As an academic type, I’ve always considered the end of summer the beginning of a new year: preschool, primary school, secondary school, college, graduate school, and now, entering my 13th year as a teacher of college students. My whole life has been lived according to the rhythms of the academic calendar. Now, by the precedent set of historical necessity, is when that all begins again.
It may seem strange to someone long away from education and out in the “real world” (few phrases set my teeth on edge faster — of course school is the real world and it’s demeaning to all those hard at work learning to hear otherwise), but this is the beginning of our year.
So as the leaves begin to turn and fall, and as the world starts her slow decline into another season of well-earned slumber, turning the cycle into another of rebirth, I feel my annual sense of renewal. Autumn is the season I most love. In my part of the world, it promises environmental beauty as nature puts on one last show before quieting until spring. But it also promises another beauty as I am privileged once more to take my small part in that thing that makes us undeniably human: to learn and to take that knowledge forward into our own lives.
Alright, so that’s a bit idealized. But throughout my life in the academy, that remains how I feel. I am still almost giddy at another opportunity to share what I have spent my lifetime learning, and to learn from the fresh student eyes drawn toward questions that I would never think to ask.
In my family, this season marks another milestone. For three years I have watched our son bound up the hill each school morning to the bus stop with his mother in order to see our daughter off on another scholastic adventure. Then I watched him trudge back home, dejected that he could not join her. Too young by the calendar, although his spirit was eager.
But that changes on Monday when he begins his own academic odyssey with kindergarten. I am excited by the prospect of those new things he will bring to our family’s dinner table conversation. I hope that he will nurture his own love of learning, as have I.
So the world may be dying once more, but the annual cycle of the life of the mind is, once again, being reborn. Teaching in the classroom is only one of the many ways I am renewed by learning. Research, service, writing, speaking, and consulting all have their valued places for me. But college teaching is the most tangible expression of that honorable learning process, and I look forward to greeting another batch of students tomorrow.
In celebration of the Academic New Year, I resolve to better attend to my blog, which has languished too long. I wish a very “Happy New Year” to all of you about to become engaged in the serious and joyful business of learning and teaching once more!