Some semesters end – but don’t really feel as if they have ended. We have vestiges of them still lying around our physical and mental space. Here are 5 tips to help you really close out your semester so you can focus on whatever is coming next for you.
Newsflash: Let’s say it’s the end of the spring semester and you aren’t going to be teaching this summer. You could leave your teaching shelves open for a few weeks before you even begin thinking about putting your fall class materials there. I’m not kidding.
If you have student work that has not yet been retrieved by students (and it will be by a particular deadline as per YOUR policy), then consolidate those items and put them in a container that you can slide under a chair that is out of the way but can be easily accessed as students come by. If you have some other place (an admin’s desk or other spot) that you told students to pick up their work, then place all items there.
Look on the class shelf for each of your classes (I’m hoping you have one shelf designated for each class you teach). What is still there? Make a decision about each and every item on that shelf until that whole shelf is cleared off. Even if you are teaching the class again next term, you want to have it emptied for a few minutes. Once it is cleared off, wipe it down with a paper towel or sanitary wipe. I’m serious. Clean it off. Then, and only then, may you put anything else back on there.
Gather all the “as soon as the semester is over, I will…” items that are poised and positioned around your office. Put them all in one place (such as a giant basket, a box, or some such container). Over the next couple of days, take a brutal look at each of these items. If you really (really) need to get to the task, then get to it or schedule when you will (writing, contacting a colleague, calling someone who wants you to do a presentation, etc.). If life will go on quite nicely even if you don’t follow up, answer, call, or whatever else you had written down, then dispose of the item.
Grab all the few-sheets-left-on-the-pad tablets that are scattered around your space and if there are notes worth looking at, tear them off and then toss the pad into the recycling bin. In most cases, the notes are also so out-of-date and unnecessary that you might as well toss those into recycling as well. You’re closing out the semester so much of what was gathered during the semester is part of what is being closed out…do so.
And now, think through what went really well this semester. Ask and answer, “How am I going to do more of that next semester?” And get a plan for doing just that. You have the mental space to be able to do that if you followed the first four steps in this article.
Congratulations! You did it!
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