Sunday, September 14, 2014

Getting Organized

Most years I have had a rough plan of what I wanted to teach.  I use the term “plan” loosely there. My granularity tended to be a week rather than a day. I knew the topics and the order of the topics but day by day plans tended to be recorded after the fact. This year I got really organized.

I’m teaching two courses and one of them includes sections of a course that two of us are teaching. Tom (the other teacher) and I (largely Tom) built up a daily plan based largely on records of how the course went last year. This seemed like a great idea so I did the same for the honors programming course where I am the only teacher. I laid out every day of the semester. Oh there is room if something runs long and I can deal if things go short and I adjust the schedule as that happens. But basically, in theory, I know what I am doing every day all semester long.

It’s early to see how it will work for the semester but so far I think it is going well. The plan forced me to spend more time and do more exercises with students on some of the early stuff. This is stuff I think I rushed too much last year. Very basic stuff like variable types, proper use of assignments, breaking down problems into little pieces, and other concepts that really have to be solid before getting serious about things like loops and decision structures and all that. Without the plan I might have rushed too much.

I have planned out what projects and exercises to do as well. I spent some time during the summer tuning them up a bit from previous years. While I leave myself open to changing projects based on student interest at least I know what I need and when I need it.

What I have found most amazing is how this has kept my stress level down. I know what I did when I did it and what to do  today. When I get in to school I review the plan for the day and I am good to go. It feels great.

This is not to say I don’t spend my prep time doing things. I do. Grading of course takes up some part of it. Mostly though the time is spent improving what I had or have used in the past. And some time improving things for the next time I present the same topic. Improving slide decks and building additional support resources for students seems like a natural result of almost every class. our learning management systems makes it easy to share things with students and I encourage them to go there for review information.

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