Burnt or fried?

Jan 18 2010 Published by under Uncategorized

I have been, more or less, writing for the last four months. Book chapters, grants, pieces of manuscripts and pieces of other grants. It's been pretty non-stop and I've kept chugging along. The past month, in particular has been a really good time to finish up a lot of things because there's so few people to bother me at work until next week, when the semester comes crashing down again. But I have two more small pieces of writing left to do before then and all I can do is just stare at my computer. It's like I accidentally shifted into neutral while driving and now the gas pedal doesn't do anything but rev the engine.

I am also supposed to be planning for my course that starts next week, but I have no sweet clue how to do that because this is all new to me. I'm going to go through all the materials that were given to me and make changes where I see fit, but otherwise I'm at a loss as to what to do in order to "prepare". It's like asking someone who has never really cooked to prepare to make a meal for 40. I'll just start by washing the vegetables and then...

Remember when the concept of the holidays meant that you had time away from work to recharge? Now it feels like a flurry of getting work done during the time when fewer people are around to suck your time away. I'm now heading into the new semester when I am teaching undergrads for the first time, already feeling like I've been run over. I still have 8 days until my first class, I'm sure I'll get myself sorted before then.

11 responses so far

  • Ink says:

    Washing the veggies is a great start! Is this specific course material new, or is class prep in general a new activity?

  • Mad Hatter says:

    "Remember when the concept of the holidays meant that you had time away from work to recharge?"This hasn't been true in god knows how long. Even in grad school, summer vacations were the time to get lots of benchwork done without the distraction of classes and seminars!

  • Prof-like Substance says:

    Ink, class prep in general (for this type of class) is a new thing. I'm fortunate to have a good base of material to work from, but again, all good ingredients don't make a good meal. MH, I was thinking more the winter break and some of the week-long breaks from classes we get during the year. Summer doesn't really count.

  • Hermitage says:

    Hello you sound like my PI to the ubermax. Except he likes drawing 'anticipated vs actual productiveness' curves after the fact. I think it's his version of shaking his fist at the cruel universe.

  • Professor in Training says:

    Decide what info the students need during the first class and start there. Syllabus, reading list, assessment due dates, your expectations, office hours, etc. Then figure out what you need for the class lectures/labs you have scheduled for the first week - get your presentations, discussions, labs, whatever, ready and make sure you know the material. If you have an online resource like Blackboard or Angel, get that set up asap. Find out where your classes are scheduled and make sure you have the keys to the room and that you know how to use the projector if you are planning to use it. I think that's about it!

  • Ms.PhD says:

    I second what PiT said re: the teaching. re: writing, take a break. Go to the gym. Do something else for at least a whole day- even if it's just catching up on your favorite tv show. Writing takes a lot of brainpower. You probably just need to rest that part of your brain.

  • DrU says:

    Re teaching, pretty much what PiT said. You should also realise that if you have never taught a course before, it will take a lot longer to prepare a lecture (choose material, find/create images, prepare slides, get an idea in what order to present stuff, etc.) than to actually give it - I would say at least 4-5 times as long as the lecture actually lasts (so 8-10hrs for a 2hr lecture). In a way it's similar to giving a conference presentation or a seminar, except you have to be about 2 times slower, since you have to explain everything. If I use slides, I usually count with 1 slide for 2-3 min of talking in lecture (while in a seminar or a conf presentation I would usually count with 1 slide for about 1 min or a bit longer).Same goes for preparing for labs, if you have those, they will take a long time to prepare. You should also test them (or ask your TA to do that) beforehand, so that you make sure that they actually work and that you don't have any technical issues (this is particulary relevant for IT labs, if you have those, where they should preferably be tested with student - not faculty - network rights on the computer network). Good luck!

  • tideliar says:

    Mate of mine is doing a degree in engineering (mad...). Unprepared teacher at first class last week (10 mins late)..."Right. Um...Ok... let's look at the syllabus..."(45mins later)"Right. OK. An hour to go. Right. Um. Why don't we start at the front here and everyone take turns standing up and introducing yourself. Tell us about yourself sand why you're here..."FAIL

  • Ink says:

    Yep, what PiT said. But keep in mind that you have to grade everything you assign, times the number of students in your class...so some assignments might be better off compiled into one (a collection of assignments at once to be graded once -- for example, a journal instead of individual papers).

  • Prof-like Substance says:

    The "band-aid approach" - do it all at once and keep the pain localized to a short time. I have two mid-terms on the sched, with a final. I'm also having the students give presentations in class, which are graded by their peers. There is one additional exercise, but it will be graded at the end too. I'm getting there. I could almost pass as organized.

  • Ink says:

    If we were doing a go/no go check like in Apollo 13, you are clearly GO for semester. Roger that.

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