My First Brush With Authority

(Saturday, September 24, 2005, 12:45 a.m.)

copied from Myspace blog

(being on the giving end, I mean). Upon reflection, it occurs to me that this whole experience with teaching is my first real experience with being in a position of leadership / authority. Until now, I've done collaboration with other people, or suggested ideas in a group that ended up being implemented, but I've never had a disciplinary or managerial role to play. I've always basically worked with equals or superiors.

It's a weird experience being in my current position. My emotions have mostly been exasperation and frustration so far perhaps because, deep down, I'm expecting these guys to be equals. Instead, I have been taken off guard by how undisciplined these guys are and how much hand-holding and guidance they need (at least the majority of them, not all).

Having to enforce written policies (e.g. with absence and late homework) and having to get on people's cases to conform to them is a new and kind of icky role I have to play now in my sections. My students probably are afraid of me, and I'm not sure I'm on their good-guy list. (No-one's been to my office hours yet, and I sense that a few of them are actually physically afraid to approach me.) But I'm trying to be fair and not unreasonable at the same time. And I actually would like these guys to learn something in my classes, not just mark time. When students get it, there is some reward for me, but I'm not sure yet if they are getting it, on the whole.

It so much work doing all these things and I feel like I certainly wasn't prepared for this (except maybe having been in Toastmasters for almost 4 years—that was time well spent, I think). I feel that IU kind of threw us (by which I mean us psych grad students) into the deep end of the pool first. (Sure, we had P660, but that wasn't even a taste of what I'm now dealing with.) IU might have started us all out with, for example, a lecture class, one that didn't require so much class activity and discussion. Having to manage a lecture class would be hard enough as a first class; throwing group management into the mix right off the top seems too much. But I suppose the flip side is that after I've done this, most other teaching duties should seem like a cakewalk.

So here it is... my first leadership role, and I hope that when it's done, someone will be able to say I did something right. Generally speaking, I don't really like to do things at all unless I'm able to do a good job on them; I suppose that's one of my idiosyncracies which has quite a few disadvantages as well as advantages. (I'd rather take 10 hours to get something right to my satisfaction, than do 2 things for 5 hours each to get them mildly serviceable and out the door.) Maybe I'll be okay at this teaching thing, or maybe not. We'll have to see what my evaluations look like when the smoke clears as well as the final experiments these guys do on my watch.

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