Harvest Time in the Academy

It’s that time of the year again for students and professors: Crunch Time, Year End, the last, sheer drop of the scholastic roller coaster.

Professors are trying desperately to cram in all the material we are supposed to “cover” and haven’t yet because we enjoy our digressions too much. (Sorry about that, students. You’ve been a wonderful audience.)

Students, meanwhile, face term papers, final exams, thesis deadlines, and other forms of Doom.

Remember how we start a school year as students? Everybody excited about new courses, unread books and undiscovered ideas, foreign territories or tongues to explore? Remember how we wanted to get so many good things accomplished? Remember all those good reasons we signed up for education in the first place?

All those positives have been crushed into dust by the Great Double Negative: Now we just want to not fail.

I love to stroll into the College these days and sing out with Yuletide cheer, “It’s the most wonderful time . . . of the year!” My courteous, cordial, Christian colleagues don’t actually snarl at me, but their lips occasionally curl as if they’d like to.

Okay, I agree that that’s a bit much. So let’s go to a different time of year and a much different metaphor: autumn . . . and harvest.

I lived in a small town in farm country in Iowa for three years during my first teaching job and then in a city smack in the middle of farm country in southern Manitoba for eight years after that. Many of my students came from farm families and they taught me a little of farm life. Particularly, they taught me about harvest: Everybody has to do it; everybody helps; it’s hard, long work; and it’s where you get your reward for the labour of the entire rest of the year.

So fire up the intellectual reapers, friends. Start those academic combines down their rows–lights ablaze at two in the morning if necessary to get that crop in. You’ll learn more in the last two weeks of a semester than you did in the all of the previous weeks together. This is harvest time. This is the pay-off.