The Professor’s Guide To Pre-Semester Procrastination

Jennie Young
Aug 7, 2020 · 3 min read
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May: Tell yourself that you just have to make it through finals, and then you have three full months to prep for Fall. Fall will be the best and most organized semester ever.

June: Decide to take June off. You need to get out of your head. You’ll be academic again in July.

July: Panic because you haven’t published anything this year and you’re not going to get tenure. Commit to spending all of July writing and vow to prep for Fall semester in August. A month is plenty of time.

Midway through July: Decide that what you really need to do is train for a marathon. Focus on that.

First week of August: Decide to take this first week off from all academic endeavors as a transition. Tell everyone you’re in a “liminal space.”

Second week of August: Decide to add yoga to marathon training. You need to stretch to counteract the running. Reach out to colleagues to reassure yourself that others are handling Fall semester prep as poorly as you are. Post some funny memes about that and really embrace your dysfunction.

Later during the second week of August: Have a come-to-Jesus meeting with yourself about the looming semester and sit down at your desk to write your syllabi. Check all social media, dating, banking, and news sites. Pack up stuff and go to coffee shop, where you’ll really be able to focus. Run into colleagues in coffee shop and spend time catching up with them instead of working. Collegiality is important.

Third week of August: Decide to add mindfulness practices to marathon training and yoga. It would be nice to have syllabi and curriculum prepared for your students, but it’s even more important to model healthy self-care practices. And “mindfulness in the classroom” is a very powerful recruitment and retention term right now. All the kids are stressed out — they’re absolutely crippled by anxiety and depression. You really need to incorporate mindfulness practices in your classroom or you’re probably some kind of old-school, out-of-touch, unspeakable monster who just doesn’t care.

End of fourth week of August: Pull up that awesome Chronicle of Higher Education article about how not only do you not need to go over the syllabus the first day of class, but you shouldn’t. Decide that you really ought to subscribe to the Chronicle rather than just trying to get the good stuff off Facebook for free. Open another tab to do that but then decide to wait until the academic year starts and you begin receiving paychecks again. Deep down inside, recognize that you’ll go through this exact same exercise multiple times and never actually subscribe to The Chronicle.

Night before classes begin: Fire up your Headspace app and spend the final hour of the night before classes begin zenning out so that in the morning you can greet your students from a place of purposefulness and focus. For, you know, whatever. Whatever arises. The classroom should be an organic place in which students are not “taught to,” but given the space to emerge. Text your colleagues and schedule a coffee the next afternoon so that you can reflect upon all this and discuss new initiatives and learning outcomes you’ll incorporate for Spring semester.

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Thanks to Alex Baia

Jennie Young

Written by

English professor and humor writer based in Green Bay. McSweeney’s, Points in Case, HuffPost, Slackjaw, Little Old Lady Comedy, Human Parts, others.

Slackjaw

Slackjaw

Medium humor. Large laughs.

Jennie Young

Written by

English professor and humor writer based in Green Bay. McSweeney’s, Points in Case, HuffPost, Slackjaw, Little Old Lady Comedy, Human Parts, others.

Slackjaw

Slackjaw

Medium humor. Large laughs.

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