A New Term: The Promise

It is week 2 of 13 at work and it is filled with new faces, new courses, and lots of promise. I did something a little different last week during one of my lectures. I spent a good chunk talking about my expectations, good habits, things to avoid, and reminded my students to get involved. These points speak to the Fall term at university. I want big things for this term.

The reminder is also important for me. I am in my 17th year of teaching and this means that I am comfortable with my job. Comfort is great and has some pitfalls. I must remember that this new environment is filled with its own jargon and the new students are just figuring out the place–let alone my expectations on the first or second day. As I walked to the lecture hall last week, I had that bounce in my step and I was excited. It was great to see the new group. Welcome to campus, and welcome to my classroom. I know that this particular class is different, as it is team taught.

When I walk into the classroom, I think about my job and how important it is for the students. It is privilege to have an important part in their education. But, as I told them, they need to show up. They need to own their education. I am looking forward to this term. And, I really hope that my students are, too. I’m raising my coffee to my students. Rock this term!

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Finish the Term Strong

This post is all about suggestions for student success. As a former Undergraduate Advisor and an instructor, I am supportive of student success. I have one more week in the term and due date are looming, but I realize that many of my colleagues have one to two more months left. This post will speak to some suggestions for how students can finish the term strong

1. Go to class

2. Read the syllabus

3. Go to office hours

4. Review points one through three

Seriously, I am not kidding about the above as they are extremely important to student success. As I told a group of librarians today, I might as well say that the sky is blue; however, it is key to emphasize the obvious. There are moment when we need reminding about what is the obvious Beyond the absolute obvious, I also suggest that during the last part of the term that students manage their time well. Now is the time to focus on ending on a high note. It is to easy to finish with the best that you can do in that moment, but that will not make you stand out above the others. I encourage you to become a hermit during the last week or two as you write your papers.

What else can you do? You can visit your Writing Center and then ask if your professor is willing to chat about your draft or to review your draft. Please note that most professors will not copy-edit your draft. Please remember that your professor may have 30-400 students that term, so don’t be too hard on your professor if they are only willing to chat about your paper. If you have a Teaching Assistant, by all means go to her or his office hours. Own your education. Take charge and act like you care. Acting like you care about your education and success really does count for something.

My last words of guidance are about reading the assignments and following directions. I am always surprised and frustrated by the number of students who do not read the syllabus and think that this is not important. A student approached me recently saying, “This is a 12 point font.” I responded, “Yes, it is but it is not Times New Roman 12 and is a huge font. Please review my syllabus.” Following directions is the first part of an assignment and reflect attention to detail. Good luck with the last few weeks and your papers and final!

Graduation is a mere two months away and I can’t wait to sit on the stage and witness this momentous event. Until then, I send positive energy to my students as they wind down. Finish the term well!

 

 

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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.

Thinking about the Term: Fri Fun Facts

The term just ended and it’s fresh in my mind. For students, staff, and faculty this is the best time to think about how the term ended. What can you do to make the next term better? And, more importantly what did you do well that you need to do again?

  1. I keep track of my emails and hold on to them for more than a year. I do this to protect myself and the students. I will continue to do this
  2. I had students blog in my seminars and I will continue to offer this as an assignment. The student blogs were good to strong.
  3. I did something different this school year and I had separated my office hours between my advanced class (the seminar) and my first year course. The seminar students enjoy having their own slated consultation time. I will continue to do this.
  4. I allowed one Teaching Assistant to run a series of writing workshops and I think that was a great use of his hours. The first session was small, but the next two included lots of students and they gave me positive feedback.
  5. There are instances when I photocopy work that gives me or the Teaching Assistant pause. I photocopied some work this time, but will take special care to to photocopy any work that requires “strict scrutiny.”

Overall, it was a great term and I look forward to Summer School.

Fri Fun Facts~ Planning: What Works for You

We officially at that point of the term that many of my students will wonder what happened to their Reading Break. They just had a week free from classes and hopefully relaxed and worked. Some did. Most did not get as much done as they wanted to. This is normal. Today’s Fri Fun Facts is related to planning the rest of the term.

1. If you haven’t done so already–get out your syllabi and highlight the due dates for your papers. Then, go to the Assignment Calculator. This will help you gauge your time.

2. Get focused. Now is the time to meet with your Teaching Assistants and Professors. Ask questions about the papers or other assignments. Get a better idea about their expectations. What are they really looking for with the paper/project?

3. Eat, sleep and exercise. It sounds easy enough–but you have to stay healthy.

4. Go to class. You will hear lectures and important information. Your participation today could turn out useful next year, when you ask for a job reference or letter of recommendation. Your Professor might remember you better if you were in class.

Overall, my words of advice–plan.