Stressed Out & Grading

Stressed Out & Grading {New Faculty}

‘Tis the season to be grading, fa la la la la, la la la laaaaa. While consuming copious amounts of coffee and tea, I’ve also been grading through the caffeine jitters. (stop drinking caffeine and get it together).

Alas, the end of the semester is here. And by here, I mean in my calendar and in my course management system the final papers I assigned are staring back at me. Like that creeper in the grocery store that keeps ogling at you in the produce department.

There will be a flurry of ‘end-of-semester’ things to look after this year and my semester is going much the same way. On top of research, now there’s final grading, final grade submissions, final meetings with undergrads and graduate students, and faculty “things.” I’ve been in a new faculty professional development group now all fall and have been really pleased with it. It’s more time, but it’s time well spent. It’s already helping me plan my undergraduate research course for the spring and I’m so thankful for the time, space, and permission to plan. I’ll be attending a ‘syllabi bootcamp’ in January to get it tightened up and again, offer me the time, space, and permission to do nothing but think about teaching about research.

As we speed skate to our coveted winter break, it’s important to think about how our winter ‘break’ will ultimately shape up. Final grades will be dropped, December commencement will happen, and then there will be a deserved lull. Some of our universities now offer “winter-mester,” a full blown marathon over 2-3 weeks for students to pay for credit and someone (like you) to teach these fast paced courses. Those don’t offer a lot of flexibility in terms of down time, but for those of us who are not offering ‘winter-mester’ courses, what can we do to maximize our time to get ready for January?

  • Take time off. Nothing is as precious as giving ourselves permission to relax. Step away from your computer, turn off the dings and dongs your phone makes for a few weeks. You’ll stop panicking after about 24 hours and it will be heavenly.
  • Block off your personal/family schedule first. Making time for what’s truly important will be key. Whether married, partnered, with or without children, or whatever your situation may be, plan some time to yourself. Rotting on your couch binge watching Netflix is a perfectly good reason during that delightful week between Christmas and New Year’s and if anyone is wondering, that’s on my calendar.
  • Make a point to do something enjoyable and just for you. Massage? Long session at a coffee shop with a friend? Alone time with no other “humans” present? Whatever your cup of tea is, make sure you plan that time for yourself. It can be a luxurious privilege to do something we want, for an hour, for 12, for several days.
  • Ease back in. If you assign yourself an insurmountable task your first day back, you’ll likely fall off your own productivity wagon. Take care of ‘little things’ first. Mundane and mindless type things–deleting all emails before answering the ones you need to attend to, cleaning up your office space to make room for spring, or simply getting back on a regular schedule. Those with kids will find that is much easier when they go back to school.
  • Respect your circadian clock. If you’re on a roll, keep rolling. If you need a few minutes to take a walk to clear your head, head outside for a brisk stroll. It’s a few weeks where your calendar is hopefully not ruling your life so you can enjoy it. If you’re smart, you do this during the semester as well, but it doesn’t always work out so neatly.

Enjoy yourself. Whatever you do, however you do it, and wherever you place yourself, enjoy it. I wish you a festive and complete grading season.

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