Preparing for the Start of the Quarter

I can’t wait to get back in the classroom. After a long summer I’m starting to get the itch to teach.

Start with a Checklist

I know many of you have already started, but for me the quarter begins in a little over a month. I’m excited, but also concentrated on getting ready. Nothing feels better as an instructor than to be organized and prepared on the first day. That means that you can focus on teaching, and not on what you need to get done beforehand.

Teaching with storytelling is a highly thought-intensive process. It taxes your working memory, especially at the beginning of the quarter.  If you’re going to implement storytelling, having all the other “to do” items checked off takes a huge weight off your shoulders. You know what I mean. Updating your old syllabus, setting up your Canvas (or other LMS) for your class, planning a calendar, highlighting important school information, etc. We all have a slightly different set of to dos, but they all need done before we start.

With this in mind, I have a little checklist going of things I need to get done before the start of the year. Here’s mine as of right now:

Re-write syllabus

  • It’s been two quarters (Spring, Summer) since I taught at the college, so I need to proofread, revise and format my syllabus. This includes things like making sure my contact information is correct, the classroom and meeting times are updated, etc.
  • This quarter (like every quarter), I’m messing with my point system. I try to make it based on a fixed number of points, rather than on percentages. It’s easier for students to understand and makes learning a bit more like a game. I will write a separate post about this when I check it off my list.
  • Hire a proofreader – I hate finding my own typos and inconsistencies. This will be money well spent.
  • Send syllabus to the print shop (In the past I’ve distributed only a digital version of the syllabus, but this quarter I think I want it on paper).
  • Submit syllabus to the college before the end of the first week of class

Complete Canvas (LMS) Setup

  • I really like Canvas. I use it as my main communication tool with students. I upload documents here, send messages, keep track and communicate grades, and even have additional reading homework for students. I will make this a separate post when I get it all organized the way I like it.

Set up the textbook homework

  • My department requires a traditional textbook (more on this in a separate post), and it comes with an online homework component. I will need to set up four separate sections and assign the homework for the quarter.  If you have used online homework systems before, you know that this is quite the process. But the effort is front loaded, so it pays dividends later in the quarter when I don’t have to do much with this system.

Make a Course Calendar

  • Backwards plan from the end of the quarter and schedule tests, quizzes, homework, etc. I’ll do a separate post on this as well. This is one of the key gears to make storytelling work in a college classroom.
  • This is a big one for me. It takes forever. I need to make sure the homework aligns with what we’re talking in class  as much as possible. Since my department requires a textbook, this is particularly challenging for me.
  • Storytelling covers everything in the textbook, but it does so in a different order. This is one of the only complaints I ever hear from students: the homework doesn’t perfectly match what we do in class. I will be experimenting with this this quarter, and I’ll do separate posts on the process, the results, and my reflections on these.

Once all these items are checked off, I’ll be ready to return most of my attention to teaching with storytelling. This is the goal, and completing all these administrative tasks will allow me to pursue this more fully.

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