It's been a really long week and on Wednesday, I really thought I was on the brink of a nervous breakdown. Juggling research, teaching and coursework is turning out to be a little more overwhelming that I'd expected. I'm not complaining- I really do enjoy everything I'm doing and am learning so much in the process. I just wish I could find some time to sit down and figure out exactly 1) how this all fits in my life (or how my life fits in all this to be more precise...), 2) how to do them all and do them well, 3) find some common thread that binds this constellation of things together in a way that makes what I do more coherent and less me zipping around doing a little of everything but not being good at much of anything, and 4) finding time to really enjoy this whole experience instead of feeling so drained every week playing catch-up.
I think the most rewarding thing I do right now- but also the most difficult- is teaching. Oh I love doing it, don't get me wrong. I'd thought it would be difficult to get back in the classroom again, and teaching American undergrads at that, but it isn't really. Being a teacher was a huge part of me then and I realized it might always be. There's just something very gratifying about putting a thought in someone's head which wasn't there a moment ago; that you've helped someone create knowledge that until you pointed the way, didn't exist in their mind. And this transcends age- it feels the same teaching little boy Alex about caterpillars and butterflies as it does discussing the inequities of school finance with 20-year old "I-want-to-be-sorority-president" Amanda. Which is why teaching would-be teachers is something I don't take lightly. I'm not teaching a methods class which is more the "how-to"s and "what-to"s of teaching; I do the more intangible things, the "why-to"s: the politics and sociology that surround education. But whatever the case may be, teaching teachers is tricky; it isn't just about teaching, but being very intentional about your teaching. It involves exposing to them the mechanics of MY teaching them so that they know what goes into teaching as a craft. It's like they need to see the invisible parts of teaching, and know that it's not easy, natural, and people are not "born with it." When I taught in Singapore, I tried to make my teaching seem effortless- my students should never know the planning that goes into what I do. To them, I was to be the person who knew it all, who came into class and taught with great ease because she was the consummate teacher.
But when teaching teachers, I have to literally unveil to my students what actually goes into me teaching them- the thinking, the planning, the ordering, the questioning... It may seem invisible, but only if you watch the final process and not the steps involved in that process. In a sense, I have to treat my students now not as students per se but would-be colleagues with whom I should share the rudiments of teaching. Now that's something new I'd never thought about until recently.
So as you can see, I've got a lot on my plate right now, and I haven't even started talking about my advanced statistics class (where I actually have to write programs in UNIX) and the early childhood research I'm doing... But this weekend has been uplifting and destressing in many ways: we had a nice sushi meal yesterday, spent two hours just mindlessly talking with friends over beer and garlic fries last night, our new digital camera finally arrived, the weather was gorgeous today (a.k.a. the sun was shining and I didn't have to spend 15 minutes dressing up to go out); and we just watched Finding Neverland, at which I had a good cry (which is always carthartic on some perverse level). And now, it's back to the drawing board for the coming week. I so need Spring Break...