Back in the saddle

The “spring” semester starts up for us again on Tuesday, though spring itself is still a long way away. And, if recent years are any indication, the weather won’t feel like proper spring until somewhere close to finals week. Maybe not even then.

Still. It’s a new semester. There are updated syllabi (“Freedom of Speech” and “Media, Race, and Identity,” for anyone who might be extra curious). And so there’s a whiff of a fresh start in the air.

I’ve been doing this long enough (more than half my life actually, though I hadn’t quite put that frame on it for myself until I sat down to write this blog) that I know that “fresh start” feeling won’t last long. Every syllabus is the perfect encapsulation of a topic until it meets up with live students in a real classroom. Every assigned text is an ideal piece of a course’s grand narrative until the semester begins and real people start skimming (or misreading, or not reading) those carefully curated essays and the narrative gets jumbled. Every assignment is a brilliant exercise in pedagogical assessment until it meets up with the real world of over-extended and/or under-motivated students, and becomes just another hurdle to clear on the way to a grade. I know all those not-so-fresh moments are coming, and they’re probably coming sooner than I want them to.

Still. It’s a new semester. And I’ve been doing this long enough to know that, in spite of (and sometimes maybe even because of) all those not-so-fresh moments, there will also be genuine moments of learning and breakthrough and growth and transformation. And so hope springs eternal. Even if spring still seems like it’s an eternity away.

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