Sunday, September 16, 2012

New Academic Year

The summer has ended, most of the rest of the people in my life have been back into the swing of the new academic year. Since classes don’t start at my University until the end of next week, I have been able to pretend until now that it is still glorious summer. But this is my new year.

And it has been a glorious summer, though with close reminders of the bittersweet necessity to live life as richly as possible. I enjoyed family, friends, messing about in boats, and a new turn of phrase: to do a science. I did lots of sciences this summer. I derived a series of equations. I started to learn programming in Mathematica so I may see how the equations behave. I ran a few fun experiments at synchrotrons. I talked with students about their research, and did lots of reading, writing, and editing.

Each year, my summer ends with my first teaching dream of the school year. Spoiler alert: this dream is a teaching-anxiety dream in impostor-syndrome subcategory.

Here’s the real part: This fall I am taking on a new course (for me), a meaty, required graduate class that is required for the PhD program, and taken by most of the first year graduate students. I requested this change after teaching an also meaty, also required undergraduate course for the past ten years. I loved it for nine years, and then all of a sudden I didn’t and I knew I needed a break. Also, the graduate class is squarely in my discipline, and I had concerns that some of my colleagues were forgetting I was of that discipline. I asked the department chair nicely, and my requests were accommodated. Or, as my department chair put it recently in a slightly different context: “You asked for it!”

Here’s the dream part: Remember the retirement party from my first blog post? The professor who retired, one of the shining stars of the discipline, and had famously/infamously taught this course for many years. He consulted with the department chair and together they decided that I shouldn’t be allowed to teach this course, because I have never TA’d it. So eminent professor came back from retirement *solely* so he could teach this course so that I could be his TA. I woke up in the middle of the first lecture, when the professor introduced their TA (me) to the class, and walked out of the room while I addressed them.

I was happy to wake up, but sad the summer’s over, but glad to be kick-starting the swing of the new academic year, and glad to be preparing my own teaching notes, and learning a new course.


  1. I just have to say: that dream was hilarious! It's completely illogical, of course, but it has such a hint of reality pertaining to your new course. Thanks for sharing and good luck this semester!

  2. Thanks glacial_d. I have had vivid, occasionally telling and occasionally hilarious dreams since I was a child.