Minutes away from bedtime, thinking I really need to floss during this Golden Globes commercial break, all I can focus on is this singular thought: May the Spring 2011 semester have mercy on us all.
Tonight is my fourteenth night before the first day of classes*, and while I know the first day drill, I still won’t sleep well tonight. In 5 to 10 minutes, I’m going to turn off the tv, set the alarm, and settle in under the covers. And then, because I know I want to get as much rest as possible, I will attempt to will myself unconscious. This is a losing strategy.
And tomorrow afternoon, after I make a headlong sprint through the morning, I will be surprised by my first day exhaustion. No amount of exercise or preparation ever counters the fact that every moment before I cross the threshold and finally meet the strangers that will come to both despise me and desperately seek my approval is loaded with nervous energy. And after I survive our initial class meeting, I will be completely daunted by the task of getting up and doing it all again on Wednesday and Friday.
By next week, this will be old hat. In week two, the semester begins to get a rhythm, because ready or not, it’s rolling. But week one, well, that’s the one that’s a fight to get into. No one wants it to be real, so there’s a feeling of denial that comes with getting back into a semester. Sure, syllabi are copied and distributed, introductions are made, a writing class has theoretically been set in motion. But the overarching feeling is that these aren’t really my students. This isn’t really happening. Someone’s going to call tomorrow and let me know that my winter break has been extended until February because everyone noticed I did a good job in the fall and thought I’d might like a bit more rest. I was looking a little tuckered out at the end. While I spent the last week (or, okay, maybe couple of weeks) complaining about how much I wanted it to be over, in these final, fading moments of winter break, I’d like some more, please.
I don’t know what I’ll wear tomorrow. This worries me. And the fear that those second semester freshmen will stage a hostile mutiny still lurks in the back of mind, even though I’ve dealt with far worse in the classroom. I’m pretty sure that I could swiftly squash a hostile uprising, and even though I’m armed with a trusty lesson plan, my irrational fears own me tonight.
But I’m also looking forward to the spring semester. The second half of the school year always has a totally different feeling than the first (for reasons both obvious and not so obvious), and this spring semester is going to be a big, shifty, crazy mess. The spring is when people and lives start to move around out of both necessity and choice, and while all that’s inherently scary, this spring’s going to be exciting, too.
As for tomorrow, though, good luck to everyone getting back up in front of all those young minds in need of some educating. Here’s to effectively convincing them we know what we’re doing.
* 7 years of grad school = 14 starts of the semester. That’s for anyone who wants to check my math.