A New Semester

Another new semester is quickly upon us and although the semester actually begins today, I had the genuine pleasure of starting a class, Applied Inquiry IV, last Saturday. I’m looking forward to what the new academic year brings as we welcome new students and a new department chair. Additionally, we’ll be considering the future of our programs in the Benerd School of Education (BSE), including the way we offer classes, the types of classes we offer, and evolving options for the dissertation.

I’m also happy to be participating in the faculty success program sponsored by the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity. This 15-week long program is designed to strengthen/enhance/improve our productivity as we cultivate habits that support teaching, writing, and research. The program includes two conference calls per week – one on Sunday evening with everyone in the program and the other with our small group. In addition, we have homework (!) that’s designed to build on the Sunday conference call. This week, for example, we discussed the benefits of developing a semester plan focused on meeting our personal and professional goals. We worked through the steps on Sunday then were asked to post our plan. It sounds very simple, but can become daunting in short order. I made it through one week of planning and posting the appointments to my calendar … When I began to look at what I wanted to accomplish, then actually schedule time devoted to the smaller tasks that will take me toward that goal, I found my calendar filling up quickly. At the same time, I noticed that I do have time for these activities — it’s a matter of making the time for them.

The five-step process includes (1) identifying 2 – 3 personal goals and 2 – 3 professional goals. Then (2) writing them as SMART goals. From there (3), we wrote out the specifics steps we needed to take to achieve those goals. Then (4) there’s the process of mapping the steps out over the semester and finally (5), scheduling activities week by week/day by day to get us to our goals. This is part of the process of what Steven Covey described as putting the big rocks in first. Here’s a little of what my specific plans look like:

Steps One & Two: Personal and Professional Goals (I’m only listing one of the goals I wrote)

Revise and resubmit manuscript to NJAWHE.

Step Three: Specific Steps to achieve the goal.

Re-read editor’s comments

Identify additional research/literature

Respond to editor’s comments

–Revise manuscript as needed

–Prepare response sheet for editor

Resubmit manuscript

Step  Four: Mapping out the semester

This involves looking at other activities I have scheduled over the semester and identifying when I  might be able to work on the small steps.

Step Five: Put them on my calendar.

Fortunately, I’ve been able to add the steps to achieve this goal in the writing portion of the faculty success program. We write at least 30 minutes/day, Monday – Friday. So what I’ve done is identify in those 30-minute blocks a time for re-reading the editor’s comments, adding to the literature review, and so on.

By breaking down the goals into smaller tasks and making the effort to get the activities on my calendar, I feel more confident that I’ll reach my semester goals. In each of the classes I’m teaching this semester students face a variety of deadlines and projects; many often feel overwhelmed and concerned that they won’t be able to meet their goals for the semester. I’m going to introduce this planning process to them as one tool to help them organize their work to be sure they, too, accomplish their goals.