Good morning, and welcome to the new academic year! If you’re like me, perhaps more of your CCC-related mental space over the past two months have been more devoted to the string of controversial announcements coming out of 226 w. Jackson, but now I need to fill my mind with thoughts about my prospective students, discussions, content, evaluation, and everything related to that great activity of transformative education.
Today’s TTT: Do you have any pre-semester rituals you undertake in order to transition to the proper mindset? What are they? What do they do for you? How far away did you go this summer, psychologically more than geographically (though geo changes often lead to psycho changes), and how will you bring yourself back?
What did you learn on your travels? How did you change?
For those of you that taught summer courses, was the distinct atmosphere and student body of the summer campus enough to satisfy you? Were you refreshed, frustrated, or something else?
As for myself, my new semester transition usually begins at the end of the previous semester. During the last couple weeks of class, or soon after I submit final grades, I walk to my local Walgreens, purchase a black and white composition notebook and a nice new pen, and then head to my favorite bar–a local brewpub–usually on a weekday afternoon when it is quiet and sunny. Heavy with all my successes and mistakes, I reflect on the semester and what I would change. I write on the cover “Teaching Journal: Fall 2015,” and write about my experience. Then, I start re-writing my assignments, policies, schedule, and texts. With a couple of strong India Pale Ale’s streaming down my gullet, I shake off the seriousness of the semester and become more playful and experimental. I try to intuit how my students will respond to new lessons, while reflecting on how they responded to old ones.
Now, one week before the semester, I open that notebook again and read it. I modify old syllabuses, or decide to tear it all down and start from scratch. The mornings, when my mind is sharpest and most focused. Then, some evening later this week, I will head back to that bar, grab a couple of IPA’s, sometimes with a fellow teacher or one of my better reflective friends, and sometimes alone, and turn my mind back to the classroom.
Only when this is done do I genuinely feel prepared to walk into that first classroom on Monday morning ready to engage and challenge the cohort of fellow-inquirers.