For those in academics, life has a pattern and it is called semesters. It is actually one of my favorite things about life in academia – a rhythm of life where seasons of intense growth are followed by seasons of fruitful rest.
Thus, every August brims with excitement and expectation as students dream about all the new year holds. From the new class of freshman and their excited but nervous looks on the first day of class…to the final semester senior and their excited but nervous thoughts about life after school, campuses fill with an energy that is hard to match in other settings because college is place where we expect to grapple with the big questions of life. And so it is that August, and its new beginning, is often a time of reflection in my life.
I stand in an interesting place in the ethos of campus life as both student and professor. On one hand, I am a student excited yet nervous about what the semester holds. (Read Stanley Hauerwas’s wonderful letter to Christian college students – here)
- What will I encounter?
- Whose ideas will change my perspective?
- Whose ideas will transform me?
- Where will I succeed?
- Where will I fail?
- How will I respond to success and failure?
On the other, I am a professor and my excitement and nervousness stems not from being unsure of what lies ahead (after all I did prepare the syllabus, the lectures, the assignments, and the exams) but from my desire to be faithful to the task given me as a professor. (These ideas are drawn from Bryan Bibb’s excellent lecture – here)
- Can I communicate in way that informs, challenges, and excites the students?
- Can I be a model of excellence in scholarship for students?
- Can I provide wise, faithful mentoring to students?
Therefore, as this new semester begins, I am left to ponder, “Why am I here?” As a student, what am I doing that will prepare me to be a better professor? As a professor, what am I doing that will make me and those I have the privilege of teaching better students? And even beyond that as a student and professor, what I am doing that will make me and those I encounter this semester better people…people who live in a manner worthy of our calling as students and professors. For ultimately, this is the goal for which I toil and strive.