Happy New Year! I hope that 2013 bring you joy, happiness, and good health. What else do I hope for with this New Year. Sure, I can say world peace, a cure for Cancer and AIDS, and for the government to really take action with the Fiscal Cliff/Idle No More Movement. And, I truly do wish for all of the above, but this post will instead focus on what I hope for my students in this new year.
The 2012-13 school year is essentially halfway through and I hope that first year students learned how important time-management was during their September term. I also hope that all students realized that office hours are priceless. You might have to queue up and wait for five or fifteen minutes–but those meetings with your Teaching Assistant or Professor really is worth the wait. I have never heard a student tell me that it was a waste of time to see me or one of my Teaching Assistants. In fact, I get follow up emails, note cards, or tweets thanking me for suggesting that we meet or that they met with their Teaching Assistant. So, dear student, please take advantage of our availability!
I also send the gift of reading the syllabus to students. This means highlighting due dates and the instructions for assignments. This is a rich You Tube video about Reading the Syllabus. This made me laugh! Oh, wow. How many of us have had one of these moments?! There is also a Facebook page about Reading the Syllabus. In all seriousness, the syllabus is the contract between the professor and the student. We expect students to read and review the syllabus.
Get into the library. Attend a workshop about research or citation. Learn how to use the databases and get outside of your Wikipedia or Google comfort zones. Learn other better ways to conduct research. The vast majority of you are not yet skilled at researching and could use a workshop or two to hone these skills. The A students are the ones who have taken the time to use databases and dig deeper. Do not be embarrassed -go speak to the Reference Librarians and your academic mind will be blown.
My last wish for 2013 is that students stay healthy and this includes their physical well-being and mental health. I feel terrible when a student gets hit with a serious illness that turns their term upside down. I also feel for the student who is dealing with mental health issues and is having a really difficult time. I am not a medical doctor and I certainly am not a mental health professional, so all I can do is be supportive and suggest the health center or the counseling center. Remember, when you’re having a tough time, don’t be embarrassed -contact your professor. We are here to help and it’s much better if we are in the loop.
My last post was one after a family crisis and I really thought that I was back in the saddle. Ha! I am still catching up and feel like the proverbial hamster doing her run. Things are getting better, but I am behind. Behind with my research, emails, and other work-related things. But, I will say this, after these last two months, I am so happy for my good health and that of all my family members.
What did I learn during these last two months? Well, I learned that I had two types of friends: those who really wanted to help during my family crisis and those who only wanted to know what was happening. You can guess which ones I now prefer. I also found out who I could count on and it hit me the other day that many of the most dependable, selfless people I know right now are people who I first “met” on Twitter. These people have become some of my closest friends in real life and I have to give a deep thank you to Twitter for connecting us. I also know that others are colleagues from work, who have become close friends. And,I consider myself lucky in this respect.
It also became apparent to me that some students lack any semblance of compassion and were absolutely heartless in their expectations and demands–even though they knew that I had a family member in the hospital for two weeks. I was frustrated and saddened to have met with such harsh expectations and comments. But, I have to remember that some students really do not care about anything else but their assignments and their lives. I learned a good lesson with this–that some students do not want their professors to be human. And, well, I might have an invisible S for Superwoman on my chest, but this term that pesky Kryptonite brought me down to Earth. Hopefully next term I can do the usual 4-10 day grading turn around, but it didn’t happen this November or December!
I am back in the saddle, but not cinched in or seated properly! That’s life, right?
If I could give students some advice this time of the term it would focus on the importance of time management. Sound time management should pervade all aspects of your life right now. Students are on a specific schedule with classes, tutorials, and paid work. You add to this the need to study more and time to think. Thinking time is time to strategize about assignments and writing.
It’s really hard to schedule writing time, as you might have the time window, but not be in the writing mood. Use that time to research, mind map or outline your paper. Then, when you are ready to write you will have a plan for the next step. I realize that it’s hard to “schedule” writing–trust me–I really do understand. One of my mentors told me to try to write a page everyday and this was excellent advice. For undergrads, I suggest that managing your time means that you set up time almost rigidly for studying and planning for the term.
As I have suggested before, use an assignment calculator. UVIC has a great one that I emphasize (I use this term and others might say recommend or nag) to students. It’s a great way of setting up mini-deadlines for the research process. Another important thing to do is to schedule down time, sleep, exercise, and eating properly. You can’t function at your best consistently if you’re not taking of yourself. I like to say that a major part of being a student is managing your time well and demonstrating that you can start and finish a project–this includes coursework. Please don’t be too surprised if your instructors aren’t too sympathetic when you ask for a deadline and note that you have other assignments due around the same time. We are well aware of this and will most likely note that students have had the due dates noted in the syllabus weeks or months in advance.
