by Elizabeth Kuehne
After almost two decades as an adjunct, I’ve learned a thing or two about time management. When I first began teaching, I was able to get by with one bag and a canned curriculum from the technological Institute where I taught. Before long, I picked up a gig at the local community college, and after a year with my CV in their files, I picked up another spot at a satellite university campus in my city. I spent the day teaching high school English classes, navigating single motherhood with a young child, and trying to pay the bills the best way I could. I was often on a tight schedule after finishing a day teaching. I didn’t eat a lot, that’s for sure. I didn’t have time.
So I began to find workarounds. I had a different colored bag for each class I taught, or, depending on the schedule, for each college I had to get to in a week. I lined them up by the door on Sunday night so every morning I could grab the right college bag on the right day.
A lot has changed since then, most notably the technology available. In theory, I don’t even need my flash drive if I prepare in advance and upload my documents to Google docs (my go-to). As adjunct, however, we have to be belt and suspenders faculty. I usually print out materials before class, keep my USB in hand, and my external hard drive available in my bag and just in case, backups in Google Drive. That means I have class materials binders that are about three inches thick, in most cases.
The most important time-saver that I have is the agenda; it’s similar to a lesson plan. Some of my classes meet once per week, some twice, or three times per week. Thanks to my use of agendas, I have a 4-hour course, plus grading and planning, down to a very manageable chunk of time. My agendas include my lesson objectives, the class itinerary, any notes I might have, and the homework for the following week. I have it all at my fingertips thanks to technology. I pull up my course materials, spend a bit of time tweaking them, and then print and send them to the students.
This is an efficient and effective system for a variety of reasons:
- I am prepared, particularly when I take a minute at the end of the class to modify my agenda for the following week or for the following semester with ideas I want to change. I continually change my course content, but my course objectives rarely change.
- Agendas guide me as I prepare for the term and the new set of students or the updated textbook that my department has chosen.
- If a student misses class, I can email the agenda document, post it in Google Classroom or the online Learning Management System that my university is using. I can simply hand the appropriate agenda to the student at the next class.
- Agendas keep me organized and remind me that I’ve successfully taught courses and I can do it again.
- I can readily share my course content and teaching materials with my colleagues when they are in a bind or need some ideas.
- It is simple to add new materials when I attend a lecture (say, at a workshop or conference), read a great new book, watch a video that supports a concept, or find a new TEDTalk that will help me illustrate my lesson or course goals.
- The student has access to all of the course materials and information he/she needs. Each agenda includes the week number (or class session), my name and email. I can provide my lesson and course objectives to anyone who asks, and all of the coursework is clearly outlined on a one page document.
Seasoned teaching faculty all have our strategies for success in the classroom, and newbies but my strategy of using an agenda helps me and my students to be most effective from start to finish. I have the semester determined from the outset and rarely do we have any surprises. I can pretty accurately determine how well I can add new content and where I can pare down the material that takes too long, or where I wax eloquent. The agenda gives the students peace of mind, too. They can get the agenda from me, from an online platform, or from a peer, and it gives them all of the source material they usually need.