So it begins.
We sit down at our desks on that first day of classes. Without so much as a “How do you do,” the professor gives us each a stack of paper the size of a cement block: a list that enumerates all of the things that will theoretically be accomplished in the next three months. We keep waiting for Beethoven’s Fifth to start playing in the background. Fate is knocking at our door in the form of reams of paper covered in small print.
First we see the course policies. These include the obvious, such as “don’t text in class” and “you have to take the tests if you want to pass this class.” But then there’s the more confusing stuff, like how many times you can be late before your “lates” are counted as “absences.” Such as three lates is one absence, and three absences means you fail the class. Or maybe it’s three absences which make on late, which means you get three more lates and therefore six more absences before you have to drop the course. Of maybe it’s five lates make two absences, and after the sixth late you get a note from the records office saying they’re going to write to your mother….The point is clear. Unless you are dying of the Bubonic Plague, come to class.
The course policies are followed by a list of required reading. In one class there are six textbooks (the first of which will arrive in the mail after the first assignment is due), all of them thick, and oozing footnotes. Yes, they all need to be read by the end of the semester. No, you can’t pass the class without doing so. In another class there are three textbooks. In yet another, there are two, plus the requirement of reading five plays by the end of the semester.
The Syllabi Dementors have come for our souls.
Dramatics aside, the first day back in classes at college is always a little overwhelming. There’s a degree of endurance that the students acquired in the previous semester that dissolves during Christmas break. Trotting from class to class is a lot more wearisome than they remember, so by the end of day one, we’re wondering how we’re going to survive the other 120-something that remain.
But we will. It will end before we know, and we’ll be just that much more prepared for the other adventures headed our way.