I don’t handle being the new girl very well. I was never really a new girl when I was a kid because I went to the same school from Kindergarten through 8th grade. When I went to high school, I had my friends with me. When I went to college, it was different because everyone (at least in the dorms) was new. In my former teaching positions, I taught amongst my mentors from graduate school, so I still wasn’t exactly new. But now, I’m the new girl, and I don’t like it.
Yesterday was the first day of school. I had to get up at 5am, leave by 6am, teach at 7am. The morning was fine, as was my commute, but arriving at school, things weren’t so fine. As the new girl, and a part-time, adjunct faculty member, I’m one of the people who matter least to the other faculty. Being an adjunct is a weird deal anyway. We’re part-time, have no job security, make less money for teaching the same classes, don’t get health benefits, and don’t have a voice in department decisions. We’re a step above warm bodies. So being the new girl and being an adjunct (at a place where I was turned down for a full-time position) is wearing on my confidence. It’s difficult to join conversations with those who have been there for twenty years, who see me as some green youngster who isn’t part of their community. I’m sure it will happen to some extent, but I left yesterday after my class feeling fairly dejected. To be honest, I came home and cried in J’s arms.
It didn’t help matters that my first class yesterday was frustrating. Half of my students didn’t show up because there was no room number on my classroom door! Some of them showed up near the end, so I had to give my opening talk multiple times. None of them laughed at my usual jokes. They were still asleep, still adjusting to being in their first college classes ever. They asked no questions and responded to none of mine. That class is going to be a tough one.
But there is always a silver lining, isn’t there?
My evening class was a different story entirely. It’s on this brand new campus with beautiful new buildings and lots of excited people. I arrived to find a coupon for a free coffee beverage in my mailbox, so I used it for a chai and got ready for my evening students. I met another English instructor, and she was lovely. This campus is a satellite campus to the main campus. It’s an adjunct. Many of us who teach there are adjuncts. People are nicer, more eager to bring one another into the fold. On top of this, the students were fantastic and fun. They laughed at the appropriate times, asked questions, and were generally eager to participate. I can tell already that they’re going to be a good group. When I came home, I walked in the door smiling and excitedly told J about my experience. I’m sure she was relieved that I wasn’t crying again.
And so it begins. I’m teaching again, back in front of the classroom where I belong–for now. It’s going to be an adjustment teaching these new people in these new places, but I’m welcoming leaving the house a couple of times a week for work. Working from home, as I usually do, can be a lonely venture. Now I just need a sense of collegiality, a feeling of belonging. I hope to find it before long.