My Best Idea for Semester Prep

Presemester checklist

I have a recurring night-before-the-first-class dream in which I arrive in the classroom empty-handed, tell the students I have nothing for them — no syllabus, nothing — and tell them to come back the next day. In the dream I feel really embarrassed and ashamed at my inability to prepare.

In reality, I am an organized person and in days before the start of a semester I am busy with many behind-the-scenes preparations that are familiar to anyone who teaches. When I was new at this teaching gig, I used to make up a list of things to do about a week before the start of each semester. The list would include a bunch of individual tasks related to lecture, lab, our course management system, and so on.

Then, one semester it dawned on me that I could write my list in Word and save it from one semester to the next. I know this doesn’t sound like a revolutionary idea, but it has been a huge time saver for me. The list has grown quite detailed, with everything from bookstore phone numbers to instructions for those online tasks that don’t happen often enough for me to remember exactly how to do them at the dawn of each school year. I have categories for general tasks (like posting office hours), CONNECT, clickers, Desire2Learn, lab, LON-CAPA (an online program we use for pre- and post-lab assignments), and the first week of lectures. Each category spells out a task in detail. As I complete each task I turn it red, so it’s easy to see my progress.

If you would like a version of my pre-semester checklist, please leave a comment or send me an email. While you’re at it, let me know some of your best tips for preparing for a new semester.

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91 Responses to My Best Idea for Semester Prep

  1. JodyLee Estrada Duek says:

    Please let me have a copy of the checklist. Thank you.

  2. Amie Worley says:

    I’d love a copy of your list! I teach non-majjors Bio at a community college. I am mostly set up for the semester and excited to see the files, videos, and animation “gifts” I’ve left myself in the last 2 years of college level teaching, but can always use MORE organizational tools! : )

  3. Gordon Betts says:

    I have a checklist I use for each course to get everything set up – especially the online components. It is in Word format and I print it out the first day back. It is modified each semester as tasks change. Each day, I am also making a list and marking through the tasks as I complete them. thanks in advance for sending me you list.

  4. Kathleen Finan says:

    May I have your checklist? I’d like to adapt it for our new faculty as well as use it myself.

  5. Blanca says:

    I would like to have the list and ready to share.

  6. Toni says:

    I would love a copy of your prep list. Thanks so much for sharing!

  7. Yuda says:

    I’d love to get the checklist so I can be more prepared. I probably won’t have nightmare anymore knowing that I am all ready the night before my first day of classes!

  8. Mark Pilgrim says:

    Would you please send a copy of your list to me? Thanks!

  9. Sue says:

    I would love to have your list. Thanks for sharing it.
    I encourage participation by discussing related items in the news, such as sports injuries in anatomy or a new class of drugs on the market. .

  10. HJEA says:

    I would like to see your list. I am always a mess at the beginning of a semester.

  11. Kathleen M. Laquale says:

    Could you please email me your checklist to my email address. Thanks so much.
    Kathleen

  12. Pingback: Life on Mars? Teaching Life’s Characteristics and the Process of Science | Teaching nonmajors biology

  13. Hayley says:

    I would love a copy of your list! A checklist seems like such a simple but useful idea. Thanks for being willing to share.

  14. Laurie says:

    Thanks, I would love to see your checklist!

  15. Terri Canaris says:

    Marielle,
    I would love your list to help me organize for the coming fall semester. I’m sure I can adapt it to my Allied Health Majors Microbiology Courses.
    Thank you!
    Terri

  16. naima says:

    Well I emailed you earlier today (Nov 20, 2014) about a completely different thing but here I am hours later and I still had your blog tab open. I’ve been perusing the old blogs as I work on a class powerpoint. I’m in my first semester of teaching and early into the semester decided to start a list like you suggest in this post, but I know you have wayyyyy more on yours than mine! Can I please still have a copy even if this post is a few years after the posting? I also started a few other lists: – everything I learned about humanity in my first semester teaching college biology, every controversial topic I had to broach as a biology professor (ie: evolution, sexual reproduction, ebola, etc), and best professor memes. Also – I use evernote for my notes and to do lists – its a fantastic resource if you don’t know about it already. 🙂

    THANK YOU!

  17. Pingback: Can we nudge students toward those questions in the book? | Teaching nonmajors biology

  18. jmlandin says:

    Oh boy! I love checklists. Could you send me a copy? Thank you

  19. Jen says:

    Could you please send me your checklist? As an adjunct working at three places a semester, any bit of organization helps a ton! Thanks!!

  20. Sue M. says:

    I would love to have your checklist. I will be teaching non majors this summer. Thanks.

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