Fri Fun Facts: Reading

Today’s Fri Fun Facts is dedicated to one of my favorite habits–reading. How do you organize your reading for efficiency? For students and other academics this is a constant concern. We are always juggling several articles/books.

1. I balance this via setting up time to work on particular assignments. I might dedicate half the day or just an hour, but this keeps me on top of my reading list.

2. I have books, articles, or magazines in several locations and will juggle them accordingly.

3. Mix it up! I am not always reading just work related reading. I will mix it up and add fun reading, too.

4. Don’t cram. This is not the best way to allow your ideas to form and as I say, “marinate.” You want to have some time to think about what you’re reading–so keep abreast of the reading.

Decompress with fun reading. This might vary for you. I have all sorts of genre that I read for fun–mystery, cop thrillers, young adult literature.

Grad Schol Applications: Revist

Yes, it is that time of year, when professors are writing students letters of reference for graduate school. Thus, it’s worth my re-post of this Oct 2010 post with some additional comments. Just a few words of advice to students: Be organized. Don’t be a tyrant! My experience is that 99.9% of students are earnest and really want the help. What happens is that poor time management adds stress to an already stressful endeavor.¬† So, this photo is shared with lots of smiles. And, I realize that college students are not children. The quote was one that made me smile. That is all.

1. Ask professors weeks before the letters are due. And, please don’t be offended if we decline.

2. Provide us all the information we need. Where is the letter going? When is it due? Do we need to complete an applicant assessment form? Can we upload the letter online? Please fill out any forms and try to avoid asking the letter writer to do so (your name and SIN or SSN info)

I ask for a copy of your letter of intent and cv/resume. I might even meet with you and ask what your motivation is for continuing your education.

3. Remind us. Send an email a few days before a due date.

4. Thank us. This can be an email or a note. It’s not necessary to do more. Remember that your tenure line faculty actually get paid to mentor and do things like write letters. Keep in mind that part-time faculty do not get compensated for this extra work. Remember to thank them profusely–a card, bottle of wine or a face to face thank you is nice.

5. Remember that your organization makes this process easier. You will fill less anxiety and provide your reference writer ample time and information.

6. Keep us informed with the good news or what your Plan B or Plan C is.

Good luck with this process!

Fri Fun Facts: Organizing Writing Time

At Word Camp Victoria 2012 ( #wcv12 ) @Miss604 (Rebecca Bolwitt) shared how she manages her time blogging. And, as a a teacher/instructor/professor it made me think not only of my time management, but also my students’ time management with writing. This post is dedicated to organizing writing and thinking time. And, like so many of my posts the targeted reader is students or others who work with students. I look forward to your input.

Bolwitt gave some great advice. She blogs typically in the morning for a few hours and during this time she will compose 3-5 posts. Now, for students I would like them to think about earmarking time for thinking about writing. Yes, it’s part of the process. Thinking about what you want to say and what sort of research you want to engage in for the assignment. Is the paper an investigative piece or argumentative? What does the assignment requirements explain? You need to organize what the requirements are with what you want to do with the assignment.

If you merely think about writing as the actual writing, then you will not have enough time to “marinate” with your topic. I have found that placing “Janni Writing or Thinking Time” in my calendar necessary to successfully work on writing projects. Some of your ideas will undoubtedly hit you when you’re commuting in to campus or perhaps in another class. It is important to jot down these ideas, as you might not remember them later. Likewise, it’s also good to chat with classmates or your professor about the assignment.

Then, set time aside to begin your writing in earnest. You might start with pulling together facts and quotes and what you hope to find. Whatever method you use–make sure that you attempt to organize your thoughts. But, you must set realistic goals with your writing time and set time aside to get your writing completed. Bolwitt noted that the morning is a good time for her to write. When is your most productive time of day?

Fri Fun Facts: Breathe

We are heading in to the height of mid-term writing and grading. But, a gentle reminder is needed. Remember to breathe. You know–those great, deep yoga breaths that cleanse and calm. These are perfect before office hours and before you start grading. Other reminders for dealing with the first year student in the Fall.

