Since I will be leaving for another vacation tomorrow and plan to be home only one week during August, I have been scrambling over the last week to get done everything I need to do before the semester begins. I've been rewriting my syllabi, mapping out my courses, cleaning my desk, and even making copies. It doesn't feel right to be doing this all during July, so far ahead of time. Usually, I make all my plans during the third week in August and that busyness helps mark the transition from summer mode to semester mode.
This year, though, I will be spending the last two weeks of August on a 14-day raft trip through the Grand Canyon. It's a white water adventure and writing workshop rolled into one. It's a trip I am looking forward to, a trip that I expect to be restorative and life-changing. But classes start the day after I return home so I have to plan my fall now, in July heat.
It's been difficult, especially on these ridiculously hot days, to even think about the fall. I've taught these courses many times before, and I like the books I am planning to use, so it's not that I am doing an unpleasant task. No, the hard part was simply rousing myself from summer mode: switching my brain into a different type of thinking.
It's not that I don't think about my courses during the summer: I read books I am considering. I talk to colleagues about teaching. I went to a week-long conference in Oregon. I go to meetings on campus. But it was still hard to get my brain back into thinking in terms of a MWF structure and planning what I can do in one-hour chunks of times. It was painful to put paper due dates on the syllabus, remembering that I will be grading all those papers. On peaceful summer afternoons, I can almost forget the whole ordeal of paper grading, and I was not happy to be reminded of it.
But despite the heat, the humidity, and my absolutely miserable mood, I did get all my planning done. I even called the bookstore and put in my book orders. I've piled all those folders onto the back corner of my desk. I am free now to return to summer: another month of camping and canoeing, reading and writing, hiking and rafting, sunshine and water.