I don’t always write a “beginning of the school year” post and when I do, it’s usually before school starts, some time in August, and not at the end of the second week of classes. But here we are, at what seasonally always feels to me a lot more like the start of the new year than January.
This is the start of my 25th year at EMU. This summer, I selected another one of those goofy “thanks for your service” gifts they give out in five year increments. Five years ago, I picked out a pretty nice casserole dish; this time, I picked out a globe, one which lights up.
I wrote a new school year post like this was in 2021, and back then, I (briefly) contemplated the faculty buyout offer. “Briefly” because as appealing as it was at the time to leave my job behind, there’s just no way I could afford it and I’m not interested in starting some kind of different career. But here in 2023, I’m feeling good about getting back to work. Maybe it’s because I had a busy summer with lots of travel, some house guests, and a touch of Covid. After all of that, it’s just nice to have a change of pace and get back to a job. Or maybe it’s because (despite my recent case) we really are “past” Covid in the sense that EMU (like everywhere else) is no longer going through measures like social distancing, check-ins noting you’re negative, vax cards, free testing, etc. etc. This is not to say Covid is “over” of course because it’s still important for people to get vaxxed and to test. And while I know the people I see all the time who are continuing to wear masks everywhere think lowering our defenses to Covid is foolish and it is true that cases right now are ticking up, the reality is Covid has become something more or less like the flu: it can potentially kill you, sure, but it is also one of those things we have to live with.
Normally in these kinds of new school year posts, I mention various plans and resolutions for the upcoming year. I have a few personal and not unusual ones– lose weight, exercise more, read more, and so on– but I don’t have any goals that relates to work. I’m not involved in any demanding committees or other service things, and I’d kind of like to keep it that way. I’m also not in the midst of any scholarly projects, and I can’t remember the last time that was the case. And interestingly (at least for me), I don’t know if I’ll be doing another scholarly project at this point. Oh, I will go to conferences that are in places I want to visit, and I’ll keep blogging about AI and other academic-like things I find interesting. That’s a sort of scholarship, I suppose. I’d like to write more commentaries for outlets like IHE or CHE, maybe also something more MSM. But writing or editing another book or article? Meh.
(Note that this could all change on a dime.)
So that leaves teaching as my only focus as far as “the work” goes. I suppose that isn’t that unusual since even when I’ve got a lot going on in terms of scholarly projects and service obligations, teaching is still the bulk of my job. I’ll have plenty to do this semester because I’ve got three different classes (with three different preps), and one of them is a new class I’m sort of/kind of making up as I go.
Still, it feels a little different. I’ve always said that if being a professor just involved teaching my classes– that is, no real service or scholarly obligations– then that wouldn’t be too hard of a job. I guess I’ll get to test that this term.