Each New Year begins for me not on January 1, not on Rosh Hashanah, but on the first day of classes. I must then put away my laconic interiority, my meditative vegetative stupidity, and perform that public act of assertive eloquence and flimflam showmanship known as teaching. It can be a wrenching transition, and I have discovered I am not alone in feeling frightened the first day. Other university teachers I have spoken to, who have been at it even longer than I have, report butterflies in their stomach, a tightening of the chest, and the equivalent of stage fright. Fortunately, that first day I can get away with passing out syllabi, projecting an air of authority, cracking a few jokes, and dismissing the group early. It is in the second week that I will truly have to pull myself together.
Phillip Lopate. I, on the other hand, am on research leave and so have not returned to classes. It is a weird, weird, feeling.