The Last First Day

I’ve been a college professor for twenty-eight years. That sounds like a long time (and it is) but it sounds even longer if I say 56 semesters.

I’ve had 56 first days. Fifty-six times I’ve adjusted to a new schedule, new classes, new students, new colleagues, new textbooks. (I’m blogging about my last year of teaching at Goodbye, Day Job!)

The first day of the semester is always exciting and a little scary. Will my students be eager and curious and hard-working? Will there be one student—sometimes two, never more, in my experience—who will make me wish for a nice, long case of mono, nothing fatal, but something that will keep that student out of my class for a while to give me a break? Will my assignments get them excited, or will they be frustrated/bored/indifferent?

Last Monday was my last first day of the semester, and the last time I’ll face those questions. I’m retiring from teaching in May so I can devote myself to writing, traveling, and the ever-more-time-consuming activity of book promotion.

I’m hoping I’ll write more and promote more effectively, but I’m riddled with doubts. It’s scary and exciting, all at the same time.

I wonder how I’ll feel next fall when all my colleagues and former students are having their own first day and I won’t. I hope I’ll be so busy I won’t even notice it, that I won’t feel a pang of regret that they will be having those scary and exciting first days while I’m sitting in my home office.

I’ll let you know!


  1. I think there is a certain beauty in the awareness that it's your last first day... I mean, so often we experience lasts but don't know until after they've passed. Knowing that you are retiring gives you an opportunity to really relish this semester, sort of a grieving-in-progress. Then you'll be all ready to embrace your new life!

  2. Tracy, congratulations on 28 years of sharing your gifts with your students (you have impacted their lives in more ways than they can express or may even know themselves). Here's to the first page in the next chapter in your writing life!

  3. So true, Irene! It gives a certain clarity to everything.

    Thank you, Trudi!

  4. Yes! Congrats, Tracy! I took the full-time plunge after I got my master's. School had really been the defining point of my life; I'd never taken any time off between degrees or even in the summer. But I was so wrapped up in what I was doing that I didn't think about school at all, after I took the plunge...


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