‘Twas the week before classes and all through the hall,
the students were scurrying to register for fall.
The syllabi were printed on many colored sheets
and the profs were already tired of needing to meet….
The textbooks lined shelves in neat little rows,
just waiting for students to open, read, and doze.
As hard as it is to believe that I’ve been on the job a year, I’m about to roll into my second fall semester. People keep asking me if I’m ready for classes to begin, and I’m honestly not sure how to answer. I’ve got my syllabi written, but not photocopied. I’ve read a couple of chapters in my main textbook, and I’ve mostly written the first two labs for the semester. I’ve got a pretty good mental image of what I want the first day of class to look like…but I haven’t written a single lecture, not even an outline.
Last year at this time, I was in a far worse state, having just arrived on the job and gotten my teaching assignment settled. Spring semester wasn’t much better because of the short break between semesters and another last minute shift in classes. So I feel like I have had all the time in the world to gear up for this semester.
In my original plan, I was going to have all my labs written before the start of classes, but I’m holding at 1.5 with little prospect of doing more lab writing before the first week. Partly, I’m being lazy and a little nervous about the course, but mostly I’ve been really focused on trying to be as productive at research as possible in the last few weeks of uninterrupted days. I was afraid that if I started working classes, I’d just end up spending all of August on them….and then all of September-December anyways. So I’m intentionally trying to hold off on writing lectures until the week I’m giving them. And that means that I’m scheduling this week on research (and unavoidable meetings), and I’ll write my first lecture the day before I give it.
But despite my resolve, I’m second-guessing myself today. Should I spend the rest of week getting a bit ahead on the teaching stuff, so that I’m not so stressed out so early on this semester? Am I short-changing myself and my students by prepping for class last-minute? Will everything go to hell in a handbasket if I something small goes awry in the next couple of weeks? Am I really being productive enough research-wise to justify last-minute teaching prep?
Then I see things like Kate’s comment that she’s got the first two weeks of her classes fully prepared, and I freak out a little more. So, lovely readers, tell me. If you’re teaching (a new prep) how much do you get done before the start of the semester? Does it really help once the semester is in full swing?