I love teaching at a great public university, the University of Michigan of the West, because my daughters went to a great public university, the UC Berkeley of the East. My undergraduate students at UC Berkeley seem so familiar, like my kids' friends who'd chat with us across the kitchen counter, rummage through the fridge at 1:00 a.m. and flop on our couch to watch DVR'ed shows. I worry about them all as October 1 rolls around. I teach about 15 foreign students, and they're particularly special this year, as they remind me of our daughter, who is doing her junior year in Argentina. October 1 is a reality and a metaphor, the frivolous gives way to the banal. It's a lot like sophomore year in that way -- indeed October is doubly hard for sophomores. October is when the romance is over. The first few weeks, my students were tired from the elation of coming to -- or returning to school. They were partying hard, meeting or re-meeting people, joining exciting groups and classes looked enticing.
The work builds up. The sleep goes down. The mid-terms rise up like storm clouds. And exciting ideas morph into tedious tasks. (As I recall, surveys showed that the hope and enthusiasm of our employees in the state government fell quite a bit in the 6-10 year period of their tenure, in much the same way.) Those of us teaching, parenting, supervising and administering schools sometimes see these drops as routine, or we just don't know what to do with them. But their effects are real, and for some kids -- especially those dealing with mental health issues -- potentially critical. I have three suggestions:
- Watch the clock and calendar. Know the drop is coming (if it's not already here) and know you have to lead in a different way. YOU need to bring energy (though they won't often match you) and pay attention.
Autumn can be beautiful but it its natural challenges approach: Shorter days, falling leaves, hints of cold. Now's a good time to (a) see the energy drop; (b) interpret it for those who need to keep moving; and (c) shape a clear, well-marked path for the work ahead.
Whoever your "sophomores" are, now's a good time to help them see and build success as you lead with your best self.
Cross-posted at Dan Mulhern's Everyday Leadership Works blog.
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