The hallways are busy. The parking lot is full. The campus is back to being a hive of activity. It is September, and we are all back to school. It has always been my favourite month. Both as a student and a professor, I love the feel that is in the air when school starts up once more. The enthusiasm and excitement, the trepidation, the transition back to a routine.
Routine is sometimes a negative word, especially in education. It conjurs up images of tired classes with material that is unchanging from semester to semester, a professor who has given no thought to what they will cover and how best to reach students, and students comatose with apathy in their seats just trying to get through the lecture.
I don’t know ANY classrooms that operate that way. We need some consistency in schools, but that kind of thoughtlessness is not education.
When I speak of routine, I mean the satisfaction of settling back into a life filled with activities: the pool, the gym, kids’ karate and soccer, after school band, organized dinners, and weekend plans. It includes work…the daily tasks, the pleasure of regular conversations with colleagues, and the many delightful interactions with students. It is settling back into Thursday afternoons with the door shut and the sun streaming through windows and reflecting off the river while I plan new lessons, new delivery, new material. It is Sunday mornings finalizing grading that didn’t quite get finished, reading new articles that might get incorporated into a class, or getting a head start on a future assignment that needs to be created.
It’s a good thing.
Still, my routine was thrown on its head this week as I started back to classes with a head cold that by Wednesday had me unable to speak above a whisper. I flipped some material around, got creative, and classes went on as usual, driven by student inquiry that I will enlarge upon next week now that my voice and energy have returned.
But you know, curveballs like that are not bad. This unexpected change to my plans gave students an opportunity to show me what they could do, where their interests are. I can use that to my advantage in the coming weeks. Because sometimes, throwing the regular routine out the window for a class, a day, or maybe even a semester….it’s just what we need.