I was a little abashed to read Dr. Virago's post the other day about deciding what nifty things to add to an empty day in her fall course schedule. She, faced with the rich possibility of adding a new topic to the course, asked for recommendations for material to support a discussion of the future of literary studies.
I, faced with the same small empty block in my syllabus, thought "Woo hoo! A day off!"
Nearly every semester, I need to miss one day of class for a conference or professional obligation of some kind. This fall, for the first time in ages, I'm teaching a set of classes I've taught before without making any substantive changes, so all I needed to do was to shift the daily topics over to the fall calendar. And, lo and behold, since I'd needed to plan for missing a day in the previous semesters I'd taught the class, two out of my three classes ended up with one empty day each.
Yeah, I considered adding an extra day on some topic that had gotten a little too squeezed in previous semesters, but I'll confess I didn't consider it very long. The tantalizing jewel of an idea that dangled before my imagination was to simply build in a day off, ideally during October, more commonly known in the academic world as Exploding Head Month.
The fun part was trying to decide where to put it. Should I tack it on to fall break or maybe save it for Thanksgiving, to stretch those precious vacations out a little? Should I put it before the big midterm exam, to give both me and the students a little bit of a breather? Or maybe it would fit well on the Friday before my birthday, which often gets lost in the midsemester crunch? The possibilities are delicious.
I know that that magical day is going to disappear in a flash, probably consumed in grading or meetings or housework or whatever else I'm most behind on at that point, but right now it's worth it just to imagine the joy of a day off during the hardest part of the semester.