Nearly exactly three years ago, I was walking into my very first classroom, my very first day of teaching at the University of Akron, my very first day of teaching Women’s Studies. Though I cannot remember what I was wearing, I remember sweating through every layer. I remember how badly my hands shook and how thankful I was that there was a portable podium in the classroom for my notes to rest on. (I couldn’t let those undergraduates see my shaking hands and know I was scared shitless.) I remember deliberately being firm, laying down the law, while I went over class policy. This was a first-day tip that had been drilled into all the graduate teaching assistants, campus-wide, at the orientation the week before. I remember thinking: “What if they suspect I just graduated in the spring and I’m the same age as them? Or younger? What about my students who are older than me by decades! What will they think?” “What if they know I know nothing?” “What if they eat me alive?”
This anxiety was nearly the same everyday for the first eight weeks of the semester, not lessening until after midterm time. And even on the days I felt confident that I knew what I was talking about, I still sweat and I still wondered if today would be the day they would realize I was really just one of them parading around in teacher’s clothing, doing a really good impression of a women’s studies scholar and instructor. Even in my last semester of teaching, this spring of 2010, there were days where I sweat through my clothes and wondered who would find me out. Which student was the mole?
Despite my anxiety about teaching, I’ve loved (nearly) everything about it. Despite knowing little (in comparison to so many other real-deal scholars) about women’s studies as a discipline, I’ve loved everything about that, too. So behind the scenes, I’ve spent countless hours in my office waiting for students to come in with questions, concerns, needing extra assistance. (I’ve spent so much time here I’m on first-name basis with the janitorial and maintenance staff around the building, evidence that I’m not exaggerating.) Of course, hardly anyone ever stopped in without being required and so while I waited for students to (not) show up, I worked tirelessly on lesson plans and on grading, often bringing these things home with me. I made up games and new activities to supplement their textbooks, tried to find other texts that would interest them and be accessible and relatable to them as people and to classroom content. This too came home. I hosted extra credit movie nights and I encouraged their participation or attendance at campus events. I got involved with The UA Annual Benefit Performane of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues and other various women-centered activities. I went to conferences, presented at symposiums, wrote for the blog. In short, I have eaten, slept, and breathed women’s studies since August 2007. It has been nearly my full time job and my entire life (regardless of my full-time graduate status in a Masters program, of course. Yes, I’m an overachiever.)
And over these last few years my passion and enthusiasm for teaching and for the field of women’s studies has grown, changed, and intensified. It has integrated itself into my way of life and my way of thinking and seeing, feeling and acting. Women’s studies, for me, has become some kind of invisible cloak, matching everything else in my wardrobe, fitting for every occasion—school, work, parties, formal wear—and is always the in-thing, changing with the times, changing as our society and culture does, changing as our laws and politics (including personal ones) ebb and flow. (And it makes my ass look great. Just kidding.) Honestly, this entire experience is one of my most valuable possessions. But tomorrow will be my last day in the office and my last day as a graduate assistant. This is my last post for the blog.
I hardly end anything I do without some form of closure and, being a writer, this seems the most appropriate way to try to execute even a small amount of that. I’m not entirely sure that closure is what I’m after since I have no intention of forgetting these last three years of incredible growth and opportunity, of self-discovery and self-definition. I don’t know that I’ll never teach women’s studies again but I don’t know if I will either. Who knows what life has to offer or where it may lead. I guess, then, I’m leaving this particular location, this particular office, this particular group of people, but I’m not leaving women’s studies, or the things it has given me. I’m taking all of that with me.
Perhaps this post is more a thankyou and fairwell to the University of Akron’s women’s studies program. Perhaps it is a goodbye to this stage of life. Whatever it is, this is my way of saying it, even if doing it poorly. There are no real words to offer here. There is no real way of showing my gratitude for the things I have gained or even a way of listing all the things that have been. So, before this post gets any longer or continues to ramble anymore, I will end by saying:
Women’s studies, you have given me more than imaginable, all of which will not be forgotten, and all of which will be taken and used wherever I go. I hope you continue to succeed in reaching people’s lives. Remember, as the poster in my office used to say, “You’re in the world to change the world.” You’ve certainly changed mine. Thank you. Fairwell.
Filed under: Women's Studies blog |