Today was the day I headed back to school. For most of the summer I hadn't put too much thought into my classes because I knew I'd be teaching the same class that I've been teaching for the past three years. I don't mind teaching the same thing every year. Variety is not the spice of my life. Variety is stress inducing and full of anxiety attacks. Monotony is good for me. Monotony is totally underrated for persons such as myself who are easily riled by change.
Last week, however, I saw that my enrollment numbers were quite low in one of my classes. Low enrollment numbers are not good for adjuncts. Low enrollment numbers mean that the college will cancel the class because it is not profitable for them. (I understand it, and it's the best thing to do, so no bitterness of my part.)
I constantly checked my roster for more students.
I got a phone call on Wednesday: "The college is canceling your second section of speech."
It wouldn't have been a huge deal except (1) it meant I would be driving six hours a week to teach three hours and (2) we need the income now more than ever.
I called the department chair, and discovered that I might be able to pick up a literature class because a professor in our department was suddenly having to step back from his teaching duties.
Perchance, could I teach a class about C.S. Lewis?
No, I could not. Unequivocally I could not. Teaching C.S. Lewis involves a heavy dose of theology, which I am ill equipped to teach at the college level.
How about, oh, say, teaching a literature of the Middle Ages class?
In a moment I died a thousand deaths, recalling my own experiences with taking that class as a student. Sorry, no, I could not teach it.
Well, then, what could I teach?
And there was my moment, my opportunity, the chance I had been waiting for all my life--or at least the past four years--and I blurted out in a moment of unbridled enthusiasm, "I can teach Irish literature!"
You see, in graduate school I took some classes on Irish literature. I even took a class solely focused on Joyce my first summer as a graduate student and my mind just about exploded. And then it didn't, and then I fell in love. Not especially with Joyce, but with Irish literature. Can I give you my speech? The one about how few other nations--and none as small as Ireland--has produced such talent and greatness? How conflict produces beauty and all that? Joyce, Yeats, Shaw, Wilde, Beckett, Doyle, Boland, Enright, Heaney...U2, Enya, The Cranberries, The Pogues, Van Morrison...seriously. SERIOUSLY. The best in the fields, these people.
I'm not even Irish. I just love Irish lit that much.
That was on Wednesday.
Friday morning I was approved to teach the class. Last Friday. Seven days ago.
And so in an instant my stress-level about the upcoming school year was multiplied by a million, and I alternately rejoiced at my good fortune, lamented about my lack of prep time, and freaked out--scratch that--FREAKED OUT about how on earth I was going to teach this class.
I was a mess.
And then today came, and I drove the 75 miles to school--alternately listening to Enya and Flogging Molly--walked into class with my head held high and my hand-outs firmly grasped in my hand and said, "Welcome to EN3111, the very first Irish literature class offered here."
And I didn't die. Or start crying. Or mix up the Nationalists with the Unionists, or mispronounce Sinn Fein, or forget when the Republic of Ireland came into existence.
When I got home (after my traffic-filled two-hour commute), I danced in the kitchen and waved the spatula around. And Jason said, "It's good to have you back."
First day of school? Done and done.