In the midst of all of the emotional ups and downs of this week with D's employment (and thank you for all of the good wishes and rejoicing -- hurrah!), school was also getting underway at FGS, a week earlier than at D's new school. And what school's getting underway has mostly meant for me is publicly being department chair. We had our department tech day last Friday, but somehow that still felt like summer; as of this week, everything feels like the school year.
And fortunately, and I guess not really surprisingly, things have gone very well. There's been a little public speaking (no big deal, just introducing the new department members at the first faculty meeting), my first official department heads committee meeting, meeting with department members in groups and as a whole, some adminisrative wrangling, things like that. More than one person outside the department whom I've had to deal with on administrative matters has said things like, "I'm so glad you're department chair, WN" or "thank you so much; you're so on top of things," all of which is good for my ego and my anxiety.
There were only two things I was really nervous about:
* Leading my first department meeting. I've spent so long quietly critiquing the way that Dr. B. led department meetings (and maybe not always as quietly and discreetly as I should have) that I felt enormous pressure to do it "right." Fortunately, I had the same experience that Bardiac had: I love my colleagues. In particular, there is one senior faculty member who loves to hear himself talk; he's a lovely man, but dang, he can grind a meeting to a halt once he starts speechifying. Three times during the department meeting I cut him off, always saying something like, "I want to make sure we get Colleage X's voice in this conversation," and once saying, "I'm not going to let you talk about that now, because it's on the agenda for our next meeting and we have two more things to get through before this meeting is over." I could tell that all of my department colleagues were grateful and deeply relieved not to be subject to his long speeches, but the particularly lovely thing is that as soon as the meeting ended, he leaned over and said to me, "That was a really well-run meeting. What we've always needed is to have someone keep us on track, and I want to make sure that you know that I'm not at all offended. I have to do this sort of thing in meetings that I run, and I'm happy to have you do it to me." I mean, how lovely is that, and it certainly relieved my mind of the only anxiety I had in the meeting!
* Meeting with the new international students to place them in the appropriate English course. They had all written placement essays for us over the summer, but we are always kind of suspicious of those essays, since who knows how involved parents and tutors are in them? So then when the new international students arrive on campus, the department heads of English, science, and math all sit in a room and the students file through to meet with each of us individually. My job then is to quickly assess their conversational English, perhaps give them a second placement assignment for them to do on the spot in the classroom next door, and discuss their placement with them. The question is whether they go into our ESL course, go into a lower-level but non-ESL course, or go into their grade-level course. This was definitely the thing I was most nervous about all week. And in the end I feel pretty good about how it went, but I had to make a few difficult judgment calls, and of course I'm second-guessing those. The good news is that, if it's clear in the first couple of weeks that a kid is in the wrong course, we can move them. But wow, it was exhausting. Two solid hours of one-on-one conversations. Sometimes there's a lot of resistance from the students, so I'm lucky that only one kid really pushed back, not wanting to go into the ESL course; fortunately, it was a really clear placement in her case. And the other good news is that I unexpectedly got a new AP Comp student out of it! Her English was clearly great, and we'd already assigned her to the grade-level course for juniors, but she was interested in taking both AP Comp and AP US History, and she went off and took the placement tests for both of them right then and there. So that's a delight!
Oh, and here's another piece of good department head news: I'm down to only five faculty evaluations for the year, because both the talkative senior colleage and Co-Author are going to get evaluated next year. Huge sigh of relief on two fronts: a more reasonable number of evaluations to do, and not having to deal with Co-Author. Hurrah!
And with that, I must run off to school on Sunday morning because I've got weekend duty this weekend, which means I'll be heading off with all of those new international students to a local amusement park, where I will park myself in the shade somewhere and get some work done while they are running around on roller coasters. Not the way I'd choose to spend a Sunday, but not terrible either.