Tomorrow is the first day of school
Tomorrow is my first day of school. Finally.
I decided to take this job on Christmas Eve 2012 — over seven months ago. Only in the past few weeks have I really wanted to get in front of my new classes. Before then I was saying goodbye to friends and prepping for my move. In the last two weeks I’ve been overloaded with meetings, information about the new classes I’m teaching, the particulars of my new school and department, and all the other things that go into starting all over again. When you start at a new school it’s a lot like being a first-year teacher again — and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. Being a first year teacher is tough. So, in a few words, these past few days have been rough.
What makes it rough is that I’m teaching some courses I’ve never taught before, and there isn’t a lot of precedent for what I’m doing. My expectations of myself are quite high, and coupled with the natural stresses of learning to work with all new colleagues has pushed me significantly. I can take solace in the fact that all of the new teachers who arrived here are in the same boat. This is a very good school that aspires to be a great school. It has the leadership in place to get there, and the teachers who are here this year, both returning and new, all came here to be part of this big push to be great. It’s exciting, but it’s a lot of work.
So I’ve been stressed out more than I can remember being before the start of any of my previous years. I’ve had enough of the planning. I want to be in front of my students. I want to get in there and start making things happen. A guy can only take so many meetings.
As I think about the work over the past two weeks, and the anticipation I have for tomorrow, what strikes me is that there is very little about “India” that has gotten to me so far. I’m not bothered by the men who were pooping on the beach in front of me yesterday; the cows in the middle of the street hardly catch my attention. There’s so much noise on the road, and the traffic is what you might imagine in a place where there are only suggestions for how to navigate around other vehicles. None of these things get me worked up. I’m sure there will come a time when all that surrounds me finally provokes some sort of meltdown. But not tonight.
I had a lovely evening at Mylapour — one of the bigger temples in Chennai. Fortuitously, I ran into one of my new colleagues who is from Chennai. She and her husband were there for his birthday they quickly dropped everything to show me around. It’s a huge temple — one of the oldest in Chennai, and probably the country. I read that Ptolemy was rumored to have visited here. Marco Polo wrote about this place, and St. Thomas the Apostle was buried here before his body was exhumed and moved to Edessa. So it’s an important place historically, and it’s still an active place of worship. I got a terrific tour and description of the various altars and traditions practiced here. We ended up being right in the middle of a ceremony performed by brahmin priests who led the chanting with drums, bells, and lots of incense. I did a little pooja to Ganesh and his parents, Siva and Parvati. Together the three represent destruction, creation, and wisdom. I prayed for an enriching school year. It was the perfect place to be tonight.
Tomorrow is the first day of school. I can’t wait.