We academics like to joke about the plague of October commonly known as exploding head syndrome. It’s the time in the academic year when things really start to heat up, especially for those of us not yet lucky enough to be tenured/tenure-track. Sure, the rest of the year is busy, and April can be rather unpleasant for those in some stage of professional burnout (“All of you can go to hell and stop whining about your grades. No, you may not skip class on Friday to start Spring Break early!”) But October is a special breed altogether.

Every year I’ve wondered, “Why?” How is it that I (and everyone else) get overwhelmed with work? Especially after a couple of years on the market, I more or less know the drill. Applications are usually due some time in October or November, but I usually know about all of them in early September. So I can pace myself in drafting letters, tweaking research statements, and the like.

But then there’s the matter of teaching. Being an early career type, I find myself evolving and tweaking classes each semester. That does require work, and a lot of it. New quizzes, new assignments, etc. I made the mistake of not only switching textbooks, but also changing from a writing-heavy format to an assessment-heavy format. I also made the switch to Prezi, so I’m migrating all of my PowerPoint-type materials there. This semester has me teaching MWF instead of TTh, which makes planning things out a little different. Heavier teaching loads also mean more e-mails, more one-on-one meetings, more students to keep tabs on. Midterms are coming up, and I’m nowhere close to starting. Never mind submitting midterm grade reports for people who didn’t make the grade and listening to the inevitable whining by people who are just now realizing that they could indeed fail a class.

As if that weren’t enough, I’m also getting back into a few scholarly pursuits. By the end of next week, I need to have an entire survey online, IRB stuff submitted, and a preliminary prototype of a measure I’m developing for a collaborative project. It’s going to be a lot of busy work (coding the experimental conditions and formatting answer choices) and a lot of intellectual work.

I can see things getting really ugly the week before Fall Break. Until then, I’ll do the best I can and count the days until Winter Break! Oh, and pray I don’t actually acquire the quasi-plague that’s been decimating the student body. Ick.

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