And They’re Off!

For many of us, the year opens like gates at a horse racetrack.  To outsiders, it may have seemed like we got a ridiculous amount of time off over the holidays (nine to fivers of my acquaintance worked BOTH Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, the horror) but we know better. This post is about how to organize your prep to minimize personal stress.

In the fall I teach on the semester system, so my last final is on or about the 18th of December. That means that any grading takes place over the next week, taking me right up to about Christmas Eve.  Then I have the week between Christmas and New Year’s for my checklist:

Checklist for end of semester (in alphabetical order)
Attendance sheets – bring up to date
Binders – Stash
Copies – Recycle
Keys – Return
Grades – Turn in
Mailbox – Clear out
Media – Return
Paperwork – Sort, store,
Supplies – Re-stock

Some of you started on the fourth of this month and I offer you my condolences.  I was lucky enough that this semester my term started on the 11th.  That gave me an extra week  to prep the three classes that start right now, all intro classes, standards I have taught for years.  Still, that doesn’t make it any easier, does it?  Because I still have this list to get through:

Checklist for Start of Semester (in alphabetical order)
Attendance Folders – Create (I use red or purple so they stand out as they go around the room)
Binders – Updated, new material added to master documents
Copies – Handouts to Duplicating by Week 2, get codes if necessary
Evaluations – Any due this semester?
Grade sheets – Create
HR – Sign forms? Deposit and payroll on-track? TB test? Sexual harassment training? Flex?
Keys – request
Lab Materials – Need any? Do I have all the keys for cabinets?
Map – to any new locations
Mailbox – verify location
Office Supplies – where are they, what do we have?
Online Accounts – make sure it is up to date and accessible
Parking – make sure permits are valid, visible, in correct cars
Room location – verify/locate
Rosters – get from mailbox or online
Scantron machine – Extra forms of 882s, re-fill stash of analysis sheets
Syllabus – updated, sent to Campus Copy Ctr, copies to secretary
Schedule – updated, sent to Campus Copy Ctr, copies to secretary (optional)
Videos – reserve, or check out from library or other owner
Voicemail – up and running? Need to request?

Over the years I have learned a few things to help manage this process, first among them is leaving enough time for all the prep-work, and backing out the dates from when you actually need stuff in your hot little hands.  Allow one day, one full eight hour day, per course (not section).  Maybe to some of you that seems like a lot, while others consider it not enough, but if you take the extra time now, you can save yourself stress and heartache later on.

I would feel naked without my syllabus, at a minimum, that first day.  I know there are a lot of different ways to tackle a syllabus, and I’ll talk about this in more detail in another post, but I always create a separate schedule of readings and activities, with days of the class meeting, dates, and helpful notes, in Excel.  This accompanies what I consider to be a syllabus, which has the basic information about the class (meeting times, location, dates of final exam), as well as things like the course description, grading procedures, and expectations.

The schedule is the trickiest part of the entire course, since dates, holidays, breaks, and final exams are all subject to change every time.  Once I have the schedule down, I use that to enter dates for the following into Outlook right away:

Final exams
Date I need to send quizzes and midterms to duplicating
Date I need to have grades for quizzes and midterms back to students
Dates for one-time activities like labs, field-trips, guest speakers

Once you are done, it is time to send your work to the duplicating/lithography center, and this is one time of year when you have to abide by their request to give them a week for delivery.  I further recommend making a nuisance of yourself and follow-up with whoever is your contact.  Of course, since you made sure to include them on your Christmas gift list, this won’t be any issue at all!

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