I am in a reflective mood as I reach the end of a much-needed restful holiday and contemplate what lies ahead.
I finished the academic year 19-20 with stress-induced perioptical dermatitis – perhaps unsurprising given the whole pandemic thing! It has been quite a (calendar) year so far. I started it in poor health, due to a virus (I do not know if it was THE virus, either way it wiped me out completely) which I didn’t fully recover from until early-mid February. Shortly after that one of my companion animals passed away following multiple vet visits and sustained nursing at home. By our Easter v weeks I was ready for a holiday and had a week in Sicily booked. Of course in practice it coincided with the pandemic accelerating in Italy and then here so the trip didn’t happen and the stress of the unknown (will we lock down? When?) and then the start of lock down ensued instead, for me against the backdrop of a new relationship. A week off in June coincided with finally being able to see my girlfriend again, which was wonderful but not restful (lots of emotions to deal with for both of us!). So it’s not surprising that I was a wreck by the time the proper holidays arrived in mid-August. I have largely spent them eating, resting, spending time with my girlfriend and getting a diagnosis for my eye skin condition which led to 2 weeks of 6 times a day taking and/or administering (tablets and creams) both plural!) an array of drugs.
And here I am, eyes still look a bit weird but I no longer feel like death, which really helps! Another academic year looms. My inbox is full of emails to make sense of, I’m still not sure how much of “back to work” = back in the office, and everything ahead, pretty much will be new. A positive new thing is that I have decided to go down to 4 days a week for at least this year (it’s a reviewed yearly thing). Hopefully that will make for a better work-life balance. (My main decision of last year was to submit a request form for going down in hours rather than apply for an academic director position which would have been the opposite! I wouldn’t have got it anyway, because my colleague who did definitely deserves it more and has much more relevant experience to bring to it than I would have, but it was still a choice with regards to what direction I wanted to pursue.)
This academic year, it feels like I will be starting a new job except with all my colleagues and without moving! It will still be EAP of course, but new timetable structure, syllabus, materials and platforms. Some assessment will be the same but some will be different. It’s quite an interesting position to be in really, the cognitive challenge of (nearly) everything being different but against the backdrop of a familiar team and with the added bonus of having an extra day off per week to regroup. Another bonus is that there will be plenty of development work to do in terms of materials, so that will be good to get stuck into. I have stepped down from my bulletin-writing TD role now (finished at the end of last academic year) and another role-related question remains to be answered: Will I continue to ADoS or not? It’s a decision I will have to make fairly imminently. But that is for another post!
For now, these are my academic year goals:
- Be curious! By being curious about everything that I encounter, all the newness that is ahead, I can open up lots of opportunities for learning and growth.
- Be patient! With myself, with my colleagues, with my students. It won’t be an easy year and that is ok, it can still be a positive one.
- Be grateful! Look for the positives and appreciate them. Smile lots.
- Be open to challenge! It’s ok, good even, for things to be difficult, challenge leads to discovery and growth.
- Be kind to myself! Look after myself appropriately, maintain a good work-life balance (easier with the 4-day week!), keep meditating, eat well, exercise regularly, spend quality time with my girlfriend regularly.
Perhaps, in fact, on reflection, these aren’t goals so much as values. And in line with these guiding values I can set specific goals. My goal for the first week back is finish it with a clear idea of what this term will look like and be ready to embark on teaching a new group the following week!
Bring it on, academic year 2020-21, I am ready for you! Um, I think… :-p Good luck to everyone who is kicking off a new academic year around now (northern hemisphere) and to everyone else, keep going only a few months left of this calendar year! 🙂