Beki Grinter

Goodbye Summer, Hello Academic School Year

In academia, academic management, computer science, discipline on August 18, 2010 at 4:29 pm

It’s the end of the academic summer. Actually it’s three working days from the end of the academic summer. Classes start next week. Those three days matter, I am clinging on to them with a type of mental fervor that is not to be underestimated (or is that misestimated).

Those three days represent everything I am going finish this summer. That would include my course preparation, the books I’m going to read, and clearly the papers and grants I am going to write. Three days, that should be enough.

The academic summer is a bit like the academic weekend. Friday is a time to imagine all the wonderful things that will be accomplished over the weekend. And then it starts, and stuff does get done, but not everything that is imagined, because I think like many of my colleagues I imagine that I will complete more than I can realistically achieve, especially if I also then do what I should which is take time off, go on vacation, and spend time with family.

The academic summer is also like the academic bag. Approach a colleague and ask them to remove the contents of their bag, focusing particularly on the tools of the job. How many have articles that they have intended to read in their bag for a) six weeks, b) six months or c) six years. One of the advantages of going to France was that for a time I was printing in A4, and so I could easily date those articles. Eventually I purchased a smaller bag and that seems to have solved some of this, but like the summer, like the weekend, the bag is also a place of academic imaginations.

So, my academic summer is almost over. Following FemaleScienceProfessor I was careful to compartmentalize my time this summer, and I feel I got some great things done. Computing at the Margins was moved forward, I did some writing, reading, etc. I saw my first student graduate, yay!

And there is much to look forward to with the new academic year. New students, undergraduates and graduates will arrive. Their excitement about starting a program at Georgia Tech, perhaps mixed with a tinge of intrepidation, is the adventure of a new bachelors, a professional degree, their entry into research. That they give to us, entrust in us, those ambitions, their hopes and fears, what an honour. There is also the privilege of teaching classes which I view as the opportunity to play a role in helping individuals develop knowledge. I think it’s a team process.

So, it’s really all good. But it’s different. It’s a departure from a schedule that is mostly mine to one that is a combination. It’s time to finish preparing for a class I’ve never taught. Ho hum. Classes more generally remind me of being on stage. I get pre-performance nerves. In addition to my performance, I also become the one person everyone knows, while I struggle to learn everyone’s names. And so, I’m clinging to these last days of summer, deferring anxieties about what is to come, and wondering whether my colleagues are too.

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