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The Other New Year

August 14, 2018

I’ve neglected this site in recent months, spending timer on my book blog, Discriminating Reader, but a week from today a new semester begins. I’ll be teaching three sections of composition at Lipscomb University, my alma mater. Right now I’m in the throes of syllabus preparation, reinventing and tweaking.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve seen all those back-to-school pictures, the front porch shots with the new backpacks and school clothes. Now I’m seeing posts from friends whose children are heading off to college, many for the first time. I remember how bittersweet the experience was–and how happy my own children were to be off to college.

I’ve always said I wouldn’t go back to high school for any amount of money, but I’d go back to college any day.  As Jose Antonio Bowen reminds readers (teachers) in his book Teaching Naked, we are the ones who liked school so much we have stayed on. Oddly, it’s not the academic part of college that is most engrained in my memory. Sure, I remember that debits are on the window side. (Thanks, Doc Swang). But since I’m an accounting major who now teaches English, maybe back then I was just learning how to learn and how to be independent–how to “adult.”

I’m still having to learn.  For example, I have the hardest time just spacing once after a period when I type. I wasn’t around when that rule was changed. I’m also having to adapt all the time. I’m learning to pick my battles. I’m learning humility. No, my class may not be a priority for many of my students. It’s my job to make it as engaging as possible.

I always tell my students that for me, there are two times a year I make New Year’s Resolutions–January and August. As I hope my students are doing right now, I’m setting goals, promising to use my time well, to learn to balance my time and resources. I’m going through my six dozen teacher bags and sorting binder clips, paper clips, white board markers, and index cards. I’m looking at my past lesson plans and trying to evaluate their success.

I actual look forward to having a schedule again. I love my summers, but by this time of the year, I find myself floundering, fiddling around, practicing my best procrastination strategies. In seven days, though, I’ll meet three sections of college freshmen. I’ll make my best effort to learn their names quickly and to use their time well too. I’m also flipping through pictures of students from past semesters, offering up prayers for them too.

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