Managing time is something that everyone needs to do well. Teaching is a major part of my job, but I am also advising, sitting on various committees, chairing the Academic Women’s Caucus, sitting on Senate, and working on different professional organizations or boards. I use Outlook and appreciate its functionality to invite other Outlook users to book meetings. My point here is that my schedule is like a well-oiled machine. Try to do the same with your schedule–stay on top of it. Stay focused. Highlight due dates, go to class, read, and meet with your instructors.
Pink says, “We’ve had a shit day…” This is going to happen to all of us, but try to lessen it by managing your time better.
I have had a hard time saying no. This is the nature of one dozen years as adjunct or sessional faculty–what many refer to as the New Faculty Majority. Now, I’m about to start my fourth year as tenure line faculty and this will mark the fourth year out of fifteen when I shut my door. My door is only open during office hours. I make no apologies for this. I am open and available for consultations during my office hours or appointments. Truthfully, a senior colleague insisted that I shut my door to get my work done. To this day, I thank him for his honesty.
Likewise, I’ve become better at allowing myself to take a vacation. This means not responding to student emails and more importantly not feeling guilty about it. Of course, I never got the sheer volume of emails previously. This changed when I got my tenure line job and was also made an Undergraduate Advisor. Students need advising year round. The department where I work has assigned other faculty during my vacation, but that doesn’t stop the emails from trickling in. Perhaps it helps the deluge!
This May I started an email to myself where I remind myself of my professional declines. I cannot do everything and anything. I note my achievements via my CV, but what about those moments when I protect my time and sanity and say, “no.” Well, I have an email to self that shares my no accomplishments. I started this in May and I’m only at 18, but each one of these declines allowed me to spend more time on teaching, advising, myself, and work/life balance. So, I suggest that we remember to celebrate boundary keeping and those moments when we must politely decline.Don’t get me wrong–I say yes to lots of meetings and opportunities. I do believe the department head would concur that I am a good citizen in the department and for the faculty at large.
But, the department head has also encouraged me to say no more. I’ve had colleagues who have a printout that read: Just say NO within their field of vision as a reminder when they are on the phone. Oh, that reminds me to add another point. I’m at 19! And, I am also reminded me of themes at Breathe Now, a conference that I co-coordinated with Janice Mansfield, Angela Rafuse-Tahir, and Yukari Peerless. Many of our speakers noted that it’s important to take time for yourself–breathe. Say no, when you need to!
We officially at that point of the term that many of my students will wonder what happened to their Reading Break. They just had a week free from classes and hopefully relaxed and worked. Some did. Most did not get as much done as they wanted to. This is normal. Today’s Fri Fun Facts is related to planning the rest of the term.
1. If you haven’t done so already–get out your syllabi and highlight the due dates for your papers. Then, go to the Assignment Calculator. This will help you gauge your time.
2. Get focused. Now is the time to meet with your Teaching Assistants and Professors. Ask questions about the papers or other assignments. Get a better idea about their expectations. What are they really looking for with the paper/project?
3. Eat, sleep and exercise. It sounds easy enough–but you have to stay healthy.
4. Go to class. You will hear lectures and important information. Your participation today could turn out useful next year, when you ask for a job reference or letter of recommendation. Your Professor might remember you better if you were in class.
Today’s Fri Fun Facts is dedicated to one of my favorite habits–reading. How do you organize your reading for efficiency? For students and other academics this is a constant concern. We are always juggling several articles/books.
1. I balance this via setting up time to work on particular assignments. I might dedicate half the day or just an hour, but this keeps me on top of my reading list.
2. I have books, articles, or magazines in several locations and will juggle them accordingly.
3. Mix it up! I am not always reading just work related reading. I will mix it up and add fun reading, too.
4. Don’t cram. This is not the best way to allow your ideas to form and as I say, “marinate.” You want to have some time to think about what you’re reading–so keep abreast of the reading.
Decompress with fun reading. This might vary for you. I have all sorts of genre that I read for fun–mystery, cop thrillers, young adult literature.
Yes, it is that time of year, when professors are writing students letters of reference for graduate school. Thus, it’s worth my re-post of this Oct 2010 post with some additional comments. Just a few words of advice to students: Be organized. Don’t be a tyrant! My experience is that 99.9% of students are earnest and really want the help. What happens is that poor time management adds stress to an already stressful endeavor. So, this photo is shared with lots of smiles. And, I realize that college students are not children. The quote was one that made me smile. That is all.
