From the Archives: Closing Out the Fall Semester


Because of the ways academic calendars are constructed, the dates for the end of fall term classes, exam period, and final grade entry at different colleges can be spread out from late November to late January. Regardless of where you are in that sequence of events, this can be a hectic time of year, particularly if you have travel or holiday plans coming up. So here are a few tips from the ProfHacker archives to help you close out this semester or academic quarter. (You might also want to look at the end of the semester Archives posts from December 2014 and December 2013.)

Getting Through the Grading

As I suggest in Three Reasons You Dread Grading (and what to do about them) ,

The perceptual frameworks we bring to any situation — the story we tell ourselves about it — shape our experience of the situation. So if you keep telling yourself that you will feel bored, disappointed, or deprived while grading, you probably will. Just pay attention to how you talk about grading, either in your head, or in actual conversation.

Planning restorative and enjoyable breaks can help you avoid feeling like you’re in grading jail, as can using a timer to keep your grading pace even.

Other suggestions to help with grading are in our previous From the Archives posts On Grading One and Two.

Reflect on This Semester

Now, while the semester is still fresh in your mind, is a great time to update your notes of your professional activities for your annual activity report or merit review. In Keeping Up With Your Records, Anastasia suggests:

Can’t remember what happened in September? You might try searching your own records: if you use Gmail or another email account, you can try looking up terms like conference, committee meeting, and other keywords to jog your memory.

While you’re reviewing your activities, you might as well update your CV and consider archiving the old one.

Tidy Up

As Ethan suggests in his End of Semester Checklist:

Most universities have a policy that requires you to hold onto physical copies of assignments & exams for a specific amount of time (for my institution, it is two semesters) before disposing of it. With a fresh stack of papers, exams, quizzes, and other assorted whatnot from this semester, now is a great time to find those assignments that have exceeded the “hold onto” statute of limitations, and dispose of them. . . . Remember to follow your university’s policy on disposing of student work. Throwing them in an “unsecure” trash can sitting out in the hallway is going to quickly get you in trouble with the FERPA police (and well it should).

Figure out how you choose to organize and store teaching materials (paper or digital).  Jason prefers minimal structure whereas I consider chronology, category, and ease of access  in organizing teaching files.

But as I wrote in 2010, sometimes doing all of that right now seems like too much:

I begin each semester with a neat and orderly office, but as the weeks move along, the detritus from the semester piles up. But I’m busy right now and don’t have time or patience for dedicating a full afternoon to clearing things out.

That’s when the five-minute cleanup can help! Just five minutes can make a difference in your workspace and boost your energy.

What are you doing to wrap up the semester? Let us know in the comments!

[Creative Commons licensed image from flickr user Esther Westerveld]

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