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Back to School

January 5, 2015

I’ve already heard the buses run through the neighborhood this morning, but since I’m catching a ride with a colleague today, I’m still sifting through the books and papers I need to wag to campus for the first day back.  We won’t have students or classes until Thursday, but for now, the frenzy begins–putting together new syllabi for all my classes, evaluating what did and didn’t work last semester.

I most dread figuring out how to teach two sections of freshman comp (“Writing and Inquiry”) in three 50-minute classes a week, and the same course in one 1 1/4 hour class–especially since we’ve been teaching the same course five days a week until this school year.  This semester, too, since we’re hosting our Writers Symposium, I get to work a 380-page work of nonfiction into the course as well.  At some point, I need to finish reading it myself.

I wonder if students know that teachers face the beginning of a new school year or semester with the same anxiety they do.  I honestly feel as if I develop new year’s resolutions twice a year–in January and in August:  This year, I’m going to keep up with the paper load, I’m going to use fresh examples, I’m going to hold the line on late work. I’m going to inspire. I’m going to fight burn-out and avoid toxic faculty lounge conversations.

My greatest resources are my colleagues (although that number has dwindled considerably in the years of “doing more with less”).  It helps to know that my own department supports one another. I experienced that firsthand last semester when I had to be out of school two weeks for my husband’s heart surgery.  I also have good work friends in other disciplines–math, landscape and gardening, communications, music, and art. This semester, I’ve begun making plans with a few of them to take the time to start our days right, getting our heads in the right place, paying attention to what matters most.

I have always found ways to nurture my other interests–reading, writing, music, art, and exercise–and I don’t plan to stop that.  Those are my survival techniques; they keep my brain firing on all cylinders.

I wonder if people outside of education return to work at the beginning of the year with the same mixed emotions. I’m sure accountants are feeling the approach of April 15.  For furniture manufacturing, there’s another market in just a few months, and the new season’s fabrics are already piling up on tables. No wonder Baby New Year ages so fast every year.

For now, I just hope to remember to write 2015 instead of 2014. So far, I haven’t done so well.

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