Monday, March 30, 2009

Out of sync

It didn't occur to me until late last night that today would be an unusual day. Not only would I be delivering the lecture I was working on all last week, but I'd also be participating in our final recruiting day -- which involved delivering another lecture and leading two small discussion groups, one after the other. I left the office at 9:45 am to give a short talk as part of the recruiting day introductions, toting my computer and three huge folders worth of handouts in my bag, and I didn't return until 4:30 pm, after all the staff were gone for the day.

A schedule like this always makes me feel like I've dropped off the face of the earth. You don't get to check e-mail or browse the discussion boards or tweet. Any work you have to do gets put off until tomorrow. There's a sinking feeling that you'll have to pay the piper once you come up for air.

The worst part about the unrelenting schedule was that I delivered the brand new lecture to the freshmen, then immediately had to take off across campus to meet the prospective students for that lecture. The vacuum of feedback about that new lecture was unexpectedly crushing. I was anxious about whether it would work, about the content, about the format, about the tone -- about everything. But aside from a few friendly students who thanked me afterwards, I had no idea how it was received.

I went to give the recruiting lecture, and then immediately cloistered myself with the first small discussion group. In between the two discussion groups, a twenty minute break was built into the schedule, and I took the opportunity to quickly scan my inbox. When the break was almost up, one of my colleagues -- a senior faculty member with decades of experience, respected all over campus for her pedagogical wisdom -- stuck her head in the door.

"I just wanted to tell you that you gave an incredible lecture today," she said. "You don't know how much I needed to hear that!" I told her.

"No, it was substantive, it had a point of view, it was engaging ..." she continued. "You know, I've seen all the lectures you've given this year in that class and the one you give at this event. Really, you're the best lecturer I've ever seen on this campus."

What a statement -- especially to hear on a day like today. The second discussion section that began moments later took on a whole new cast. And I'm actually still trying to process the compliment. I have a high opinion of my lecturing skills, mind you, but those were superlatives I wouldn't have thought to claim.

In its way, that moment threw me as much out of sync as the atypical day had done. Maybe it's a good thing I've got one of my usual three-day weeks; I need time to process all this outlying data and settle back into a more Donna-like pattern for the rest of the semester.

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