Faculty Perspective: Preparing for Class

You’ve spent the summer interning in your choice occupations, sunning yourself on umbrella-draped beaches, updating every step of your world travels on Facebook, dancing the night away in swanky nightclubs, stuffing your faces with backyard BBQ and relaxing the days away on couches with a big screen in front of you and a stack of Netflix envelopes sitting on the coffee table.

But every now and then, you’ve just gotta quit whatever break you’re taking and get back to work!

So now that the new fall semester is staring you square in the face, how do you make the transition from a summer of leisure (or at least, without school) to bringing your A-game back to Washington Square?

It’s been more years than I’d like to remember since I was a student, but as a professor, here are a few tips I can offer.

  • If you haven’t been, start watching/reading the news again. Watch fake news if you must or read it on an app. Grab that leftover Times sitting crumpled in that empty seat next to you on the subway. However you do it, begin reintroducing yourself to what’s going on in the world. No matter how abstract the subject matter may be that you encounter in the classroom, there’s always some relevance to the “real world” (as an aside, I never understood what or where the “fake” world was). Reimmersing yourself in your favorite form of news media will not only arm you to be able to contribute to class learning, but enable you to see the relevance of even the most obtuse subject – say, computational physics – even if the professor doesn’t point it out to you.
  • Take solace that, in this economy, you still have time to avoid the pain of looking for a job! And, be inspired that you may need to do extremely well in the classroom if you hope to find a good job when the time does come for you to face the job market!
  • Grab that last novel you’ve been dying to read, and read it. Fast. I’ve always found it’s a good way to get (or keep) the old creative juices flowing. Trust me, come grading time, your professors will appreciate you bringing some of that aroused imagination to bear on some of your class assignments.
  • Discover the NYU Events Calendar. No matter how many flyers, posters and emails you encounter just hanging out around campus, you’d be surprised at the sheer number and diversity of special events that are going on around campus. They may be lectures from renowned scholars from around the globe (or even right here in NYC or at NYU). It may be observing performance art, attending a gallery opening or getting plugged in to a community service opportunity. Whatever it is, find something you’re interested in (trust me, you will) and attend, as often as possible.
  • Finally – and these days I tend to say, most importantly – just enjoy being back in/at school! They will be some of the best days of your life and trust me, you will look back one day and wish you could do it all (okay, at least some of it), over again.

That’s what I have to offer. Try it out and let me know how it all works out for you.

Charlton McIlwain is an Associate Professor of Media, Culture and Communication at NYU Steinhardt