Reading & Teaching & Planning: Advice for Grad Students

I created a “game plan” for today’s conferences about four days ago.  Still, last night I kept thinking that I should be looking over the plan, revising it, etc.  Which made me wonder:  When does a teacher’s planning go too far?

When I first began my Master’s work, it took me quite a long time to organize my homework readings and tasks.  I would list each task in a Word doc, estimate how much time each task (including readings) would take, and then schedule my days full–down to 15 minute intervals!  What resulted was a lot of time wasted on planning, and on worrying that things wouldn’t get done.  Although today I still list my tasks in a Word doc, I’ve created some important and useful boundaries:

Boundaries for Planning and Organizing Your Graduate Readings and Teaching Tasks

  • Don’t estimate how long particular readings will take–at least not down to the minute.  This will only leave you feeling stressed if you don’t finish when you think you will.  Also, it takes all the joy out of reading, which is meant to be an act of discovery!

    my typical weekly plan-of-action

  • Plan out one week at a time.  Once you’re done with this week’s tasks, then you can draft a list of next week’s tasks.  Looking at week-after-week of reading articles is unnecessarily overwhelming.
  • Take time after readings to jot down notes or your own personal reflections.  I find that freewriting for my-eyes-only is so powerful; it lets you ask those “stupid questions” you’re afraid to ask and it gives you a record of what you’ve accomplished.
  • My mentor, Thomas Rickert gave me the following advice:  Look at what you’ve accomplished.  Don’t dwell in what you still need to do.
  • Take advantage of short amounts of free time.  Got 15 minutes at the bus stop?  Read!  (Or relax, depending on what you need).

Somehow, conferences went so well today.  I feel happy and my stomach is settled (despite the fact that it hurt when I first woke up this morning).  I believe my feelings of low-stress are stemming from my decision NOT to look at “the class plan” last night.  Teaching is an incredibly joyful task… but it doesn’t always have to be perfect.  Sometimes, you just have to trust in your abilities and instincts.

About taylo206

I am an Assistant Professor of Composition, Rhetoric and Professional Writing at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.
This entry was posted in Teaching Approaches. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Reading & Teaching & Planning: Advice for Grad Students

  1. Katie, this is great advice! All grad students, no matter the discipline, would benefit from reading this. Your post inspires me to post something similar that I created for myself (over the summer) with the goal of not getting stressed out during school. Doin that now!

  2. Alexis says:

    I am currently compiling a list of the top 100 education advice blogs and I would like to include you in my article. I was wondering if I could ask you a few questions about you and your blog so I could provide a short paragraph about your site in my posting. Please e-mail me so I can send you the questions, thanks!

  3. erinafrost says:

    Wow, such great advice! I could certainly benefit from taking a step back and trying some of these techniques. Thanks, especially, for reminding me to take joy in reading. That can be a tall order at this time of year!

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