In the spring semester of 2008, I had a student, JJ. He was one of those people I found irritating on sight. I think I thought he was pretentious, and I know I thought he was pompous and full of himself. My evidence was: he wore a full suit to teach; he had a full beard and moustache, and he had snippets of deeply canonical poetry pasted on his door (Yeats's "Politics," an excerpt from Blake's The Book of Thel - those lines about the golden bowl). On reflection, I stand by that last one, because to proudly demonstrate one's allegiance to such works manages to display simultaneous pomposity and callowness. But the others, I admit, were just prejudice. Also, he had an annoying voice.
Anyway, when he got into my class he did reveal himself to be an old-fashioned textual critic, the sort who disregards any kind of historical background or cultural evidence, and that is a problem. Still, before I had more than the tiniest inkling of that, I dismissed him with contempt. And thinking about this last night while I was washing my face, I thought, I should have behaved better. I should have given him a chance. He angered me very much when, in our fourth or fifth class, he blithely ignored the directions I had given for what text to read and explicitly read the one I had said not to read, but that's not really much reason to take against someone, and I was the teacher, so I ought to have been more mature and above it. I regret it. You have my apologies, JJ.
All of which is to say, today was my first day of teaching. And I don't think I did too badly. In my big class I had to introduce them to the eighteenth century, which is my worst century, but I don't think they saw how nervous I was. And in my one-on-one meeting (with a student who can't meet me at the same time as all the other students in my other class, which I'll be teaching tomorrow) all I did was take him through the syllabus, which took ten minutes. Actually, I quite enjoyed that meeting not because it took ten minutes, but because the student didn't want to sit on my futon sofa, and so asked if he could bring in a one-person desk that was in the corridor. So I sat in my comfy desk chair and he sat in his tiny desk, and it looked as if I were some professor who bizarrely insisted on strictest formality even when I was teaching in my office.
Which brings us to tonight's picture, which is, cunningly, a picture not of where I teach but of where I am taught: my ballet class studio. I took it from the corner from which we depart to do our grand allegro (the left back corner. Coincidentally, I like to stand at the left-hand barre toward the back, which is not in the picture, and I become silently snitty if I don't get to stand there. People are weirdly territorial about their ballet barre spots). If you look, you can see the rosin "pit" in the far diagonal corner...
Tomorrow I move back into my own lovely flat. I have heartily enjoyed staying with my friends, but I am looking forward to getting into my own, known, space. I shall go stand in the charming alcove that is what I almost love best about my flat, and I shall be glad.