I recently finished year three at my university, and I feel excitement as summer is now before me. For most of my life, with a few exceptions, I have marked time on an academic calendar. And having been in a university setting for the last 19 years, I have had the luxury of summer being earlier.
Growing up in Minnesota, I savored the changing of the seasons and the build-up to summer. It’s not that I’m that much into being outside in the summer: it’s more the freedom, the rhythm of the seasons. That said, it’s been a joy to live in a climate that possesses summer-like weather more of the year around.
I find that the summer is time for me not only to accomplish much writing and reading but also to reflect and slow down. It also serves as a time for me to recharge my teaching batteries since the academic year races by. I’m grateful for a vocation that allows for that space, a space that then serves to generate anticipation for the upcoming school year.
When I began college as freshman 20 years ago this fall, I didn’t set out to be a university English professor, much less a teacher of any kind. I wanted to be a professional touring musician, playing in a successful rock/metal band. (But that backstory is a post for another time, although you can read part of the story here.)
Why do I find such satisfaction in teaching? (Please accept my apologies for a list that does not maintain parallelism.)
- the way in which what I teach feeds and nurtures my writing life (teaching creative writing, literature, and composition)
- writing is a solitary pursuit and teaching is a way in which I can share my experience (successes and failures) and background with others
- I’m not sure what else I could do that would fill me with such satisfaction
- I’m forced to adapt continually (to new students, to different courses, to different schedules)
- there’s variety
- I’m never bored
- my students push me (to be a better writer, a better teacher)
- seeing students succeed and be transformed
Then there’s the academic life itself and what I love about that:
- working with colleagues who love literature, language, and who enjoy talking about big (and small) ideas
- attending and presenting at academic conferences
- a work space to have away from home
- editing a journal
- directing a writing festival
There’s more that I might say about either of these lists, but I’ll leave them alone (for now). Right now, it’s back to my season of recharging.