Who Doesn't Love a Fresh Start?
"The beginning is the most important part of the work" - Plato
Last semester, as the Doldrums set in, I fantasized about this moment. The beginning of spring semester became the beacon which I limped towards; a place in time where all my blunders and missed steps would be metaphorically swept away. Like cracking a promising new novel or waking up on New Year's Day, I imagined all the things I would not do this semester, which is another way of focusing upon what the topic of this challenge. I look forward to making many changes.
Some of them include, in no particular order of importance:
- Truly beginning at the beginning. I will not take it for granted that my students know any particular thing about writing. We will start and proceed at the students' pace.
- Setting a policy on when I will email students back. Last semester I spent the great majority of my life checking, returning, and fretting about email. I vow to you all here and now, one hour a day maximum.
- Educating my students about the academic baggage they will forever have to drag around if they fall off the face of the earth. Last semester, I was shocked at the number of students who did a significant amount of work and then disappeared into a vortex of lost students, socks, and keys. Specific dates that allow students to leave the class with a minimum amount of penalty will play a big role in my syllabus.
- Explaining how students can access all the available resources on campus. Though I went over this in a general way, I can now see how important it is that I lead them to the metaphorical water.
- Being firmer in the beginning of the semester and more agreeable as the class proceeds, versus the other way around which was what happened last semester.
Finally, the most important (and probably difficult) adjustment I will make is in my mindset. As satisfying and fresh as beginnings seem, they are only a small part of the journey. Putting one foot in front of another, laughing with yourself off when you fall, and giving yourself pep talks through the difficult parts are invaluable skills. A fresh start can come on any given day. No path is so well worn that it cannot be modified.
"Every day is a fresh beginning. Every day is the world made new." Sarah Chauncey Woolsley