Happy New Year…not

One of the odd things about academia is that January doesn’t really signify a “new year”.  It’s really the halfway point, and for the handful of schools who are on a trimester system and don’t start their second term until January, it’s only the one-third point.  College courses generally don’t stretch directly across semesters/terms, even if a course is part of a multi-term sequence.  At most schools, the winter break is “only” a few weeks, not really long enough to be a major break in activity.

As a professor, I often get little time off during winter break.  If I’m teaching a new course or a heavily re-constructed old course, prep work can take up much of the break.  For those of us who are expected to do scientific research on top of what would otherwise be considered a full-time job of teaching and management/service, winter break often requires us to catch up on that research.  When both of these are true, well, even visiting family for Christmas can be challenging.  (Thanksgiving is generally impossible for those of us who have to travel for the majority of a day to get home or back combined with being so close to the end of the semester.)  It doesn’t help that about half the time I do travel over winter break, I get sick.

The new calender year doesn’t really excite me personally, either.  I haven’t had what I would consider a “good year” in more than a decade, so I’m not expecting that to change this year.  I have one thing in my life with which I’m satisfied, but January and February are my worst months for that.

I mentioned “a heavily re-constructed old course”, and that’s one of the courses I’m teaching this semester.  It’s part of a curriculum change that I think is rather stupid, didn’t really have any choice about, and is 100% on me to deal with.  That sentence is a pretty good description of my job here – and might be the epitaph of the job.

The good news is that there hasn’t been a crisis yet this semester, although there seems to be one pending…


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