Thursday, February 12, 2009

Why can't it be Wednesday?

I estimate that by this point in my career I've given nearly a hundred talks of some length or another in seminars, colloquia, symposia, or conferences. A conservative estimate puts me in the driver's seat during more than 1500 class periods (to say nothing of exam reviews, study sessions, and problem group meetings), and I've stood in front of audiences ranging in size from five or six to five or six hundred. Although I admit to perennial pre-semester jitters and no first day of class would be complete without a few abdominal lepidoptera, it's been years since I've felt more than a slight twinge of anxiety in preparing a live presentation.

So what's the deal, huh?

I've got a date with a learn-at-home organization, The Teaching Company, in a few days; they're flying me up to their Washington area offices to record a demo lecture they'll use to test my suitability for future work with their video lecture program. Heads: I "win," and they retain me to record a series or two with them; tails: I "lose," and I return to hearth and home and an already rich and utterly fulfilling career.

No big deal at all, really.

Why am I so anxious?

I've run through my half-hour talk god knows how many times in the past few weeks. From start to finish for the first time it came out as I walked home from campus three weeks back. Before an empty classroom silenced by a snow day I did two walk-throughs with the slides I've by now memorized. The tougher parts have tumbled from my lips over and over as I've tried to loosen their verbal knots with my tongue, searching for a way to ease one end over another and unwrap the mystery tied tightly within.

Still there are parts that seem alien and abstract, even to me.

Tuesday's the day (it's Thursday night as I write this).

Between now and then I've got two meetings each of my three classes, and another weekend offering a pile (considerably lighter than the last, mercifully) of grading. I've got three tests to write and a homework set or two. I've got a few more meetings with my students, a couple of writing projects that demand my attention, and at least three colleagues' visits to plan for. There are several other things I'd rather be writing about on this very page than this one impending one-day trip (fascinating conversations with several different students today come to mind, conversations about the nature of proof, the nature of math, the nature of knowledge itself), but I feel blocked, unable to say anything about anything unrelated to that goddamned talk.

It'll be fine, I tell myself (and others close to me say).

I am right, of course, and they are right: no matter what, it'll be fine. I always give a decent talk. It'll be fine.

But I want it to be more than fine. So much more.

I want to wow their socks off and blow them away. I want them to say "this goes to eleven." I want to be fucking awesome.

We'll see.

Meh. Whatever.

Life goes on, right?

Life goes on.


Why can't it be Wednesday?


Anonymous said...

for what it is worth, I have really been touched by, both, the teaching companies lecture series and your classes. Without condescension, I am proud of what you do, and what you might do. Your right, either way you will be fine. Oh, and by the way knock the socks off of them, :).

Anonymous said...

You are fucking awesome. And that's why you're going to be fine