Today many of us are penciling in our New Year’s resolutions. We’re using pencils because putting them in ink would demand too much commitment. We’ll promise to spend less money and get our finances in order. We’ll promise to eat healthier and exercise more. Of course the new gym membership and the organic produce will bust the newly penciled budget, but we might as well dream big.
Most of us feel compelled to go for the big New Year’s resolution because the beginning of the year is the best marker for sweeping changes, and unfortunately it only comes around once every 365 days. College professors, however, have the luxury of penciling in more modest resolutions because we get our fresh starts more frequently. We get to pace ourselves a bit on the resolutions.
In the fall, at the beginning of the new academic year, I lay my plans for educational outcomes and classroom experience. Every August, I resolve that in the coming year the students will learn more because I will be a better teacher. I plot and I plan. I think about my syllabuses, and I think about my schedules. I reassess my methods of assessment, and I design new assignments. I try to change my courses to ensure that the students will be more engaged, more challenged, and, yes, more delighted than my students from the previous year.
By the time January rolls around, it’s time for a whole new set of resolutions and plans. These usually don’t have much to do with teaching. I’ve seen what did and didn’t work from the previous semester, so I adjust accordingly. My resolutions for the spring semester usually deal with personal and family-oriented goals. These resolutions are for the whole year, but there will be time to reassess them in a few months.
Mid-May is the college professor’s prime season for setting goals and making resolutions. Three months with no teaching responsibilities lay ahead, and every academic feels as though he could remake the entire world with that amount of free time. Our resolutions are lofty—I will research! I will write! Our resolutions also include the mundane—I will finish all those home repairs. Our resolutions are noble—I will teach a summer class so that the family can take that weeklong vacation to Disney World. To be honest, most professors’ summer resolutions are absurd. We think that we can cram a lifetime’s worth of effort into three month, and we really just catch up on all those TV episodes that we didn’t have time to watch during the school year.
But it’s not time for the sort of resolutions that will shake the very foundations of the earth. It’s only New Year’s Eve, so I will be making the more modest resolutions typical of the college professor.
1. I resolve to read more than I did in the previous twelve months. This one shouldn’t be too hard since I read a third fewer books in 2012 than I did in 2011. I might even put this one down in ink.
2. I resolve to write more this semester. I know this one might sound ambitious, but I’m not planning to become a writing machine. I won’t be cranking out two thousand words a day. A little personal writing, a little blogging. Just enough writing to keep me fresh. I might even do a little work on a manuscript that I have laying around, but nothing too strenuous. After all, academics save their immodest writing goals for mid-May.
3. I resolve to give my three children music lessons. I’m not sure how this one will work out. I’ve never attempted such a thing before, and I don’t even know if I have enough time. Let’s pencil it in anyway.
What kind of resolutions are you making this year? Do you make resolutions at any other times during the year?