Yes. The days are counting down and the start of the new semester lies just around the corner for many of us.
As a student it was always my favorite time. I was excited to learn to new things. I had the books ready and had already glanced through them cover to cover to see what is in store for me. I purchased new spiral bound notebooks and organized my classes according to color coded three ring binders with matching tabs. I selected my favorite pens and then bought brand new ones just in case. I prepped my backpack with back ups for all the important items (just in case): Pencils, pencil sharpener, highlighters/ colored pencils, erasers, permanent markers, baby wipes, socks, extra tights or dance pants, underwear, bobby pins, 5 or 6 hair ties, lipgloss and mascara. Then of course my entire dance bag full of shoes and more dance paraphernalia than you can imagine.
Yes, the beginning of the semester was pure excitement for me. Even better than Christmas in some ways, because the gift of the semester was going to last my entire lifetime.
But, now as a professor. I find the start of semester a little less sparkly than before. Now, I am faced with looming and overwhelming questions: How can I make it better? How can I clean up my grading system? How can I be better organized? How can I keep better attendance? How can I get through with the fewest headaches possible?
Yes, starting the semester as an instructor takes on a different flavor, and it wasn't until tonight (while lying in my savasana in yoga class) that I realized I need to change my perspective and think more like I did as student. I need to get excited and recharged.
So I have developed this Recipe for a New Semester:
1. Get a New Purse: nothing is more refreshing than organizing a new purse. Clean out the old receipts lingering in the corners of forgotten pockets, manage the number of pens that have either accumulated or disappeared over the last year, and throw away the smashed lozenges and Hershey's kisses that have ground themselves into unrecognizable state.
2. Get your Syllabi Done: at least 3 days before the start of classes. Write them, and send them off to be printed. If you are like I am, then they will never be perfect so don't sweat it.
3. Buy a new iPad (or other gadget): Ok. So this is a luxury, but still, having a a new "toy" to play with makes it more fun to input your attendance rosters or configure your email groups. Plus, it can make you look and feel hip. That's what I'm talking about! I plan on trying an attendance app for my rosters, and I plan to try garageband for some of my dance class accompaniment. It is something for me to learn and play with. PS If you hate gadgets or technology in general, ignore this ingredient for the recipe.
4. Input your Calendar: for the semester and block out times for things you want to do. I really wanted to find time to go to the gym, yoga and my meditation center each 2x/week. I have input it into my calendar and blocked it off. I am making myself unavailable so when I get asked to do something additional I can more easily say "no" if needed.
5. Test your pens: Satisfaction by definition. Throw away the ones you hate and keep the ones you love.
6. Plan two of your favorite classes: create the lesson plan you want to have, not the one you feel you should have, but the one you wish you had gotten as a student or perhaps could really use for yourself now. Let them be unencumbered and passionate.
7. Steel Yourself: if you are like me, perhaps you are too compassionate? Or perhaps you are too rigid? too monotonous? too spontaneous? too frustrated? too frustrating? Yes, we are teachers, but we are still human beings. I have to remember to set the tone for the semester in the first few weeks. For me, I need to draw the line and stick to it. Being too accommodating just makes the students more lax (and makes me crazy as a result).
8a. Option 1: Take a long bath with aromatherapy and a good short story (preferably from The Sun Magazine).
8b. Option 2: Make yourself a stiff drink. Hot Toddy's are especially effective in cold weather.
9. Be Hopeful: it can only help make it easier.
Have a great semester everyone!