On Loneliness

 

There is only one of us.  There are twenty-three of them.  What to do?  For the first time in my (incredibly short!) teaching career, I suffered from feelings of loneliness and even disliking.  With each “what’s your point?” and “can we go now?” facial expression, I felt not only professionally inadequate (“What am I doing wrong?!”), but personally disliked (“Why won’t they talk to me?  I certainly want to talk to them!”).  My husband, whose been teaching undergraduates as a Chemistry teaching assistant for four years now, gave me some advice.  “Cheer up.  Ignore their hesitation, their negative energy.  Enter the room bouncing and watch them become catalyzed by it.”  So I tried.  And, to his chagrin, it worked.  I became more “bouncy,” entering the room with ENERGY and refusing to allow the dead space after my questions to occupy the room for long.  In the past, I allowed that dead space its awkwardness, and was always rewarded with a hesitant comment by a student who felt sorry for me.  This class was different.  No one seemed to feel sorry enough to speak.  The energy helped.  Also, I began placing the responsible for action on them by implementing more in-class writing exercises and fewer group discussions.  I even sang an Appalachian folksong “Black Waters” when introducing mountaintop removal as an example exploratory analysis (they talked that day because, I suppose, my singing finally made them feel sorry enough to at least speak a tiny, little comment).  In all sincerity, though, I suppose the most frustrating aspect of this loneliness is how much extra effort it requires.  I am exhausted after teaching.  It takes more time to plan and more energy to enact.  Still, I have been rewarded by (little by little) more exchange with the classroom. 

About taylo206

I am an Assistant Professor of Composition, Rhetoric and Professional Writing at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.
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