I’m definitely not a professor

As you may know, Dear Reader, I recently entered the hallowed world of academia. It is a world full of towers tiled in ivory and walls dripping with ivy. Cardigans, and a sense of self-importance, are mandatory in this world. Shoulders feel heavy as overstuffed heads sit atop them. Everything within this world is deeply meaningful while everything without it is trite.

Just kidding. I love academia. Plus, I’m teaching at the law school, which many academic types, and non-academic types, would consider vocational anyway. And then, on top of that, I’m teaching legal writing, which doesn’t lend itself to philosophical thought. Legal writing is all about being concrete, clear, reasoned and concise. Or at least my legal writing course is.

Anyway, I’ve been both excited and nervous about this new adventure of mine. I’ve always wanted to teach, but I’ve also always dreaded public speaking so I wasn’t sure how I would fare. I think it’s too early to tell, but I felt good about the first class and I’m relieved to have one under my belt. I hope I get just more comfortable.

A few weeks ago, I attended a meeting at the law school with other lawyers who were preparing to teach this same class. There were five male instructors and me (there are two other women who are instructors but I guess they were not able to attend this meeting) and we were told, from the director of the program and her assistant, about the goals of the course and how the semester should proceed. During a short break, I asked the fellow seated next to me — who had taught the course several times — how the students addressed him. He said that they call him Professor Smith (well, not Smith, but his actually last name, which I’m not going to use here). He said he begins the first class by introducing himself as Jack Smith (again, not really his name) and signs every email he sends them ‘Jack.’ Nevertheless, the students insist on calling him Professor Smith. He says it happens in every class, every semester. Hmm. Ok, I thought, that’s what I’ll do. I’ll just introduce myself and sign my emails ‘Kate.’ We’ll see what happens.

Yesterday I got to my classroom about twenty minutes before class was to start. After about five minutes of struggling with the AV equipment, a young woman opened the door to the classroom and asked if I was Professor _____ (except she said my last name). I surprised myself by not hesitating and answering, ‘Yes.’ She then relayed to me that two students were going to be absent because they both had interviews. Ok, that’s fine, I said. A couple of other students started to trickle in, some again asking if I was Professor ________. I was getting accustomed to answering quickly and affirmatively. Once I started class, though, I proceeded as I had planned, introducing myself as Kate ______. The students introduced themselves and I introduced the course. We moved on to a short essay-writing exercise I had them do and then, if they chose to do the exercise on their laptops (all but one did), I had them email me their essays. They almost all emailed them to me with the body of the email starting, “Professor ______.” One said, “Hey Professor _______.” A little informal, I thought, but that’s cool.

A little later, I wrote an absurdly long and overwritten sentence on the blackboard (I couldn’t figure out the AV equipment) and asked them to get into groups of three and figure out how to reduce the sentence to something more manageable and clear, while keeping the elements necessary to convey its message. As they were working on this, I heard, “Hey Kate, can you step to the side. We can’t see part of the board.” I quickly moved.

And then I looked at the clock. I hadn’t even been a professor for an hour.

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4 Responses to “I’m definitely not a professor”


  1. 1 Kristin September 6, 2012 at 2:54 pm

    Surprise ending! I didn’t see that coming. Interesting. I wonder if the informality will spread as the class goes on. Nevertheless, it’s all so exciting! I want to be in your class.

  2. 2 kateandgracie September 7, 2012 at 8:45 am

    Well, I think the last day to add the class is quickly approaching so add it soon! I will figure out the blasted AV equipment and we can do distance learning.

    You know, I’ve been mentally coasting since Wednesday night and I just kinda realized I have to keep doing this. Yikes.

  3. 3 Terry September 9, 2012 at 10:26 am

    I want to be your AV assistant.

  4. 4 Sara H September 10, 2012 at 9:30 am

    I didn’t know you were teaching – that’s so cool! An excellent blog topic. 🙂


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