I moved to Flagstaff in July to start my first position as an assistant professor at Northern Arizona University. It seems time has flown and it is already the end of the semester. I have often thought of blog posts to write, but unfortunately I have not taken the time. The semester started off with a severe case of imposter syndrome - a feeling that I didn't actually have the knowledge or ability to be here as a professor. It was quite overwhelming to be handed a course, curriculum, and students and be told go for it. Yet, as the semester progressed, my confidence grew and I felt less and less like an imposter. I think what helped the most was the opportunity to have my own students again. For me, interacting with the students and getting to know them put me at ease, it helped me to relax into the classroom.
I think what has been most surprising this semester, though it probably should not be, is how little time there is for anything besides courses. As you teach and develop a new course, you not only are assigning and grading work, you are also having to do the work yourself. You've got to re-read the texts you assign, you've got to think about the way you're going to grade the assignment before you hand it out, and even think about the content you want students to focus on before they read. All of this I should have expected having taught science for 9 years before getting my doctorate, but for some reason it felt harder this go around. I think the difficulty was all the other aspects of the job pulling on my time. Writing grants, trying to get papers out and published, Mondays full of meetings, supervising student teachers, serving on committees, finding ways to do community service, and preparing for conferences. Figuring out how to do all of this and still have some semblance of balance in my life has been extraordinarily difficult. I definitely have not figured it out, but I am learning.
One thing I have done all semester is play tennis. Fortunately, I was able to find tennis groups quickly here and was able to play 2-4 times a week. Having this time for something that was just for me was so critical to not getting burned out this semester. Another thing that has helped is still being connected to my research group at UVA. It has been so wonderful to still have those individuals to talk, plan, and process next steps. Finally, my new colleagues here have been a huge help. They are constantly answering questions and acting as sounding boards. They are caring, compassionate, and always willing to lend a hand.
So, I am sitting here giving my last final of the semester. And, I have to say overall I think it was successful. I've taught two new classes, written or been a part of writing four grants, published two articles and had a third accepted, had seven papers accepted for conferences, been assigned my first university committee, and started to learn how the system functions at NAU. It's been an overwhelming, frustrating, exciting, scary, and ultimately joyful learning experience.