Back in the Saddle Again
Two hours from now I will teach my first class in 15 months. My sabbatical is over.
I’m actually looking forward being back in the classroom. I didn’t feel this way so much on my first sabbatical back in 2001-2002, or even in the first semester of this sabbatical, but beginning around January or so I started to think, hey, where are my students? I miss them.
The funny thing, which I do remember from my first sabbatical, is that the students have no idea. As I walk in today, they won’t be thinking, whoa, this is his first class in 15 months — I wonder how he’ll do — better cut him a little slack. No, they’ll just expect the same polished performance as always.
Which leads to a more general observation: That’s what the students always expect.
Think about a water tap. When you turn it on, you expect water to come out. It occurs to you only rarely, if ever, to think about the amazing amount of labor, planning, and ingenuity that went into bringing the water to that tap. You just expect it to work.
If you’re a professor, that’s how your students think about you. To them, you are a water tap. When they turn you on, they expect a class to come out. They never think about the preparation and planning involved. Your need to prepare a class while juggling your writing projects, committee responsibilities, and personal life, and the possibility that you may be ill or out of temper, are equally outside their consciousness. When I was a student, I was among the more academically minded (I did become a professor, after all), and still, I had only the dimmest notion that professors spent time preparing for class.
The result is that students will sometimes be insufficiently prepared to receive the benefits of the class you have worked hard to plan for them and they may show less appreciation than your efforts deserve. Professors, never resent this or expect it to be otherwise than it must inevitably be.