1. Most students are really intimidated by the mid-term. They think that they are going to bomb it. Well, at least I find that the conscientious ones feel this way.

2. Most students are also intimidated by office hours. Just the thought of coming to office hours can cause them to feel scared, angry or frustrated. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen flushed faces or pencils shaking in a hand. I’ve also found some students calm and happy.

3. Students forget to breathe, too. And, they get anxious and all worked up about the five or six (ouch) exams or papers that they have to write. Try to not add to the anxiety and give them your full attention, while they are in your office.

4. This might sound silly, but thank them for coming to office hours. They are getting familiarized with your department and university life and they might know that coming to office hours is acceptable and a good practice.

5. Remember to breathe. This is a stressful time for faculty, too. Remember to get exercise, sleep right and eat right. It’s easier to deal with stress if we are at 100!

Now, to grading mid-terms.

Managing Expectations

This is probably an annual exercise that I go through each year as the new school year looms in front of me. I need to manage my expectations for how much work I can get done during the day or any week. Of course, as an educator I have to constantly manage my expectations about student work and it has to vary between the first year student and the honor’s student.

Thinking of students~ I’m always amazed at how few will complete the assigned readings. Some students will share that I just need to assign less if I want them to complete the readings. Well, I have trimmed the numbers of readings over the years and still find that I’m in the same situation. This term, I’m actually contemplating no exams in the third year level course and more of a focus on writing and reading with different exercises. I like to mix things up for them and for me.

One student comment noted why so many of our classes have a student presentation component. It’s not busy work. I feel it is important for the students to give presentations in front of their peers. And, I speak to good or strong presentations in letters of reference or on the phone as a job reference. So, I will not cut that assignment out of the course outlines.

I am thinking of ways to work smarter and I am not sure if a day dedicated to my own projects will work. Instead, I find that few hours blocked out makes more sense–a day can slip away during the 13 week term. I don’t have the answer, as each term is so different, but I know that it’s a continued struggle to manage my own expectations about my productivity. These next two years I’ll have ¬†reduced teaching load, but my administrative work and attendance at campus wide meetings will increase markedly. I know that managing my expectation will continue to be an ongoing exercise.

How do you manage your expectations? And, how do you manage your productivity?

Working in Short Bursts

These last two weeks have offered me an exercise in extreme patience. My “to do” list is growing, but somehow when I’m not teaching other stuff creeps up. This other stuff varies from my usual advising responsibilities, mentoring, general department business, and the good old work/life balance concerns. I’ve freed up my schedule from teaching, yet those hours are replaced with meetings–meetings that are important.

Having children caused me to get more used to working in short, productive increments. I had to throw out my wonderful daily planner and move to a weekly planner of sorts. This has worked well for me. I have found that with my heavy teaching load I still use the weekly planner of sorts, but I have modified this some to a monthly to do list, as well. Yes, monthly.

This morning I am trying to reconcile my lists and see what I can manage for this week and for the next month. I have also reminded myself to fill in “my time” in Outlook via bubbles. Why? Well, colleagues can schedule or invite me to meetings if they see free space! I don’t feel guilty about scheduling my project time. The one thing that so many of us know is that you can schedule the time, but will you actually write that day? That is another blog post! Until then–working in increments.

Patience: Reminder

It’s that lovely point in the term at my campus. Reading Break was last week and the vast majority of the students did not use the week off from classes to catch up or even get ahead. And, they’ve hit the ground running with paper due dates around the corner and final exams looming in the distance. Due to this, the students have a real sense of urgency and even panic. This is when they start to get ill, their attendance gets worse, and for many of them–they stop keeping up with the reading. They are in full–sink or swim mode.

What I have to remember–is patience. Yes, the syllabus is our contract and I do expect them to review it. However, the best tactic I’ve found for this last month is simple patience. I need to remind, validate, help, and occasionally chastise. The last month is really about coaching them. This seems to hold true for so many of the students. Even though I might want to hit my head against the desk–the best thing I can do for them is to take a breath, smile, and answer the question. The answer might be–review the syllabus. But, it does me (and my students) no good to get exasperated. Patience.