T-minus 12 days

Thoughts on the approaching semester:

  • Syllabi – There are two philosophies here, it seems. Go bare bones – who are you, what book is being used, and when are the exams. Or go all out – detailed policies on late homeworks, attendance, academic honesty, etc. and day-by-day breakdowns of every class meeting for the entire semester. I’ve been veering more and more towards the later, but that is really not my style. I’m thinking about how I can start to streamline. For now, I think it is going to vary by courses – low-level courses predominantly taken by freshman or sophomore students who have not had me in class before get the long-detailed version. Upper-level courses with students who have all taken at least one, if not two or three or four, courses with me get the fast and dirty version.
  • Office Hours – I have held office hours at least three hours a week each semester for the past three years. The majority of the time, I am in my office alone during my office hours – sometimes having had to pass on attending a lecture or a meeting because I have office hours scheduled. The majority of the time that I meet with students is either by appointment or, more frequently, them catching me in my office and stopping in to ask questions. Sure, the theory is that you can get other work done during office hours if students are not there, but some tasks do not lend themselves well to the potential interruption, and I do not like having grading out or drafting assignments or exams if I know a student might wander in. So, I am going to experiment with not holding pre-scheduled office hours this semester and telling students to either schedule an appointment or just drop in if I am around. Really, this should give me more time to meet with students because I will not be starting with three potentially dead hours a week of “student time” before I see my first real live student.
  • Administrivia – It is overwhelming the number of little things you forget about that have to be handled in the week or two before classes. Meeting times need to be set for various committees and the department, and the course schedule isn’t in the room scheduler system yet, so it’s a mystery which rooms are worth sending in requests to reserve – I’m starting a trial-and-error process of hunting down a room for one committee. Lab access has to be set up for students, which means making sure everybody is on the same page for the lab access policy. Making sure my student assistant is actually going to get paid. Sorting out where to drop off course packets to be copied. Making sure the software I need is on my lab’s computers. I’ve probably sent a dozen emails today about minor things that need to happen.
  • Courses – Oh, yeah… I’m actually going to be teaching soon. I’ve spent a lot of time earlier in the summer thinking about my classes and what I want to do, but the next week is going to be filled with the less interesting details of how instead of what. I am really looking forward to this semester though. I’ll be teaching upper-level programming for the first time and I’ve got some really fun ideas of what I want to cover – both on the theory side and on the nitty-gritty tools side. I want to see my department’s open houses continue and see if we can get a good mix of substantive discussion and social interaction going on at them. And I have two students I will be doing some type of research with, both working in really neat areas. At the very least, I am going to be busy.

Overall? This is either going to be a really great semester, or I will collapse into a little ball of stress by mid-October. Stay tuned to find out which!

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