Posted on December 23rd, 2012, by Meggin McIntosh, Ph.D.
For well over a decade, I was a university professor. About the second or third semester, I realized I needed a "helper" to assist me in getting back and forth to class, handling various details at the beginning and end of class, and so forth. So, I announced on the first day of each new semester (in each of my 3 or 4 courses) that I needed a helper and that I would pay $5/week (most of my courses were 3-hour classes that met once/week). I always got a "volunteer" for that role and only once had to "fire" the person.
One semester, a student designated himself as the sherpa for the class and that name stuck. It was perfect since I had SO MUCH that needed to be carted (literally) to class and back to my office and I needed a wise guide to help everything happen smoothly. Here are ten reasons (and ways) to use a "sherpa" for your courses.
- Your sherpa/helper can fetch you from your office or lab, help you get packed up and then to class on time.
- Your sherpa/helper can make sure you get packed up and OUT of the classroom and back to your office in a timely and orderly manner.
- Once back in your office, your sherpa/helper makes sure that the course materials, demonstration items, papers, books, or whatever else was taken to class is put away properly (this helped me SO much because my first thought when I got back to my office was how tired I was and that "I will just put all this stuff away tomorrow." Yeah, right. That didn't happen. With my helper, however, s/he was only there for a few minutes and took care of it post haste. It was great!
- Your sherpa/helper can facilitate gathering up the assignments that are being turned in at the beginning of class.
- Your sherpa/helper can assist in returning papers to students at the beginning of class.
- As you are leaving the classroom, your sherpa makes sure that everything is gathered up. You don't want to be half-way back across campus and THEN remember that you left the extension cord you had brought or the special chart paper and markers, etc. Part of the helper's job is making sure that whatever was brought into the room is taken back out of the room.
- Since most classrooms are scheduled so tightly, you need someone to help you get into the classroom (going against the tide of those who are leaving from the previous class) and you want to be timely in getting OUT of the classroom – as the tide of students coming for the next class is rolling in. Your sherpa assists in this process and can be your "guard" – sort of parting the seas. Have I mixed enough metaphors in this tip? You get the idea, I hope.
- Particularly as the semester goes along, the sherpa can answer routine questions from students as you are trying to get set up for class or are handling more specific questions from students.
- Your sherpa/helper can put students papers (that have been submitted) either in alphabetical or numerical order (depending how you like them) to help facilitate your grading and recording of grades.
- I like an orderly classroom and don't want my students coming in to a mess (nor leaving a mess for the next class). My helpers could do a quick straighten and get other students to assist them in doing so. It made for a much more pleasant environment for all of us.
Should I have paid my students more than $5/week? Maybe, but it's all I could afford at the beginning and it seemed to work. Students often offered to do it for free but I wouldn't allow that since I didn't want to be taking advantage of them and wanted to offer at least some remuneration. Find what works for you…but whatever it is, hire a helper, i.e., a sherpa, for your classes.
And for more ideas such as this you may be interested in The Compendium of Productivity Tips for Professors! a step-by-step guide to help you achieve a successful semester and a compelling career as an academic.