Be Concrete About What You Want to Accomplish

A new semester is about to begin. This is often an exciting time for my students because they are looking forward to their new classes and more opportunities to learn about teaching and work with and learn from elementary students. This semester marks another that will look different than usual – with classes being held in remote or hybrid formats. While there are benefits to these alternate formats, they come with challenges, particularly with scheduling. Here are some suggestions to help as you get started with the semester:

Banish the Word ‘Study’ From Your Vocabulary

During the Fall 2020 semester, students came to my office hours for support with their schedules. They were having trouble finding time to ‘study’ for each of their classes. My suggestion was to banish the word study from their vocabulary. When you have to “study” for a class it is very ambiguous and you may not know what you have to study for that class. Instead, be specific about the work you need to complete for each class. For example, replace ‘study’ with ‘read two chapters from the course text’ or ‘write the read-aloud lesson plan.’ The latter two examples are more concrete and address the exact work that you have to complete during the time you allotted. 

Establish a Consistent Schedule

One of the wonderful things about being a college student is the generally consistent schedule. Each class is held at the same time each week – which makes it easier to build a consistent schedule. I strongly encourage my students to be consistent about when they complete their readings and assignments for each class. For example, if you have a literacy class on Tuesdays from 9:30AM-12:30PM, you can complete the readings for that class on Wednesdays from 1:00-3:30PM and then complete any assignments for that class on Thursdays from 9:00-11:30AM. If you have a schedule of when you will attend classes and complete the readings and assignments for each class, you will likely be less prone to procrastinating and you are working proactively by staying ahead of the work rather than being reactive and cramming to finish your assignments at the last minute. When you are planning your weekly schedule, plan according to your strengths. For instance, I am much more of a morning person than a night owl. I do my best work early in the morning. So, I would not plan to do reading or challenging assignments after 6:00PM. Consider when you work best and plan accordingly.

Set-Up a Location to Complete Your Work

It is difficult to complete work for classes when you do not know where you will do your work. Now that it is difficult to work for long periods of time at coffee shops or restaurants, you may need to spend some time thinking about where you will work. Will you work at your campus library? If so, make sure you know the hours and be prepared if they change. Will you work at home? If you plan to work at home, I recommend setting up some type of desk space. This does not need to be fancy, but you want an inviting place that you look forward to going to when you are completing your coursework. Also, consider the supplies you need when working – do you need pencils, pens, highlighters, or post-it notes? Make sure you have them available when you go to do your work so you are not spending your precious work time looking for what you need in order to complete your assignments.

I hope you have a great start to the semester!