Sunday, August 27, 2006

Reflections Before the Start of a New Semester

On Friday I attended my department's annual faculty meeting and was pleasantly surprised. I was not really looking forward to the meeting because it usually drags on for a couple of hours with a few people talking about issues that affect only those few people in the department. The rest of us are left to sit and sigh and wait for it all to be over. But this time, the meeting ended after a short 45 minutes with no discussion of irrelevant issues. I hope this is a sign of good things to come this semester.

As I was leaving campus, I passed by some of the residence halls. Friday was move-in day for campus residents, and they and their parents were busy carrying in all the things that college students need to survive dorm life. Boxes and boxes of different types lined the sidewalks waiting for their contents to be placed into service in their new homes. Some boxes were obviously second-hand aquirements from the grocery store, once used to carry bananas but now pressed into service to haul books, linens and towels, and stuffed animals. Other boxes were brand new, shiny, unopened packaging for inexpensive pressboard furniture waiting to be assembled. I did notice, however, one box that stood out from the rest--it showed a picture of an electric chainsaw. I certainly hope that this box was recycled. I don't know how those dorm rooms are going to contain all the stuff that was sitting on the sidewalks yesterday. I suspect that some parents had to haul some things back home Friday evening.

The first week of classes always contains some light chaos. Some students will experience some sort of scheduling problem and will react as if the world is coming to an end. Other students will find that because they paid their fees late, they were purged from all their classes. They won't appear on my class roll but will insist that they had been previously enrolled. "You may very well have been on my roll last week, but you aren't today," I'll tell them. "Therefore you are not enrolled in my class. Good luck finding another one," I'll say with encouragement, but I'll know that this semester they won't be able to take English.

During the first couple of weeks when work is still relatively light, my officemate and I will occupy the free time between classes tracking hurricanes online. We do this every year with relish, keeping each other updated on the latest developments. Last fall with Katrina and Rita, we had plenty to keep us busy. I'm not sure why we do this, but I suspect it has something to do with reminding ourselves that there's a life off of our campus and concerns wider than comma spices and sentence fragments.

We'll also catch up with our faculty friends that we didn't see over the summer. It'll be almost as if we hadn't had nearly four months off. Three and a half weeks into the semester, we'll be saying, "God I'll be glad when this semester is over!" And that'll be the truth!


JMG said...

That should be comma "splices," not "spices."

jettybetty said...

Hope this semester is a great one--with not very many hurricanes to track either--eeeekkkk!

Tony Arnold said...

For a minute there, I thought English had taken on a whole new flavor.

Hurricanes are rough on the barge industry in which I work, especially after Katrina. Now we are mandated by the government to move/secure our assets almost a week in advance; a week in advance of a storm that changes directions by hundreds of miles in just a few hours.

You can easily, at the direction of the government, move your assets not out of harms way, but into harms because of a change of course.

No hurricanes would be welcome this year.