I have no idea who Captain Chad Fisk is…but golly, I’m glad that he made it home from Iraq safe and sound. This sign and its accompanying flags and banners are attached to the fence that surrounds the bronze sentinel who stands at the head of Keene’s Central Square. This island of greenery at the center of downtown’s bustling main rotary has been the site of Saturday anti-war protests since the war in Iraq began. I don’t know about you, but I love a town where anti-war protests, home-made welcome home signs, and patriotic banners can coexist right beneath the sheltering gaze of a statuary soldier.

My employer, Keene State College, is putting out a different kind of Welcome Home sign for returning students. After tolerating an entire year of noisy construction, dirt, and relocated classrooms and faculty offices, returning students will be greeted by KSC’s brand-spanking-new Science Center. Since I teach in the English department, I’ll probably never set foot in this building…but it’s nice to know it’s there, just as it’s nice to know that Captain Chad Fisk is relaxing in the safe comfort of friends and loved ones.

Today I went to campus to run a handful of teaching related errands and to remind myself that classes resume the week after next. When you teach for a living, you fall into a strange seasonal cycle based upon the academic calendar. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that you never snap out of the strange seasonal cycle that school children are governed by, where summers are a time for free-form laziness and fall is the time when everything kicks back into gear again. All I know is that I feel as if I’ve only now gotten “into” the swing of summer: after too many months of “naturally” waking up early, only recently have I acclimated to the notion of sleeping in late and being able to take midday naps whenever the need arises. (Incredibly, I still seem to be sleep-deprived and/or Post-Traumatic Stressed over the grind to finish the dissertation.) So the thought of teaching 8 am classes once again is somewhat daunting: who, me? You expect me to be awake, coherent, and “inspiring” at 8 am?

Although I always tell myself in June that I’ll spend the summer “leisurely” preparing for the classes that will begin in the fall, I never keep to this resolution. Instead, “out of sight, out of mind” seems to govern my teaching habits. Although I haven’t taken the summer entirely “off” from teaching–at the beginning of the summer, I taught a full courseload spread out at three different colleges, and over the past few months I’ve taught one writing course online–I haven’t spent much if any time thinking about my fall semester classes. Only this weekend did I get around to getting a copy of the research guide I’m assigning in my Expository Writing classes: although I’ve previously used one of the books I’m assigning, the other book is one I’ve never assigned before. And although I’ve started reading this year’s Summer Reading Program selection, a book that we’ll discuss in my Freshman Writing classes, I haven’t finished the book much less decided how to incorporate it into my lesson plans.

So, I’m feeling not-at-all-ready for re-entry into the academic world: I hope Captain Fisk is settling in at home better than I am dealing with the thought of settling back into the school year. I can only imagine the culture shock of leaving a war-zone to return to the sleepy summertime comfort of Keene, NH: compared to what Capt. Fisk has faced for the past few months, my whining about starting back to school sounds like, well, whining. Ready or not, the doors of that brand-spanking-new Science Center will open when classes resume; ready or not, I’ll walk into my 8 am class on Tuesday, August 31 to greet yet another gaggle of groggy-eyed freshmen. Welcome to college, kids: if you’re apprehensive at the thought of starting over in a new place, rest assured that your been-here-before professors feel surprisingly the same. Welcome home to new and old faces alike: whether you’ve been through the wars or have merely protested them, the doors will be wide open to usher you inside.