Post Academic

The Five Stages of the First Day of School

Posted in First Person by Arnold Pan on September 3, 2010
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"First School Day" by ERWEH (Creative Commons license)

I’ve been taking note of all the back-to-school status updates from my Facebook friends, which don’t exactly make me envious, though maybe a little nostalgic.  We’re still about 3 weeks from the start of school here on the quarter system (yay, summer!), though I’m entirely sure if anything changes that much for staff.  Anyhow, I was recalling what that first day of school is like from one stage of my academic life to another, starting with college up to being an adjunct.

1. College: There was definitely a palpable excitement for the first day of classes, since I was definitely a little bit of a self-defined geek going from high school to college.  It wasn’t just the thrill of living somewhere new with lots of interesting new people, but there was a sense of exhilaration in getting to choose what I wanted to learn for the first time ever.  I loved leafing through the newsprint schedule of classes, then slowly whittling down all the candidates for the courses I wanted to take into my schedule that quarter, leaving a little wiggle room for the “shopping” period to make my final decisions.  The first day of classes was just a fulfillment of all the planning, though maybe an anti-climactic one in the end.

2. Grad school: I experienced something of the same thing on my first day of classes in grad school, only it didn’t feel like such a watershed moment.  Rather, I went about starting grad school with a more practical — and perhaps cynical — perspective: Things needed to get done, such as figuring out what the other folks within what was going to be a very insular grad school social circle were like and gauging the competition among my classmates.  The latter wasn’t exactly front-and-center in my mind, but it was definitely something I was thinking about as I started to make my flawed and judgmental judgments way too early.

The first day of school gets less and less looked forward to, below the fold…