The title of this post is wrong. I once described getting older as living through parts you’d once thought were obvious, but now find thorny and difficult.
This post isn’t about that. It’s about how I’m now a tenure-track assistant professor at a flagship state university in the Southwest. I started this blog in 2004, when I was 19 and a student in a flagship state university in the Southwest. I remember thinking of my professors as adults, grown ups who were settled in their lives. I remember thinking they were cool, but old.
Now I am old.
I don’t think I ever imagined that they were working as hard as I was. I thought of teaching as some form of rote memorization. Once you know the subject (which I thought all professors did), it’s easy to get in front of 20-100 students and talk about it. I don’t think I ever thought about where powerpoints came from until I had a class from a professor who used another professor’s slides after that professor had passed away.
I didn’t (really) know what tenure was, or that I had teachers who did not have it, had foregone it, or were stressing about it.
Now I give lectures to my students and they say, “this is my favorite class,” they show up to office hours en masse and don’t leave for three hours, and they describe me as “obviously know what you’re talking about.” But the funny part is… I don’t. I feel like I’m a huge liar. I am literally on wikipedia the night before every lecture (sometimes into 3 or 4 in the morning), stealing images to use in powerpoints.
((I never thought about using powerpoints, because my favorite classes were all discussion based, but I had one student complain and now that’s all I can think about.))
This is my first semester as a tenure-track faculty. It is hard. I feel compelled to put on a good face, because I know the people I interact with (a) don’t understand, (b) will be deciding my future and need to believe I am competent, or (c) are my students and need to believe I’m competent to give me good evaluations. I sleep three or four hours most nights, oversleep when I don’t have classes. I am behind on every writing assignment, every email, every bit of grading, and every phone call you can imagine. I know it will get easier soon, but……. it’s hard now.
I think about the number of college professors I had who made $20,000 a year (as public knowledge) and I feel so very bad for them. It makes me sad that my students don’t feel bad for me. They think I’m an expert, not an impostor. They don’t realize the only expertise I have is being an impostor.