1. Ask professors weeks before the letters are due. And, please don’t be offended if we decline.
2. Provide us all the information we need. Where is the letter going? When is it due? Do we need to complete an applicant assessment form? Can we upload the letter online? Please fill out any forms and try to avoid asking the letter writer to do so (your name and SIN or SSN info)
I ask for a copy of your letter of intent and cv/resume. I might even meet with you and ask what your motivation is for continuing your education.
3. Remind us. Send an email a few days before a due date.
4. Thank us. This can be an email or a note. It’s not necessary to do more. Remember that your tenure line faculty actually get paid to mentor and do things like write letters. Keep in mind that part-time faculty do not get compensated for this extra work. Remember to thank them profusely–a card, bottle of wine or a face to face thank you is nice.
5. Remember that your organization makes this process easier. You will fill less anxiety and provide your reference writer ample time and information.
6. Keep us informed with the good news or what your Plan B or Plan C is.
At Word Camp Victoria 2012 ( #wcv12 ) @Miss604 (Rebecca Bolwitt) shared how she manages her time blogging. And, as a a teacher/instructor/professor it made me think not only of my time management, but also my students’ time management with writing. This post is dedicated to organizing writing and thinking time. And, like so many of my posts the targeted reader is students or others who work with students. I look forward to your input.
Bolwitt gave some great advice. She blogs typically in the morning for a few hours and during this time she will compose 3-5 posts. Now, for students I would like them to think about earmarking time for thinking about writing. Yes, it’s part of the process. Thinking about what you want to say and what sort of research you want to engage in for the assignment. Is the paper an investigative piece or argumentative? What does the assignment requirements explain? You need to organize what the requirements are with what you want to do with the assignment.
If you merely think about writing as the actual writing, then you will not have enough time to “marinate” with your topic. I have found that placing “Janni Writing or Thinking Time” in my calendar necessary to successfully work on writing projects. Some of your ideas will undoubtedly hit you when you’re commuting in to campus or perhaps in another class. It is important to jot down these ideas, as you might not remember them later. Likewise, it’s also good to chat with classmates or your professor about the assignment.
Then, set time aside to begin your writing in earnest. You might start with pulling together facts and quotes and what you hope to find. Whatever method you use–make sure that you attempt to organize your thoughts. But, you must set realistic goals with your writing time and set time aside to get your writing completed. Bolwitt noted that the morning is a good time for her to write. When is your most productive time of day?
We are heading in to the height of mid-term writing and grading. But, a gentle reminder is needed. Remember to breathe. You know–those great, deep yoga breaths that cleanse and calm. These are perfect before office hours and before you start grading. Other reminders for dealing with the first year student in the Fall.
1. Most students are really intimidated by the mid-term. They think that they are going to bomb it. Well, at least I find that the conscientious ones feel this way.
2. Most students are also intimidated by office hours. Just the thought of coming to office hours can cause them to feel scared, angry or frustrated. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen flushed faces or pencils shaking in a hand. I’ve also found some students calm and happy.
3. Students forget to breathe, too. And, they get anxious and all worked up about the five or six (ouch) exams or papers that they have to write. Try to not add to the anxiety and give them your full attention, while they are in your office.
4. This might sound silly, but thank them for coming to office hours. They are getting familiarized with your department and university life and they might know that coming to office hours is acceptable and a good practice.
5. Remember to breathe. This is a stressful time for faculty, too. Remember to get exercise, sleep right and eat right. It’s easier to deal with stress if we are at 100!
This is probably an annual exercise that I go through each year as the new school year looms in front of me. I need to manage my expectations for how much work I can get done during the day or any week. Of course, as an educator I have to constantly manage my expectations about student work and it has to vary between the first year student and the honor’s student.
Thinking of students~ I’m always amazed at how few will complete the assigned readings. Some students will share that I just need to assign less if I want them to complete the readings. Well, I have trimmed the numbers of readings over the years and still find that I’m in the same situation. This term, I’m actually contemplating no exams in the third year level course and more of a focus on writing and reading with different exercises. I like to mix things up for them and for me.
One student comment noted why so many of our classes have a student presentation component. It’s not busy work. I feel it is important for the students to give presentations in front of their peers. And, I speak to good or strong presentations in letters of reference or on the phone as a job reference. So, I will not cut that assignment out of the course outlines.
I am thinking of ways to work smarter and I am not sure if a day dedicated to my own projects will work. Instead, I find that few hours blocked out makes more sense–a day can slip away during the 13 week term. I don’t have the answer, as each term is so different, but I know that it’s a continued struggle to manage my own expectations about my productivity. These next two years I’ll have reduced teaching load, but my administrative work and attendance at campus wide meetings will increase markedly. I know that managing my expectation will continue to be an ongoing exercise.
How do you manage your expectations? And, how do you manage your productivity?