In the US, some colleges and universities start the academic year in August and some start in September. I've spent time at both types as a student and a professor, and I know that I strongly prefer a September start.
Perhaps I have lingering childhood memories of the excitement of starting a new school year every September in a place with a dramatic autumn season. Perhaps I don't get excited about the start of the school year in August because I'm not emotionally done with my summer-to-school year transition in August. By September, however, I'm ready for school.
Shopping for school supplies with my daughter, a middle schooler, helps get me in a good mood for the new school year. Despite the fact that Middle School seems to require an insane number of pens and pencils of different sorts, not to mention notebooks with very specific numbers of pages and rulings and margin styles and binders of a certain thickness, only some of which can be easily acquired in local purveyors of school and office supplies, shopping for school/office supplies is one of very few sorts of shopping experiences I prefer to have in a real store rather than online.
I don't know what it is, but I do know that however reluctant I am to see the end of summer, there is something exciting about the beginning of a new school year. I feel it every year in September, just as I always have.
It is a bit of a shock to see campus filling up again at the beginning of the school year, and I gaze in wonder at the flocks (pods?) of freshmen being oriented. I am deeply grateful that I am old enough to have avoided such things myself. I see the freshmen being oriented by means of strange little games intended to promote bonding. I would have hated that when I was a student.
But however unnerving it is to see the campus thronged with people, the swarms are yet another harbinger of the shiny new academic year, when we get to start fresh with teaching and get to know our new graduate students.
How long does the thrill of the new year last? I would guess a couple of weeks in a typical year. It depends in part on when the first faculty meeting is scheduled. Faculty meetings and other committee meetings are very effective at extinguishing my childlike thrill about a new school year.
The beginning of the school year is interesting, but there are also good things about having the term well under way. The beginning-of-term time is always associated with some craziness and confusion, with students adding and dropping classes at various times during the first couple of weeks and being generally perplexed by (or unaware of) various important logistical aspects of a course. It's nice when that part is over and you and your students are in a routine and making progress with teaching and learning interesting things.
And now that it is mid-Septemberish, it is time for the first poll of the FSP academic blog year. For my academic readers:
7 months ago