Diary of a Visiting Assistant Professor, Week 1: in which I don’t panic

Last week I introduced the idea behind this project, and I’ll post twice this week: this post will focus on getting settled; on Thursday I’ll post about my first week teaching and first faculty meeting.

I hope all departments are as friendly as this one. I have felt very welcome, and just about every member of the department has made a point of introducing themselves to me personally. An office was ready for me when I arrived in late July, and my name was included not just on the sign outside my office, but on the list of faculty outside the main office as well. I’ve been provided with a computer for the year, and access to all the department printers. And the department secretary and work study students have been extremely helpful, providing copies when needed. So even though I’ll just be here for one year, I already feel like a contributing member of the department.

My first week was a bit unusual. I returned from a conference in Europe on a Sunday night, to start teaching on Monday. I had done most of my prep for the first week before I left, which helped, but my first piece of advice is still to not to travel internationally the week before classes start. It meant I missed all of the new faculty orientation (and so missed the opportunity to meet some new faculty outside my department), and really had to hit the ground running.

The first week brought two other excitements. One of the buildings — where most English classes, including mine, are held — was emitting a terrible odor. Something died in the basement, it seems, though they haven’t found anything yet. All classes were moved out of the building, which meant some shuffling around. And, for me, it meant getting to know the campus more quickly than I otherwise might have, as I looked for the buildings I’d be teaching in. Then on Monday of the second week, Hurricane Isaac passed close enough to central Florida (where I’m located) that classes were cancelled for half the day, and tornado warnings kept coming in the rest of the day. I teach in the afternoons and evenings, so none of my classes were affected, but it was one more thing to worry about.

I’m not of the temperament to panic about these kinds of things, but I would be sympathetic if someone were thrown off. My general conclusion is this: odd things are going to happen, and the first week is rarely as perfect as we would like it to be. Having a supportive department goes a long way.

But enough general comments: on Thursday, I’ll discuss teaching in a new place.

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