September is here, and with it comes the last throes of what I’ve decided to call the seven stages of the end of summer break. (Note that if you’re at a semester-based school or live in the Southern Hemisphere the timing of these stages will be different. But I’d bet large sums of money that you go through the same stages, even if the timing is off).

  1. Shock & denial: This typically hits with about a month left in the break, which for me is the beginning of August. I initially am stunned that I only have a month left and then avoid the issue by not thinking about it.
  2. Pain & guilt: Once my mind returns to the subject, usually two weeks later, I feel terribly guilty that I either haven’t done more or that I haven’t relaxed more or both.
  3. Anger & bargaining: Just after the guilt wears off, or sometimes while I’m still feeling guilty, I start to get upset at myself and others about all the things I said I’d do this summer that stole away my time. I also start to bargain with myself about what I’ll do differently next year.
  4. Depression & reflection: Once it sinks in that the term will be starting again no matter how guilty or angry I am about it, I start to get sad. I think about what I did this summer, both good and bad. See my “what I learned this summer” post for an example.
  5. The upward turn: I usually get here once I start to prepare my syllabi. I remember that teaching the classes I do can actually be kind of fun. I’m still fairly grumpy though. I may cycle back through the other stages before moving to the next stages.
  6. Reconstruction & working through: Typically I get here once I prepare my first lectures and assignments. Barrages of email from students and colleagues can temporarily set me back, but I rebound more quickly. Commencement usually happens during this stage.
  7. Acceptance & hope: Labor Day or the Tuesday after it is a typical time for this stage. I’ve had to start waking up earlier to get my daughter to school, and I now remember the positive things about the routine during the quarter. I begin to wonder what my students are like and look forward to meeting them.

What I wonder is whether I can shorten any of these cycles by agreeing to do less. For example, will I experience fewer stages once I’m not doing conference organization? It’ll be interesting to see.

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