School, like life, is a series of hierarchies. We enter at the bottom and climb to the top, only to encounter another first rung of yet another ladder. There are certain grades where the first day and all it entails is far more pronounced; kindergarten/first grade, middle school, high school, college and postgraduate study are the major lines of demarcation. However, at the start of any new academic year, there is always the unknown and the anticipation it brings. Although this new school year has those all too familiar elements, this time it is different and for the first time in some time, there is a resurgence of those feelings approaching the magnitude I felt so very many years ago.
As a second year grad student and as an instructor to undergrads, the facets of the first day are multiplied. I have served as graduate assistant (GA) for a year (two semesters and a summer session) and in that capacity I was responsible for most of my students’ grading and some of their instruction, but they were not “my” students. The instructor of record was the professor I was assigned to assist. She bore ultimate responsibility for her class. As a teaching associate (TA), I have my own students and the autonomy that comes with the position. And the responsibility. Being a GA has more than adequately prepared me – I know that I know what I am doing and I know the subject matter inside out, but it is still new. And exciting. And that semiconscious, indefinable and ever present anxiety – that fear – is part of it.
It is good to know that those butterflies are still present. I have not become so jaded that I am no longer taken by the experience… that the newness of the journey can still spawn that sense of wonder that I felt entering kindergarten all those many years ago. It takes me back. From the aspect of a third semester grad student, I have passed the initial wonderment – I am not lost, I am no longer the intrepid explorer. I know the landscape. But from the perspective of an instructor, this is new territory – territory I know from a distance, from viewing the map, as it were, but I have yet to walk it. Today, I took those first tenuous steps. Nothing makes me feel more alive.