Fri Fun Facts: Check In

Today’s Friday Fun Facts is dedicated to the check in. Periodically I have to take my car in to get its oil change and Canadian Tire will check the air pressure in my tires, as well as a host of other things. I am lucky to have a good dental plan and get my teeth cleaned twice per year. What about the check in at work? Some employers have annual reviews, and my  employer follows this procedure and some additional ones for the regular faculty.

But, I’m not so concerned with that right now. I’m thinking about the periodic check in that students should do with their schedules and classes. What does this include?

1. Going to class or at least having a plan for attending class. Now, you might work well with attending 75% of the lectures. I’d prefer to see students attend 80%, but hey, I’m on the other end of the equation.

2. Planning your time during the hectic post mid-term craziness. From here on out, my students are bombarded with deadline after deadline and then the final exam schedule. Free time is really an oxymoron, as they should have their time scheduled well in advance for paper writing, blog writing, and exam prep. I suggest you take out your phone or device and seriously plan out a realistic schematic of what you can do between now and December 20th.

3. This is basic–eat right, sleep right, and get some exercise in so that you can function. I’ve said it before–get a flu shot or step up the various routines to stay healthy. One of the best defense is hand washing. Yes, I said it and I’ve said this before on my blog.

4. Check in with your Teaching Assistant(s) and Professors! I wish I could say that I get lonely during my office hours, but I don’t. I have a bench out side my office and during my office hours the bench is kept warm. I have to say that I truly appreciate that my office hours are busy. This means that students are checking in with me to chat about assignments, ask for advice, chat about their schedules, help them in other ways, and overall serve as a mentor or coach to them.

5. Related to the above point–check in with the advising team in your department and Academic Advising.

6. This is really basic, but I have to repeat it: read your syllabus. Please read your syllabi! And, if you haven’t read it, please don’t ever say that to your Teaching Assistant or Professor. We really don’t like hearing that.

Enough! Check in–don’t check out!

Before a New Term Starts

I realize that many of my colleagues in the United States are still teaching. It’s the Spring term for them and they are slogging through those last few weeks or months in some cases. But for me, it’s the last harried week before my Summer term begins. So, it’s that time of year when many of my college students are thinking about the next year’s classes. This is a slow teaching time for most regular faculty (note this doesn’t include the sessional instructors, who usually have to teach full-time in order to stay afloat). One of the things that we forget though, is that this time of year is very busy for advisors and others who help students figure out courses and other important matter that is important to student success.

This quick note is a reminder for patience. In the last week, I’ve had many emails about books and course outlines/syllabi. Students want to know–where are the books? Bookstore. Where is the course outline. In my head, it’s in draft stage and gets distributed on the first day of class and possibly early on Moodle.

Patience for the frantic student who needs a little reassurance about classes. For instance, I am finding that I am fielding more emails where a student really wants advice. “Which classes should I take?” A few have actually said, I want to know your recommendations. This is a big responsibility for me. Typically the student who asks, has already taken a course with me. So, I need to think about his/her interests and weigh my knowledge of the department’s courses. At first I would suggest all our courses, but now I am more careful. This is not based on content, but rather thinking more strategically about the student and her/his interests and possible grad school interests. Students asking for more help with planning their academic career is more common today in my experience.

One common response from students is that they have heard that a colleague is a GPA buster. I always smile at this and explain that if the student wants to focus on Area A, for instance, in grad school that she absolutely needs to have a class with said colleague. The majority of the students come back to my office the next term and thank me for my suggestion. I’m sure that there are some who have opted to not come and complain to me, too! I would have never asked an instructor for advice about which course or professor to take, but from talking to other undergraduate advisors these sort of queries are more apt to take place today. I think that when I am queried–it is acceptable for me to make course suggestions to students. I am one of three undergraduate advisors in the department.

The other thing that happens lots is students want to check in and see where they stand with their programs. I get more queries that essentially are asking, “Am I on the right track” during these Summer term months. Many students have caught their breath after a busy year and are now assessing what they’ve done. I look forward to these conversations, as most students are pleasantly surprised with the progress made. I certainly do wish that more students would check in annually with either Academic Advising or the department advising team to verify where they are in the undergraduate program.