And so it begins anew.
The first day of the fall semester is always a madhouse, because on top of the usual rush of things to get done there are a lot of people running around who really don’t know where things are yet or how they work, and that combination is enough to keep you busy from one end of the day to another regardless of how many other things need to get done.
Also, if there is anything that universities produce in abundance more than information it’s paperwork. I now have forms to fill out that I never did before, forms that I should have been filling out but were just alerted to, and forms that I've always known about and usually get done one way or another, and all that too needs to be slotted into the day somehow.
And tires, this year. My car has been riding around on the donut since Saturday because apparently the actual tire did not like running over a nail. Who knew? Add that to the list.
So we’ll see how this all goes.
The stress level for professors is actually pretty low for the first two weeks or so of the semester, in my experience. We’re still doing introductory stuff. There aren’t any major assignments to grade yet. The whole point of the first two weeks is to get people acclimated to the subject, the standards you plan to hold them to, and the general flow of things. Unless you’ve got a new prep or two and you're scrambling to write lectures and organize things so that what you tell them now will come back around and be relevant then, "then" being defined as some indeterminate point around the three-quarter mark of the semester when you can build on it all for the next exam, the opening weeks are pretty straightforward.
For advisors, however, the first two weeks are a zoo. Students – many of them rather bewildered – show up in your office and you run through the litany with them. Do you need to switch classes? How’s your financial aid? Really? That screwed up? Let’s see. You want to do what? Okay, we have a form for that. Yes, you should have your textbooks by now. No, I will not talk to your professors about that – you’re an adult now. Down the hall, to the left, the room with the big whiteboard. This is … wow … let me call someone and ask. Huh. And then you hit the Census Date when the bill comes due and the schedules are pretty much set a couple of weeks in and things quiet down for a bit.
At that point things heat up for the professors, who are now heading into the first big assignments or unit breaks. Basically you’ve got two offset sine waves of stress, which would be pretty on a graph but can be rather less so when you’re living through it.
Of course, the really fun part is when half your job is advising and the other half is teaching. Then it’s pretty much all stress, all the time. But at least you get variety, so there’s that.
I actually do like the start of the school year, which is how you know I’ve found the right career. I like when the students come back to campus because it makes the place more interesting. I like when I get to teach, because history is just telling stories in a certain way and that’s what I love to do. I like it when students come by for advising, because it matters to them and therefore it matters to me. They’re working hard to make their lives better, they’ve almost always got things to say, and that’s an energy you can’t help but love.
It does mean that other projects and such will fall by the wayside, but so it goes. If I’ve learned anything about projects it is that they will still be there when I get back to them.
So three cheers for the new semester, in all its stressful glory.