Welcome to the New Term!

looking at a book

Today was one of those days. I saw two families driving on the wrong side of the road. I also saw lots of parents with their kids walking around the bookstore and other parts of campus. The families looked happy. And, if anything, the incoming student looked excited. I want to welcome all of us to a new term.

The new term means a fresh start for all of us. I am looking forward to meeting my new students and colleagues. I was lucky enough to meet lots of new faculty at a few events in August. The new term is the perfect time to move forward with good intentions. The new term is the start of something precious. Yes, it’s precious. The clean slate is a good time to start new habits and try to keep to them. I am thinking about what I want this term. What do you want for the new term?

Time Management: Own It

If I could give students some advice this time of the term it would focus on the importance of time management. Sound time management should pervade all aspects of your life right now. Students are on a specific schedule with classes, tutorials, and paid work. You add to this the need to study more and time to think. Thinking time is time to strategize about assignments and writing.

It’s really hard to schedule writing time, as you might have the time window, but not be in the writing mood. Use that time to research, mind map or outline your paper. Then, when you are ready to write you will have a plan for the next step. I realize that it’s hard to “schedule” writing–trust me–I really do understand. One of my mentors told me to try to write a page everyday and this was excellent advice. For undergrads, I suggest that managing your time means that you set up time almost rigidly for studying and planning for the term.

As I have suggested before, use an assignment calculator. UVIC has a great one that I emphasize (I use this term and others might say recommend or nag) to students. It’s a great way of setting up mini-deadlines for the research process. Another important thing to do is to schedule down time, sleep, exercise, and eating properly. You can’t function at your best consistently if you’re not taking of yourself. I like to say that a major part of being a student is managing your time well and demonstrating that you can start and finish a project–this includes coursework. Please don’t be too surprised if your instructors aren’t too sympathetic when you ask for a deadline and note that you have other assignments due around the same time. We are well aware of this and will most likely note that students have had the due dates noted in the syllabus weeks or months in advance.

Managing time is something that everyone needs to do well. Teaching is a major part of my job, but I am also advising, sitting on various committees, chairing the Academic Women’s Caucus, sitting on Senate, and working on different professional organizations or boards. I use Outlook and appreciate its functionality to invite other Outlook users to book meetings. My point here is that my schedule is like a well-oiled machine. Try to do the same with your schedule–stay on top of it. Stay focused. Highlight due dates, go to class, read, and meet with your instructors.

Pink says, “We’ve had a shit day…” This is going to happen to all of us, but try to lessen it by managing your time better.

Work Attitudes

For most of my academic career I was part of the contingent faculty. I am approaching my second year as regular, full-time faculty at my institution. When I was a part-time faculty member I took my job very seriously and felt a sense of obligation to the students more so than the university, my employer. Has this changed? Yes, it has. I have a stronger sense of loyalty to my employer, but this is compounded with an even stronger sense of loyalty or obligation to the students.

I have noted previously that I am content with my job and feel quite lucky to be part of the students’ higher education experience. But, I also have a sense of making this experience as seamless and supportive for them. At times I do occasionally feel like I am hitting my head against the wall. Yes, I am going to momentarily complain about the bureaucracy. There are rules about the major and overall degree program and I am here to help the students with the Political Science portion of their degree. My department has the least prerequisites of any department that I have worked for previously. This is good for the students; however sometimes the students will make a mistake and not take the proper courses and will find out about this later and in some classes, too late to graduate on time.

What I have been surprised to see–the unhelpful attitude from bureaucrats in the university. Sure, the student miscounted or misread the course list, but surely when a student is about to graduate we can make substitutions, right? No. Occasionally, it feels like Dr. Evil is the Bureaucrat–no, no, no, no. And, I think is a damn shame. Playing Devil’s Advocate, I suppose the university can (and does) say that the student should have known–should have checked, should have double checked. In the meantime, I will continue to balance my advocacy for students and the university.