Monday, August 22, 2005


It's Coming! (Theme from Jaws in the Background)

Faculty and students aren’t the only ones to dread the start of the Fall semester.

The first few weeks of a new semester are always hard. We have the professional development days, in-person registration (which gets progressively harder with each day, as more sections of popular classes close and students get more desperate), new students wandering the hallways aimlessly, a panoply of meetings, longer hours, and a general sense of frantic chaos. When the dust settles, it’s time to start the battery of class observations.

The faculty always come back energized, for good and bad. For some reason, they always seem to forget that the rest of us work through the summer – if I hear one more tanned, tenured prof ask me how my summer went, things will get ugly. I won’t miss the summer weather – humid heat just isn’t my thing – and it will be good to have full days again, but the return of office politics is hard to relish.

What makes this Fall especially poignant is that The Boy will officially start public preschool. Our district has a half-day, five-day-a-week program for four-year-olds, and it meets in one of the regular schools. (It’s a bonus of living in a diverse town. Our town has enough low-income kids in it that the state requires it to run a preschool program. If we lived in a tonier burb, daycare would be entirely on us. For once, my ‘social democrat’ side doesn’t conflict with my ‘smart shopper’ side.) It’s a good thing, really; he needs the stimulation and the opportunity to play with other kids, and The Wife desperately needs a respite from his energy during the day. It’s just hard to let go. It’s a milestone of growing away from us, which I know is good, but it’s still a little sad. He’s our little guy.

This Fall, it’s coming from all sides. At least the weather should be nice...

Unfortunately, not all faculty members get the summer off. Sure, we have the option of not teaching but when you're new and at the low end of the payscale with student loans to pay off ... well, summer teaching is a way of lining your pockets. Added to that, my school has a 4-4 load with expectations of Research I research output. Blah! I might be a workaholic, but sometimes I'd like to have a life. (And don't get me started on service obligations in the summer!) Oh well, I love my job so I have to take the good with the bad.
public preschool... Fabulous. In some areas (Ann Arbor where I used to live, for example) they only have half day kindergarten. Uggg. very hard on the poor and the dual career folks.
My youngest is going to 'full-day' (ie. till 2:30) kindergarten this year, next week, and I'm ELATED. None of the empty nest angst I've hear about (maybe because I have four chicks).
Is your spouse as ambivalent as you about the preschool departure?

P.S. badger update is posted.
Dr. C -- I hear ya. At my old school, we had a 12-month, 45-credit teaching schedule. 15 credits per term, no breaks. Brutal. Though I've been a full-time academic for 8 years now, I have yet to have a summer off, and there's no prospect of that changing, ever. I try not to think about it.

Coach -- 'ambivalent' may be too strong a term. We're glad that he's going; it's just a little bittersweet in the way that growth milestones always are. Congrats on your youngest!
To All - I really thought I would be sad for The Boy to go to preschool, but I can't wait to get him out of my hair for half a day, every day. Mostly it's because I think he's bored at home with his mom and his baby sister, although God knows I try to keep him busy. But part of it is also because I'm anxious for him to really start learning and to strut his stuff. He's a smart little guy.

I will admit that the first day of preschool may find me a little weepy. The trick will be to hide it from The Boy.
Oh, c'mon. I've been a full-time academic for eight years too, and I don't get the summers off, either. Or, in many cases, weekends or holidays.

In the sciences, any appointment is a full-year one--realistically, it's every minute you can spare, since if you don't get the research done, you'll get scooped. I have so much vacation time stacked up (ten weeks) that they're refusing to let me accumulate any more. I do thake a little time off for sanity reasons, but I generally take less than a typical non-academic would. I'm not alone in that, either. The three-months-off-a-year thing is getting pretty rare, I'd think.
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