What I wish I knew about Planning & Organization…

Since I often teach seminars on planning and organization to women in business, my mind wants to veer to time blocking and creating a schedule in response to the prompt this week. For many people, both scheduling and lesson planning create headaches. However, having a plan can help us to weather the storms that will eventually try to wreak havoc in our classrooms, just as having a schedule can help us to accomplish our life goals.

  • One semester, I showed up to the first day of a one-day-a-week evening class to find two students. TWO! Turns out, course numbers were scrambled and a course that only had two students was showing up in the system as full. By the time the powers that be figured out the problem, it was too late to cancel the class.
  • Just a few weeks ago, I had a computer completely break down on me in the middle of class. I had students (and my peer mentor!) on zoom and kept losing them because the computer just kept shutting off. A student in class had to use her laptop to launch zoom–turns out the classroom computer’s fan was broken. You know things are bad when the IT guy carries the computer out the door with him! The next instructor really had to scramble when he realized there was no computer at all in the room! (Sorry, Jared!)

While we hope for everything to always work perfectly, that doesn’t always happen. Being prepared is the name of the game here…and that is easier said than done when you are brand new in the classroom. These days, I have a pretty good idea of how to plan for a class, but it took some time to find a balance that would keep me from finishing a lesson plan 30 minutes too early or running out of time half-way through it.

I find that, just as with time blocking/scheduling, the important thing is to keep the end goal in mind. In this case, planning and organization in the classroom beings with my course learning outcomes. After twenty years of teaching composition, I could surely walk into a classroom and teach on any topic having to do with composition without much notice, but I like to have my semester planned out from the start to make sure I hit all of my goals for my students. For me, that means using Canvas. Before the semester starts, I map out my class in Canvas week by week, with readings, discussions, assignments, etc. I usually have a pretty good idea of what I will do in class every class period for the entire semester before it even starts. Everything is built before the first day of class. Then, as I go through the semester, I look for new ways to do things–new intro activities, new resources, etc–as well as pulling out the old filing cabinet and looking at what I’ve done in the past. This allows me to also accommodate the needs of my students–some classes need extra help, while others need to be challenged even more.

Having all of these things in mind helps me to weather those storms that will certainly hit. When my technology didn’t work, I went “old school” and took my online activity that incorporated both my on campus and online students back to an in person activity and tried to find a workaround for my online students zooming in that day.  With two students in a three hour class, I was able to work more one on one with drafting–group activities don’t work so well with only two students. The key is to be organized, yet flexible.

And…in the end, if all else fails…


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