Soon, schools will be starting their Fall term classes, traditionally, the start of the academic year. Most programs have their highest enrollment at the beginning of the Fall term. So I have a question for you. Do you have a plan? I don’t mean any particular document or form, just, what is your plan for making it through the Fall term? Life is so much smoother when you think ahead just a bit. Even though I often use a GPS when traveling, I always look at maps and routes so I have a clue about where I am heading and how long it takes to get there. Things are bound to come up, something won’t go just right, and there will be issues to resolve. However, all of this is easier to handle if you have a plan.
One of the most valuable parts of planning is that it forces you to examine the details. What topics are you going to cover, how many tests will there be, how many labs, will there be time to do everything you want, and when will you eat lunch. Yes, eating lunch is important. You have to build in down time if you want all your uptime to be productive. The more thought through and detailed your plan is, the better it will serve you. Modifications to your plan can always be made when things come up, but having thought through what you want to accomplish and how you plan to do it is especially helpful when unforeseen circumstances occur. If your GPS loses satellite signal in the middle of some deserted location you have never before visited, knowing a bit about the route and having a map are invaluable.
I spend a full week every semester planning. I lay out the lecture topics, labs, homework, and tests for all 10 classes that we teach trying to make sure they the courses complement each other and the labs make sense for what the students know. I do a schedule for each class, determine lab assignment dates, determine test dates, and put all this in documents that both the instructors and students use. I make sure the online materials make sense and dovetail with the lectures and labs. Yes, it is a lot of work. However, it makes the rest of the semester so much easier – we just run the plan. If anyone would like a copy of any of my planning documents, I would be happy to send some examples to you. You need your own plan, not mine – but having something to work around can often help you get started.