Thursday, January 19, 2017

3 Keys Thursday: 3 Key Strategies I'm Using as I Head Back to Class

Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
Today was my first day of class, and, this semester, I'm teaching two classes that are very similar in content. As I was organizing my materials last night, I was pleased to discover that I was able to plug things right back into my existing systems. Some have been part of my toolkit from the very beginning; others emerged last semester.

As you've heard me say so often here, organizing is a process. I've been teaching anywhere from one to three classes per semester for the past seven semesters. Over time, I've had to adjust my systems to both my course load and the specific subjects I was teaching. This became especially apparent when I moved from teaching two classes to teaching three classes. While the system I'd developed when I was teaching just one class expanded fairly easily when I taught two classes, it began to fall apart once I began teaching three classes.

Okay, so "began to fall apart" is a bit of an understatement. It imploded.

This semester, I'm back to two classes, but am swearing by the strategies that kept things together last semester when I was teaching three classes.

Color-coding. As much as possible, each class gets its own color. File folders are blue for one class, green for the other. I write due dates in my calendar in blue for one class, green for the other.

Before and after planning. Planning beforehand is a no-brainer; I can't walk into a 75-minute class and wing it. Getting into the habit of jotting down what I covered in each class (in blue for one class and green for the other) not only helps me to keep track of where I need to pick up the next time we meet, but these notes help me plan for the next semester as well. Keeping track of how long it actually took to cover each subset of the material  (in the same calendar with the due dates) helps keep me on track this semester and helps me craft a more accurate schedule for next semester.

Organized list-making. Little bitty slips of paper everywhere is not the key to remembering things, but, when you're on the fly, it's easy to fall into that trap. Last semester, I started using a steno notebook to keep track of what I needed to do for each class. The set-up of the book allowed each class its own column so I could tell at a glance what I had to do and which tasks belonged to which course. The simple act of separating tasks by course made it clear what I needed to do by 11AM and 2 PM on Tuesdays and Thursdays and by 9 AM on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

In this case, even more than in others, organization is a stress reliever. I always manage to work myself into a tizzy over the first day of class, despite the fact I've been teaching for more than 30 years. Knowing exactly where everything belongs allows me to control what I can and, while it won't make me any less nervous, it at least helps me to feel prepared.

And that's worth the cost of a few file folders.

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