well. I need a break badly, but I’m looking forward to the fall.

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