- Put EVERYTHING into Google Calendar, which I can access on my phone (I also copy everything into my paper planner so that I can see what the semester looks like)
a. course times
b. travel dates
c. recurring meetings
d. fitness classes
e. breaks for my university and my kids’ school (these do not always match up)
f. other times I want to reserve, such as research time on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, daily exercise, etc.
g. anything I need to be reminded to do, such as calling a friend once a week, paying bills, or seasonal gardening tasks
- Finish writing syllabi.
- Create systems for each class:
a. set up signups for any due date that is individualized (for example, memory work recitations, special presentations, etc) using Google Docs
b. schedule library days, visits to computer lab, or film screening days if appropriate, including reserving rooms
c. create calendar for each course on Excel, save as csv (Make sure “subject” comes first, then “start date”) so it’s easy to upload to Google Calendar
d. upload it to Google Calendar
- Set up Excel spreadsheets for:
b. assignments that are brought to class but not turned in
- Print spreadsheets
- Set up Blackboard sites, including:
a. create links so students can easily contact me
b. set up groups for different sections
c. set up gradebook
It’s also important to build in time to socialize with colleagues, because everyone comes back from the summer break really friendly and ready to chat. This doesn’t happen after winter break, though I’m not sure why.
When this question came in, I had an inbox full of emails from journal editors demanding that I turn in overdue referee reports, and one of my sons presented me with a long list of things — such as a trip to a water park — that he still wanted us to do this summer. I thought to myself, “Oh no! I’m still behind on my summer, don’t tell me it’s time to think about fall already!” I love the relaxed summer schedule, when I can hunker down and work on my research without interruptions of teaching and meetings, and can find time to sneak out for an afternoon bike ride or trip to the pool with my family.
Upon reflection, I do have some practices. The first is to try to not start the new academic year already behind! For me, that means setting aside enough time to clear out referee reports and get as much prepped for my fall teaching as possible. I’m fortunate that I’m not prepping any new courses, but I also find that preparing teaching expands to fill as much time as you will give it. As a result, I set aside only a week or two to update my problem sets, slides, and notes. To aid in this process, I’ve learned that I need to write up notes after each class session that I teach about things that I want to change next time for each lecture (e.g. ways to make particular concepts clearer or more interesting). I also make notes on the overall syllabus and its flow at the end of the term. I know if I don’t write it down, I’ll never remember the next time I teach it!
The second is to set goals or resolutions, and to help my graduate students do the same. This year’s resolutions include giving up my daily inbox zero goal (that’s just not something that works for me, and it makes me stressed out!) and to not check email on my phone obsessively when I should instead by interacting with my husband or kids. I also set short-term goals for the year, and encourage my graduate students to do the same at the beginning of each quarter. Northwestern’s graduate school has a terrific tool
to assist in this, which I use for my students and myself.
When the new students arrive, the day before class starts I always send an email to the students, welcoming them to class and asking them to send me a brief bio, including major, class, hometown, why they picked the course (or major), and another interesting fact about themselves. I think it is important to learn the students’ names, but I’ve found as my classes get larger (and perhaps as I get older!) it’s hard to learn everyone’s name without putting effort into it. Now I use a flashcard app on my phone and upload a photo, their name, and some of these facts to learn names. Since it’s on my phone, I can steal a few minutes waiting in carpool line or when I’ve got a bit of time between meetings to learn and review the names. It makes the students happier that I know their names, and is well worth the effort.