The new term/semester starts next week, and there’s the usual rush to get all the materials ready, whilst wondering what the students will be like. Combined with all the uncertainty in the sector at the moment, quite a difficult time… thankfully I’m only teaching one module this semester: I’ve taught it before, it’s enjoyable, and I am not the module leader!
Many have in common such things as insomnia on the eve of classes, or nightmares, which are surprisingly similar across cultures. Some even practise particular rituals – wearing a specific article of clothing or playing a favourite song in preparation for the start of the new academic year. Yet at a time when an entire industry has grown up around readying students for the resumption of university each autumn, only a few institutions prepare their staff to cope.
“It’s not a topic that is discussed often in the faculty lunchroom but faculty have high levels of anxiety when the semester begins,” says Peter Seldin, an emeritus professor of management at the Lubin School of Business at Pace University in New York and author of the book Coping with Faculty Stress, who has worked as a consultant to universities in 40 countries. “In fact, I cannot remember ever talking about this topic with any of my colleagues, and that’s over a 30-year span.”
Seldin says he has visited universities in countries as varied as South Africa, Finland and Malaysia, and found, after careful encouragement to speak frankly, that “there’s a commonality to that faculty experience. It’s the uncertainty that comes at the beginning of a term.”
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