In North America most schools have either started again for the next academic year or will very soon. It’s an exciting time of year for us, since the start of a new academic year brings lots of new energy, hope for things that will come, and that shiny feeling that comes from a fresh start. The excitement that I get this time of year is also a sign that I’ve found the right career for me.
This time of year is also a continual reminder for me to watch myself in making assumptions when I’m in the majority. For example, I started this blog post by clarifying that my experience is based on the fact that I live in the Northern Hemisphere. While I know many fewer academics in the Southern Hemisphere, starting a blog post assuming that everyone is experiencing the start of a new academic year would be off-putting to them. This isn’t something I’ve always been careful about, and I thank my Southern Hemisphere friends for their patience in correcting me when I assume that everyone starts their academic year in August or September or when I use seasons to describe any point in time. (Hint to other computing education researchers: cut out the seasons thing when you write papers or give talks. It’s really annoying).
I’m in the majority among my peer group when it comes to the hemisphere in which I reside, but I am most certainly not when it comes to the type of term at my academic institution. At DePaul we are on the quarter system, and that is a rare thing indeed. It’s so rare that I have gotten numb to people, even at DePaul, calling our terms “semesters”. But this time of year always feels like a fresh reminder of my minority status when it comes to the organization of our academic year. Email after email and post after post from publishers, other academics, and even students use the word “semester”. And while it’s a small thing and a single word, it makes me feel invisible. When the terms used by the majority don’t include you, it highlights your minority status. So I take the slight discomfort that I feel when I hear someone refer to my “semester” and try to use that to inspire me to watch my language when I’m in the majority.