Back-to-School Scheming

Most people look at the beginning of a calendar year as a time to review where they’ve been in the last twelve months and what they want to do in the next twelve. This makes sense, of course. The first day of the first month of a new year seems so ripe for new beginnings.

For me, though, the new year always begins at the end of August. When a new school year begins, so do I. I have been living according to the August-to-August year for as long as I can remember. I started Kindergarten in August, 1983, and since then I have been governed by the school year. Thirteen years of primary education (counting Kindergarten), four years of college, seven years of graduate school, and three years of college teaching — this is year four. That’s a lot of years, now that I list it out like that. Twenty-seven years. Damn.

Well, to steer back in the direction of my point: I don’t begin the year anew in January, but now. Now is the time for me to think about goals, hopes, plans, plots, and schemes.

A building that reminds me of Winthrowup.

Here’s what I’ve been thinking about trying to accomplish this school year:

Stay Organized: Between my campus office, my home office, my teaching, and my research, things can get crazy. I always find myself wishing I had brought home a book or folder that I left at school, or frantically looking for my flash drive. I am attempting to solve this problem by syncing my work-related files with dropbox (AMAZING, simply amazing tool), keeping up with my schedule on iCal and my tasks with My home office will be used mostly for research and writing; my campus office will be prep, teaching, and grading central.

Plan Ahead, Grade Ahead: Hopefully staying organized will help here. My goal is really to avoid last-minute class prep and weekends full of grading hundreds of essays. Do a little at a time until it’s done. SO much easier said, though.

Pack Lunch: My office mate and I are going in together on a mini fridge to use in the office, which will make this easy and convenient. Any lunch I pack, no matter how hasty, will be cheaper and better balanced nutritionally than anything I can find on campus. Period.

Maintain Weight: I am really happy with where I am right now weight-wise. My fitness goals are always growing and changing (with my marathon focus right now and maybe more triathlons in the spring), but I don’t need or want to lose any more pounds. My newest Sports & Wine post over at the Bodies site explains my plans for the food aspect of weight maintenance, should you want to read about it in any more detail.

Bike Commute: I am committing to get to campus by bike instead of by car on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Those are my non-teaching days, where I might go in to grade or prep and thus I’ll be dressed in more casual, bike-friendly clothes. I may also try biking in on Tuesdays and Thursdays if I am wearing trousers, but my road bike with horizontal top bar isn’t ideally suited to biking in skirts (which I wear frequently). I have biked to campus once last week and twice so far this week, and it has made a trip in to the office on my “off” day much more enjoyable!

Dress Nicely: I still run into the problem of looking a little too young for my job, so I’m trying to cultivate a more professional appearance on teaching days so I can feel more confident and authoritative. I think it’s also going to help me to project more professionalism around the halls in general. Plus, clothes shopping is so much more fun now that I can wear standard sizes and therefore can shop in any store (uh, any not-too-expensive store, anyway — I still do have that enviable teacher’s salary). I’m currently finding inspiration from a few academic fashion blogs. See here, here, and here.

Job Market: The academic job market runs concurrent with the school year, meaning that postings for tenure-track assistant-professorships will start appearing soon. I don’t want to talk about this too much because it is an AWFUL topic, but here are my thoughts: I am not going to waste a ton of time and energy throwing myself at any halfway appropriate job just because one “should” go for the tenure-track openings. If something truly great appears on the job list, I will attack it with purpose. Expect not many updates on this one, ’cause, like I said, AWFUL topic.

Open Windows: I am going to try to be open minded about relationships and new people. Not just romantic relationships, but new friendships and social opportunities, too. Even though the guy and I split up, I still believe everything I said in this post. Just because that relationship didn’t work out doesn’t mean I have to be like Clooney in Up in the Air, and shit, you know?

What about you guys? Though your lives may not be Ruled by School like mine is, do you have any goals or plans cookin’ right now?


  1. I also measure my life in academic years. I’m not faculty (yet!) but I do work at a college, so the rhythms of semesters are familiar and comfortable. My goals for the next semester are to write, write, write, revise, revise, revise, and then assemble and submit ten kick ass MFA applications. Which will keep me pretty busy until December, which is the way I like things. 🙂

    You’re goals look great! Best of luck on them, and best of luck on the new semester! (And yes, I agree, job markets are AWFUL! Best of luck on that, especially.)


  2. Same here. And especially in the last few years when the beginning of the school year also meant moving and starting a new job. I have a lot of the same goals you have: I hope to get and stay organized & to stay on top of those stacks of papers I will have to grade. I’ve joined a gym for the first time in my life and hope that paying for it will actually result in me going to my yoga classes. I hope I can approach the job market in a healthy way that is not going to end in another mental breakdown (which also involves exploring alternative careers). Maybe most important of all, I want to work on being happy with what I have as opposed to being unhappy about what I don’t have (boyfriend, tenure track job, etc.). As for friendships, even though starting a new job each year was exhausting and stressful, I feel so lucky to have made such good friends in the process. I’m so glad I now live close by again!


  3. Am in the mid-semester thick of things, so finding it hard to cast my eye about and see the goals for the trees. I am still lucid enough, though, to observe that there’s nothing like the feeling of a beginning to get a house/mind/life in order. It’s one of the best things about this whole seven-day week system we’ve got going. To say nothing of the “tomorrow is another day” philosophy, which only works if you go to bed early enough, but still.

    Also, thank you for sharing the dropbox love. Ever since I discovered that deleting stuff from a memory stick doesn’t seem to restore its memory capacity, I’ve been longing for just this very tool.


  4. I still need to see Up in the Air. One of these days…

    So I’m stuck in a fairly awkward/ridiculous situation right now overseas. I’m three days into this twenty-one day journey and, yep, things ain’t going so well with pen pal. I guess I’m going to have forgo my hopes of all of this turning into a relationship and focus instead of touring museums, cafes, etc. Weirdly enough, the weather seems to be synchronizing with my moods. Yesterday I was feeling all optimistic and it was sunny out. Now I’m down in the dumps and it’s raining. Sigh…


  5. Hey, you’ve still got a couple of weeks over there. You never know. Anyway, even if the romance doesn’t take off, you can still have a great trip, right?

    I am trying to be levelheaded about the fact that my ex-guy-friend-person over here is popping up everywhere and is totally unavoidable and I’m trying to figure out if we can be friends or if we will just be people who act polite to each other in public but secretly program the other person’s ringtone as Randy Newman’s “Short People.” So, like, NEVER LISTEN TO MY LOVE ADVICE.


  6. Obnoxious ringtones for exes? Ha! Oh, man, that’s giving me a brainstorm….

    We had a chat about everything on Saturday night and she admitted that she doesn’t want to start anything just to watch it wither and die when I head back to the states in a few weeks. We agreed to stick with the “just friends” plan but this has caused us both to mope about and stare out windows longingly. One thing the past few days have taught me: never try to pair up two English majors. They will over-analyze every little thing and completely foul-up potentially wonderful love affairs.

    If the awkwardness continues after a trip we’re taking in a few days, I may opt to run off to Spain for my final week over here. I feel like I’m living in a Virginia Woolf novel or something.


  7. One thing the past few days have taught me: never try to pair up two English majors. They will over-analyze every little thing and completely foul-up potentially wonderful love affairs.

    Oh, dude. Totally. I mean it works for some people, but it hasn’t for me. Le sigh.

    On the good side: Virginia Woolf is awesome. I bet Spain is too. Make the most of your trip in whatever way you can!


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