View From the Classroom: A new beginning

Steven D. Schwinn is an associate professor of law at The John Marshall Law School. He is co-editor of the Constitutional Law Prof Blog http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/conlaw/ and he can be reached at sschwinn@jmls.edu or (312) 386-2865.

Once again, summer moved by all too quickly, and we’re readying to start another school year.  All the signs are here: that distinct smell of the classrooms (which somehow never changed from August classrooms going back all the way to primary school), the anxious jitters as we get ready to go to our first classes, and the hint of autumn  in the evening air all tell us that it’s time.

It’s also time for new beginnings.  The new school year gives students and faculty alike a chance to recommit ourselves to learning and to teaching, to adopt new and improved ways and habits, and even to reinvent ourselves as professionals.  It’s a special luxury that we in academia enjoy, this annual renewal, this new beginning.

For students, it means a chance to challenge themselves in new classes, new activities, and even new jobs—to try new things, and to test their limits.  It means an opportunity to meet new friends and to develop new professional relationships, many of which will last a lifetime.  It means a chance to renew those commitments that we all made to ourselves when we started law school—commitments to professionalism, to discipline, to hard work, to developing all those characteristics that make a good attorney.

For faculty, it means an opportunity to teach new courses, or to teach old ones in new and different ways.  It means a chance to reach out to new students and to initiate those most gratifying of student-professor relationships, the ones that endure long beyond graduation.  It means a chance to try our hand at new and different scholarly projects, or new pro bono cases, or new community service efforts.  It means a chance to engage our students and our colleagues in new and different ways.

For us in academia, the fall-time means that all doors are once again open.  We can start fresh; we can have a new beginning.  Let’s embrace this privilege that perhaps we alone enjoy and recommit ourselves this autumn to striving for excellence and professionalism in our work.

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