Even though fall classes won’t start for a few more weeks, we are already being asked to submit our spring schedules. I’ll be teaching two classes, each with labs, that I will have previously taught. It’s a little daunting to think about so many hours in the classroom, but the reward will be a lighter load the following fall. (And I know that some of you routinely teach four classes, so that helps keep it in perspective.)

But, oh experienced teachers and schedule gurus, how shall I arrange my classes?

Here’s my current thinking:
Possible Spring teaching schedule?

How would you arrange it? Will Wednesday just about kill me?

Parameters below the jump:

  • I’d like to have at least one full day off for research (and that day can’t be Friday which fills with meetings).
  • I don’t really want to teach at 8 and can’t teach after 5.
  • Classes are usually MW or TR but the admin is encouraging Friday classes too.
  • Lectures are 75 minutes and start every 90 minutes (i.e., 8, 9:30, 11, 12:30, 2). Labs are 3 hours and I have to teach my own labs.
  • Whoops! I just noticed that the figure above shows my Friday afternoon meeting at 2 pm. Tradition dictates that it will be at 1 pm.


  1. #1 Kim
    July 29, 2008

    I think I’ve taught two classes in a row with no break… once. I find it really hard to mentally prepare for the second class. (And then there’s physical preparation – I usually have various demo toys to put away, and other toys to get out.) And then there are the conversations with students – the ones who have questions about the previous class, the ones with problems that need individual attention, the ones that need to talk to me before the next class. I generally prefer to schedule my office hours for the hour between classes. (We’ve got 55 minute classes, so it doesn’t feel like as much wasted time.) (And I’ve never learned to carve out time for me to do research during the semester. Research is a weekend and vacation activity for me. But I’m at a teaching-intensive school, so I can get away with it.)

    On the other hand, it’s only one day a week (as opposed to three days). And you use powerpoint (which I still don’t use very much), which makes it easier to do most of the prep ahead of time. (You’ve taught both classes before, but I’ve found that class prep doesn’t go down much until the third time I’ve taught a class. And then it goes way up again when I revamp things, like I’m doing with the intro class right now.)

  2. #2 Joy
    July 29, 2008

    I think what you’ve got is good, and is a schedule I could live with myself. I’m a bit jealous that you get to submit your schedule–much of my schedule is dependent on when other classes in my department as well as our other science departments meet, so I have much less choice. I would, however, lean toward having both classes meet MW, and leaving TRF teaching-free. Some factors that I would consider: (1) since you’ve taught the courses before, both the up-front time and the prep will be less draining…I’m not saying those aren’t long teaching days, but they will seem less taxing as a 2nd-year faculty member; (2) do you have a student or TA who can help with last-minute lab prep? If yes, then even that 90-minute break should give you enough time to decompress before labs start; (3) how “hands-on” do you need to be during lab? I can easily teach an upper-level lab after giving a few lectures, but intro lab students tend to be more hesitant (and sections tend to have more students) and thus require more of my energy; (4) what kinds of time blocks do you need to have to be productive on other projects? I like to work in big blocks and so prefer to have as many contiguous free hours in my week as possible; (5) what happens if Minnow gets sick and can’t go to daycare? We have a 13-month-old son, and we were very grateful for my “crammed” teaching load on the rare occasions that he was sick–used fewer of husband’s sick days that way, so we could save them for vacation. Good luck with this!

  3. #3 Karen
    July 29, 2008

    Here’s a student’s point of view: I’d encourage scheduling lecture and lab back-to-back. It doesn’t matter which comes first on paper, you lecture, take a break, and then do lab. This allows students to keep thinking about your class, and not having to switch gears to attend some other lecture, then come back to lab.

    When necessary, at my school we schedule right through lunch, with the understanding that the break will accommodate a run to the head and a bag lunch. If lecture is scheduled during lunchtime, students will just eat during lecture. Geology being the subject, our labs are pretty non-toxic and an instructor who isn’t handling rocks or equipment will eat during lab.

    I expect some readers (and perhaps you) will find this whole concept unpleasant (or at least improper), but it adds to a casual atmosphere that really encourages learning. Of course, I’m talking about majors classes here, where class sizes are small and students are there because they want to be.

  4. #4 squawky
    July 29, 2008

    I think you’re pretty good here — just don’t let the gap between classes get too big. That can really extend the day unnecessarily. I once did a schedule with one class at 9:30 am, then a pretty long break before an evening lecture/lab pair from 4 – 7:30 pm (not my choice, either). One of these days had another lab after the morning lecture, the other didn’t.

    Needless to say, exhausting. Even with the “break” in the middle. I found the next day I would usually oversleep and throw off my sleep schedule (which could really add up by the end of the week).

    I do prefer teaching as many classes per day as I can – so I can have other days completely free – but I won’t do a 12 hour day like that unless under extreme duress.

    I can also second the “lab immediately after lecture” suggestion, but only if you don’t have to do serious lab prep/setup (or can’t do this before lecture due to other classes in the room). I do find that the material transitions well from lecture directly to lab (so I spend less time re-explaining certain concepts), but often the students come directly to the lab room… this makes some prep work very hard to do (and it’s hard to setup while you are interacting with students – which is the point of a small lab class anyway!)

    I do disagree with eating lunch in lab, though – if you need a break to recharge and eat, take it. Eating in class will probably be seen as rude by some students and as an invitation to do the same for others. There’s too many things in a science lab that you don’t need mixed with your lunch (rocks included – even the halite 🙂 ). (This reminds me to stock up on powerbars/gels for the fall term, though!)

  5. #5 Mommyprof
    July 30, 2008

    Are they completely different groups of students? If so, then go for it. If not, be careful. I find that undergraduates have difficulty maintaining mental focus through large blocks of time. Grad students can do it, but even then, you have to think of things in terms of mini-lecture, like is trendy now, just to keep the mental chops sharp.

    I don’t know if you will still be nursing as much then, but it will be hard to make milk on Wednesdays, if you still need to.

    If you have the energy, though, T TH free is good for the research.

  6. #6 Propter Doc
    July 30, 2008

    This makes me smile. I’m teaching a strange course that for a variety of reasons is taught intensively 1 day a week. My first ever lecture will be from 9am – 5pm (with breaks and a lab and a few tutorial classes and problem solving things but just me and the class all day, it is both a blessing and a curse I thing), but that’s pretty daunting right now. The back to back lectures on Wednesday might be hard work, but it looks pretty sensible to me. I’d watch that Tuesday doesn’t dissappear in prep time, and Thursday in recovery time!

  7. #7 JaneB
    July 30, 2008

    You get to pick your own schedule? You are so lucky! We are at the mercy of a central university timetable system – tell them how many hours and which staff and what kind of room and then we get something impossible back, usually involving 95 students in a room that seats 40 and a schedule with 9-15 and 5-15 classes and nothing in between, and then we haggle. It’s exhausting and it takes months. And is never really right…

    I like what you have here, as long as the students don’t overlap. If they do I’d try to have a gap between lectures on the Wednesday or the students tend to get confused and will also be pretty ‘thought out’ by the end of that.

  8. #8 ScienceWoman
    July 30, 2008

    Thanks for your suggestions everyone. The schedule I ended up requesting was slightly different than the one shown. I put the Wednesday gap between the two lectures (the upper level majors may well overlap) and thus have lecture B and lab B back to back. It could be a good move pedagogically. For the weeks where my Friday teaching will now conflict with the Meeting (capital M) – I’ll either show a video, finish class a bit early, arrive to the meeting a bit late, etc. The big constraint on the seems to be having to leave every afternoon lecture-free so our students can take labs.

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