Fall quarter at the University of Washington is right around the corner, and every faculty member I know is getting ready for the onslaught. Not to say I’m not brimming with anticipation, mind you. I just know IT’S COMING: the wall of emails, the endless meetings, the grading, not to mention all of the events on campus that are not to be missed! By mid-December, 11 weeks will have flown by in a flash; we will catch our collective breath, celebrate our various holidays, and return on January 1st all bright and shiny, ready to gallop through a dark corridor called Winter quarter. Screeching to a brief halt for a week of Spring Break (hahahahahaha) we will gather ourselves together for the sprint called Spring quarter. And just like that, we will have all–faculty, staff, and students–successfully (of course) completed another year of learning, teaching, and making the world a better place.
After thirty-five years of college teaching, my mind, body, and spirit are so acclimated to this cycle that it is automatic: August 1st, I begin to prepare myself: if I am teaching a class in autumn I have taught before, I dust it off and make small repairs and incremental improvements. If it’s a new class, actually, I’ve been planning since June–just not the all-out planning that begins in August. By this time, two weeks before the quarter, I liken myself to a runner, crouched at the starting line, waiting for the whistle to blow. “Come on, already,” sums up my attitude. I. Am. Ready.
On day 1, all is wonderful. Everyone pays attention. Everyone (well, most everyone) smiles and asks all of the right questions. Leaning forward in their chairs, they hang on my every word. Okay, okay. I’m pushing it now! Perhaps I am recalling my favorite dream. Most faculty members might agree that there is a definite honeymoon period before reality sets in. I would maintain, however, that for me, and probably most of us who have lasted this long, the thrill of teaching and learning never goes away. It is an honor to be entrusted with the education of such amazing individuals. I learn something new every day.
And so, the title of this piece, “End of Summer” is not meant to be an ending at all, but a beginning, full of the uncertainty that characterizes our visions of the future, but also overflowing with possibilities.
I. Can’t. Wait.