The New-Semester Checklist


  1. No more late-night movies or TV. Forget the fact that you’re telling everybody else in your household that you’re up working late, because we know the truth: no more half-movies once remembered being watched when you are supposed to be doing other things. The semester is starting and you need to get back to your regularly scheduled programming, literally and figuratively. Get your DVR ready, or TIVO, and do it now. If you’re teaching at 8 a.m. or even 9 and do not have the privilege of being air-dropped directly onto your campus in a net bag, you need at least an hour to negotiate either public transport or to find parking. Doing the sleepy-time math, this means you need to get to sleep before midnight. If you’re under 40, maybe you can get away with staying up until 1 a.m., but no later. Of course, if you are over 62 and still teaching at 8 a.m., this could indicate that you are in a second or third partnership, are raising a second batch of small children, have no hope of ever being able to retire, and will be teaching until you are 106. If this is the case, it doesn’t matter when you go to sleep. All the clocks are off.
  2. Decide what you are having for lunch for the next 15 weeks. Wouldn’t it be great if you could really do that? Some folks with OCD or eating issues manage it, but since it isn’t polite to find pathology enviable, I won’t say any more about it. But still—wouldn’t it be great if you knew there would always be an egg-salad sandwich, a little bag of chips, a perfectly ripe Gala apple, and a tiny bottle of Pellegrino waiting at lunchtime? Wouldn’t it be terrific not to get to work, realize you don’t have any cash to go to the lunch cart (besides, it’s raining), and be forced to eat from a pop-open tin of meat-paste you brought back from your last trip to England as a curiosity? Some people can do this. They plan their meals out through 2039. I want to become friends with them and have them include me in their lunch plan. I have no shame. Until then, I’m grateful that my basement office is directly next to the vending machine. Snickers bars have protein, right?
  3. Wash, shave, dye, groom, shine, and polish. I did a bunch of posts a while back about what students find more distracting and disturbing about their instructors and it can be boiled down to this: If we look like slobs, or weirdos, or carnies, they won’t listen to us because they’re spending all their time looking at us. Sorry, folks, but it’s the truth. If your blouse has a stain the size of a ferret down the front, your students are not listening to you. They are wondering whether you know about the ferret, and, if you do know about the ferret, why you can still stand in front of a room and speak. If your trousers have worn away a slice of your back pocket where you store your wallet, your students will worry about it the entire time you’re writing on the board.
  4. Finish your review, conference proposal, article, story, poem, or magnum opus NOW. That’s what you planned to do over break, wasn’t it? What are you waiting for?
  5. Remember that by the time this semester is over, there will be new leaves on the trees, real warmth in the air, and that several of your students will be graduating. But also remind yourself (since tomorrow is promised to no one) to make as much of each day as it comes. Just make sure to get some sleep and pack a good lunch.
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