Friday, September 03, 2010

tuning out

It only took a few days for it to happen. And while I'm happy to have direct evidence of some religious doctrines, I just didn't think it would come when I was teaching.

The first week of school always means lots of adjustments. I have to wear pants, shave, and look presentable...well, at least as presentable as I ever get. I have to be prepared. I have to have notes. I have to reestablish the to-do list routine.

Then I get up in front of strangers and talk. I have to look like I know what I'm talking about, and do so while making them pay attention. Personally, I cannot succeed at this by trying to be entertaining or friendly. Rather, I slam them with information delivered in a "this is vital" tone of voice. Luckily, I do in fact know what I'm talking about, because otherwise, I would be scared out of my mind.

There is normally routine to help me through. I have my standard "first day of class" bits for my Comp I (which I have taught continuously since 2003). However, this semester, I also had a section of Writing About Literature, a course which I've never taught I had to develop a new first day discussion/lecture. So I pulled material from other lessons from other subjects, boosted the level of intellectual intensity (after all, I have mostly upper classmen), and I funneled it all into the study of literature.

Halfway through the first session, however, I realized my attention was wandering. My consciousness was worried about what I would do when I got home...when I hung out with friends, would I drink wine or bring beer? I screamed to myself, "Hey, idiot're in the middle of teaching!" Then I focused on the lecture I was in the middle of delivering to find out, much to my surprise, that I was actually firing on all cylinders in spite of paying no attention to what I was doing...and I didn't even have the "I've done this 1.7 million times" excuse to blame.

It's not the first time I've entered a trance state. When I do student conferences, I often find myself giving the exact same advice, over and over. And fairly regularly, I go on auto-pilot during these sessions. A few years back, however, there was a conference where I could swear I had an out-of-body experience and could not just hear myself carrying on this conversation with a student, but actually see it happen....from a position somewhere up in the ceiling.

Later that night, post-lit class trance, I was on a friend's porch, bottle of Merlot in one hand and a cigar in another. I asked mycolleague if she'd ever done the trance-state teaching thing, and she replied, utterly unsurprised, "Oh yeah, it happens pretty regularly."

Trance/fugue states? Alternate consciousness? Out of body experiences? I think teaching might be the new Eastern religion.

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