Think only students fret at the start of a new school year? Think again.

By the time September rolls around, Harvard Graduate School of Education faculty members have already spent months preparing their courses.

“Students show up on the first day not expected to do anything, but faculty are expected to have an entire course planned out,” says Professor Judith Singer, senior vice provost for faculty development and diversity at Harvard University. “An enormous amount of the work of teaching takes place before you set foot in class.”

In fact, before the previous year’s class has even graduated, faculty members are busy planning and meeting deadlines for fall courses. After months of prep, it is only natural that many faculty members get a case of first day jitters.

“Of course I get nervous before the school year and excited as well for any class, but especially for those first few class sessions,” says Professor Monica Higgins. “I am a big believer in the importance of beginnings, so I try and pay close attention to my first interactions with students, especially in the classroom.”

Prepping for the upcoming school year takes a lot of forethought. Typically, there is no prescribed curriculum for undergraduate or graduate teaching. Considering that the average course at HGSE meets 25 times in four months with the same group of students — that is a lot of time to fill, and fill wisely and well.

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