Tuesday, August 25, 2009

An ounce of prevention...

Are you feeling a bit frantic? Is the beginning of the semester making you want to cry out for help?

Then you're not alone. Both new and experienced instructors and TAs alike tend to greet the new semester with a mixture of excitement and dread. If you're like me you probably enjoy the promise of a fresh start - the chance to fix past mistakes and try out new ideas. But at the same time you're probably also wondering how you're going to manage your teaching and all of you other commitments (and still hopefully have time for some sleep). You may be asking yourself, "So how far ahead of the students should I be in reading the textbook?". Or you may have found a new mantra - "Please don't let WebCT go down. Please don't let WebCT go down." (Of course, replace "WebCT" with any technology you rely on but aren't quite sure how it actually works, and certainly don't know how to fix it should you - or your students - run into trouble.)

As always, an once of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Organization, as in many facets of life, is key. Take time each day to review your "to do" list and prioritize your tasks. Make sure you plan at the beginning of each week (or the end if you like to rest easy over the weekend) what needs to be done and set aside time to do it. Don't forget to schedule time in for grading and course preparation, and don't allow meetings or other commitments to flow over into this time. Also, be sure to look over your syllabi and try to judge when students will be most likely to need to visit your office or flood your inbox with emails. It's a safe bet that even if your office hours are usually a ghost town, right before and after exams or major assignments you will need some time to deal with student questions (and possibly complaints).

I know that many of us are now teaching more classes than before due to the combination of budget cuts and increased enrollments. This may mean that even those who were organization dynamos before are now having to rethink their strategies. Feel free to contact the Center for Teachign & Learning Excellence to schedule a consultation to review your courses and brainstorm ways you can streamline your prep and grading. Takign an hour out of your week to plan ahead is sure to pay off in the long run.

Taking some steps towards increasing the efficiency of your teaching means you'll get more bang for your (time and energy) buck. At the very least, I promise you'll sleep better. As soon as you finish tomorrow morning's lesson plan.

Photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/aheram/ / CC BY 2.0

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