beginning again for the first time

My second semester at Babeș-Bolyai starts tomorrow, bright and early, with an 8am Text Interpretation class.  I can’t say as I’m very excited about the timing; not only am I not a morning person, no one is a morning person at 8am on a Monday morning, which means I have my work cut out for me keeping the students awake and engaged.  I’m hoping the focus on adolescent literature will prove interesting enough to counter everyone’s lack of liveliness.

My second class is the more familiar time of 4pm on Tuesdays; the class, however, is brand now to me: American Culture and Civilisations. Not surprisingly, I’m organising it around education, focusing on how US public schools have created, responded to and resisted different cultural, societal and political elements in the US. I have the good fortune of being able to invite several of my fellow Fulbrighters to guest lecture on certain topics, which will be interesting for the students and for me.

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statue of Matei Corvin in Piata Unirii

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people enjoying the sun in Piata Unirii

It’s fitting that the last day before the start of the spring semester actually holds the promise of spring.  It was a long, grey, cold winter, i.e., pretty much what I endure in Indiana every year, so I didn’t suffer as much as some of my colleague from warmer and sunnier climes.  But it was evident in the last week that everyone is over winter and more than ready for spring.  Today, with the sun bright in a baby blue sky, the air carrying that promising hint of warmth under the chill, people responded accordingly: with a market in the main square.

It was a nice afternoon to wander through the stalls, peruse the colourful tables of jewelry, sniff the different candles on display (I bought two), sidestep the children toddling about, sit and enjoy the sunshine as I munched on warm placintăs, flaky pastry tubes with either sweet or savoury fillings. I couldn’t resist the brânză (cheese) or vișine (sour cherry), although the măr (apple) was awfully tempting.

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pensive ladies over an orthodox church in Budva, Montenegro

The beginnings of semesters always have me pondering what the weeks ahead will bring, with new students, new (or refreshed) curriculum, new interactions, new avenues for thought.  I’m not sure my preservice teachers ever believe me when I reassure them that I still get nervous before the first day of class; all that newness is a little nerve-wracking, even if I do look forward to it.  The nerves stuck around a little longer here last semester; it took me longer to settle in, in part because I only see my students once a week, rather than the twice-a-week routine I’m used to in the US. I’m experienced enough in the classroom that I wasn’t overwhelmed but I was shakier than I had expected.

I’m a little nervy as I prep for class tomorrow but the promised arrival of spring in the air today went a long way toward putting the world aright.  Starting a new semester in bleak midwinter isn’t particularly conducive to positivity, the weather so unwelcoming, the darkness so dreary, the short break over a major holiday so draining.  Starting after a day in the sunshine, having spent the last weeks traveling to amazing new places with wonderful new friends, makes a world of difference.

Beginnings – no matter how often you’ve had them – are frightening.  The unknown, even if it’s located in the known, is scary.  You can look forward to something and still have the unpleasant stomach flutters that accompany you as you step off the edge. Different situations bring different flutterings: I’m certainly not as shaky-kneed about teaching as I was 10 years ago but I’m still hand-tremblingly nervous when I stand up to speak at conferences.  But the flutterings – good and bad – don’t go away just because you’ve done this all before.  You can be older, more experienced, more accepting, more relaxed in many ways, but you are still beginning again for the first time.