Creating a Mindful Schedule

Here’s the nice thing about teaching a F2F class: You know exactly when it’s going to happen, and you’re not going to be doing anything else during that time. When it’s time to teach, it’s time to teach. When I have taught F2F classes, or even hybrid ones, my schedule was clearly marked off in terms of when I: (a) had to show up and (b) needed to be planning/grading. As I have moved into 100% online teaching for the year, I have found that the scheduling habits I had when teaching F2F can be applied in this setting.

The struggle I have been having is getting a consistent spot on my calendar for my teaching. I have tried – I swear I have tried – to mark out the same day/time once a week for planning. But I am in a new job, and I just moved across the country. As I get to know my new job I am finding I have to constantly shift my planning time around. I can’t quite get my foothold. It’s killing me. It’ll happen. Everything will calm down. I’ll get a grip on it all. But for starters, my advice is to make sure you have a spot on your calendar for planning. I block out two-three hours. If I finish early I can work on next week or do some grading.

But that advice isn’t really anything new. I’m pretty sure I’ve already said it. What I realized is that even if I do have a consistent two-three hour chunk of time each week I will still be running around trying to do any number of things related to my class. What am I missing? I’m missing that three hour in-person time.

See, when conceptualizing my online class I considered what I would normally have students do during our three hour in-person session and then in-between sessions. I’m not saying I tried to recreate a F2F course in an online environment. I just used my prior experience to think about workload and the types of things I would have students do. But I also realized I would benefit not by having one two-three hour session on my calendar (with random times doing other things) but with two three hour sessions on my calendar. When teaching F2F this is what I had, and it was generally enough time for me to do my work, do it well, and not feel rushed or overwhelmed. In transitioning to online, I lost that in person three hour session, but the workload is still comparable. In a F2F class, we did a chunk of our work together during class time. I was present for giving feedback and answering questions. I also gave students points for being present and doing the work. This means a chunk of what I still have to do in an online class automatically happened for me in a F2F class each week. The work still happens in an online class, but I am not present to give the feedback and do the grading on the spot.

What I think this means is for me to try out the following:

(a) one 2-3 hour block of time where I do my planning. left over time can be used for planning upcoming weeks, grading, or answering students’ questions

(b) another three hours of time devoted to giving quality feedback/grading. however, this course is asynchronous. this means we never all have to do the same thing at the same time. yes, there are deadlines, but you can generally do the work when you want to. what will most likely be helpful here is to not schedule a second block of three hours but perhaps three one hour sessions over the course of a week. this allows me to pop in and out and give feedback/answer questions as they arise but in a relatively responsive manner.

So that’s what I’m going to move towards trying. Given that I’m sorting out all kinds of kinks, and working on finding my rhythm, this idea may take a while to get enacted in a smooth manner. But I think it’s a good one that worth being patient with and giving it time to play out. I think all online teaching involves us thinking about our schedules and creating a mindful schedule that works in response to what it means to be an online teacher and an online student. We each have to figure this out for ourselves, but in doing so I think it’s helpful to reflect back on our teaching experiences in other contexts. F2F and hybrid environments can help us identify what we might want to do differently in our online classes. They can also provide us ideas that, with the right adjustments, can serve us well.

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