How to Survive the First Week of Term

The Winter Semester is upon us! Tomorrow I start teaching and I feel that I am not as prepared as I should be. I have been dealing with the administration and rewriting of modules for the past three weeks but everything seems to be half finished. A sense of inadequacy and fear lurks somewhere in the deeper folds of my soul, as the students are arriving for their lessons. Even before teaching starts, I am already overworked, tired and anxious about the outcome. And I am probably not the only one. Here I give a few tips on how to survive this very first week of the new term:

• Hang on to the excitement of teaching your favourite topics. Remember that the majority of the students will be interested in learning. After all they are paying very high fees for the dissemination of your knowledge! So, keep the passion for teaching alive!
• Do not get caught in the intricate web of your administrative duties. Teaching should take precedence. Even if you cannot finish all your administrative tasks by the evening, do not despair. There is always tomorrow.
• If your duties are too many, ask for help. There is no shame in turning to your colleagues for assistance.
• Try to have proper meals at regular intervals. Do not follow my example! Last Friday I completely forgot to have lunch. I became aware of the problem only at 6 in the evening, after I arrived home. By that time my stomach was complaining bitterly for the neglect.
• Hit the gym! When the stress rises, make time to visit your local gym for a few swimming rounds. Alternative go for a walk, even if it is snowing! Exercise and fresh air have undoubted therapeutic effects.
• Go to bed early. There is no point in staying up late trying to finish your work, because the next day you will be exhausted and less than efficient. If you cannot sleep, then read a non-academic book, drink a chamomile and listen to some relaxing music.

And a piece of advice for the students: As the term starts, bring with you the excitement for learning! That is the one thing yours teachers need to keep them going during such a difficult time.

Economic historian and numismatic consultant


  1. One of the hardest things to do is establish a regular routine, because there are always ten more things that we should be doing. The routine is important, because only then do the regular meals and exercise become a reality. Since each semester’s schedule is different for me, establishing that routine takes effort. When I don’t do it, the semester becomes much more stressful and unhealthy for me.

  2. I propose one more vital preserver of sanity, which will make it possible to do as you propose and give teaching priority over administration. We all have to fill in too many forms and reports these days. Most of them will be filed and forgotten. So whenever a document will not affect the welfare, progress or academic record of a student, spend very little time on it. In extremis, make up whatever will satisfy the bureaucracy. It won’t matter. This is simply a sane response to a mad world, if I may borrow R. D. Laing’s description of schizophrenia (which I am aware is no laughing matter).

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