Tuesday, August 23, 2005

School daze

"Dara, you wouldn't be you if you didn't worry," said my friend Tom as we were getting our hair cut today. I had just revealed that tomorrow is my big day and I'm more than a bit nervous about it.

The fall semester starts tomorrow and it's my first day of teaching. It was almost 18 months ago that I applied to grad school with the hopes that some day I might teach PR. That some day is here. I have two sections of Introduction to Public Relations, each with about 50 students. While I know I know more than the students, and think I have more agency experience than some of the other, older, instructors, I still have a horrid case of butterflies in my stomach. Will I be too easy? Will I be too difficult? Will the students like me? Will the students learn? How do I make sure to cover the stuff in the book as well as PR really is about? In my opinion, instead of covering community relations, the book needs to cover how to manage your clients' expectations without blowing budget and/or telling your ADD, manic-depressive, control-freak client to freakin' get off your back. Of course I'm not talking about anyone I know who worked in tech during the dot-com era. :-)

"Are you sure you want to read and grade 100 three to five page papers?" Doug asked last night, reviewing an assignment I made. Let's see, I am taking a full load of graduate courses, working on my thesis and teaching two classes. The answer to his question would be "No!" but I still feel that I should have the students write a topic paper. I want them to think beyond the text and class lectures.

As it is, I feel like I am short changing them. I haven't planned any other written assignments, just tests and quizzes that I can run through a scantron machine, and a PR plan that it was dictated I assign. The other teachers swear the students need to know how to do one; I swear I haven't had to do one in 13 years of professional work. The other professors remind me of a particular west-coast agency that tried to open shop here in Austin in 2000 -- they had the rep that the first three months on retainer they spent developing your PR plan, showing very little actual results. Clients like results and you always bring them some low-hanging fruit right up front. No wonder this agency had to close their Austin office before the tech bubble even burst.

But I have my syllabi complete, and my Intranet sites up. I've already received my first email from a student and have responded. My hair is cut and my toes are polished and I have completed my back-to-school wardrobe shopping. I now just need to finish my lesson for tomorrow and chill. And if I'm lucky, I can calm my brain long enough to get at least 6 hours of sleep.

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