9 Things Only First-Time English Professors Understand

The first semester you spend teaching is a... special time, especially if you're an adjunct English professor like me. We can all remember that feeling right after being hired — we were bright eyed and eager, with our Master's degrees in hand, ready to shape young minds in the way were molded by our college professors. We spent much of our summers revising (and re-revising) syllabi and course calendars. We were so excited for students to read the essays from writers we admired, and to finally be able to correct comma splices and possessives in the proper setting. (Yes, this was really a thing we were stoked on.)

While yes, our first semesters were filled with shining moments that made us feel at least slightly appreciated, we all experienced just as many moments filled with panic, fear, anger, and frustration. Remember that lecture that bombed? That student you had to fail for blatant plagiarism? Being an English professor takes much more than knowing and loving the English language. These moments below are some of those terrifying, thrilling, and relatable ones that together comprise that first glorious fall semester.

Welcome to teaching.

Like me, you understand...

1. The first time talking in front of the class

And introducing yourself as "professor" in front of 25 students that look just as nervous as you. (Never mind being called "professor" sounds foreign and weird.) Are they listening to my attendance policy? Am I sounding firm and authoritative, but also relatable and willing to listen?

2. All. The. Grading.

It's next to your bed. When you eat. When you're watching TV. You have a red pen and a stack of papers forever by your side. You will never have enough time to give to these essays all the feedback they need. Why did you sign up for this?

3. Competing with a smartphone for attention

After awhile, "please put away your phone" becomes such a broken record. Fine. Enjoy your F along with that cat video.

4. "Can I read something you've written?"

Do you need proof I'm qualified for this position? That I know how to write better than you? And no, you don't need to see the weird stuff I write. By the way, never Google search my name, kthx.

5. Holy spelling mistakes, Batman!

Sure, you’re prepared for the “your” and “their” mistakes, but simple words like "awsome" and "freind" are spelling wrong consistently.

6. Having to repeat yourself over and over

"You never said this was due today." It's on the syllabus. It's in the email I sent. AND posted as a message in our online group. AND I wrote it on the board. How are you not getting this?

7. Students' lack of exposure to reading

“I don’t even like reading subtitles.” You really hate reading that much? Who are you people? You mean you didn't all grow up with your nose in a book? I don't want to live on this planet.

8. The first evaluation

What are they scribbling on that legal pad from their seat in the back row? Do I sound professional enough? Does the powerpoint make sense? Can you leave yet?

9. Group messages with fellow newbie teachers

How do we work this website? WHEN DO WE GET PAID?? Can I see your syllabus? Want to get together to grade and drink but mostly drink?

Images: Giphy (9)