Teacher Talk

Teacher Talk: Three Things to do Mid-semester

Oh, the dreaded mid-semester mark.  The major holidays are over and everyone is looking down the barrel of the weeks left in the semester.  Instructors are having midterms and midterm projects.  We have inevitably fallen behind the schedule and are trying to play catch up.  The weather is starting to warm and students are looking to revisit their Spring Break rather than their textbooks and notebooks.  So, what to do to keep momentum going and students from rising up?

midsemester meme

Really, we don’t plan these things as instructors, but it would be much more enjoyable if we did.  Especially if we were all followers of Dr. Evil…

But, alas, we are not.  So, here are some things to do:

  1.  Figure out if you can cull anything from the remainder of the semester.  I have started to really question everything I teach each semester now.  It used to be that I taught whatever was in the textbook.  And sometimes there was much more in the textbook than there were days in the semester, but I would try to shove it all in there anyways.  When I switched to not using a textbook in one of my classes, I really had to ask what I NEEDED to teach in order to reach the learning objectives.  After all, the textbook is not often written with our learning objectives in mind, yet, we teach it, without question and often without purpose.  So, no more of that.  This semester we may have a week long strike, so the culling becomes even more important.  Some things are must-haves others, my students can probably live without and still achieve all learning objectives.
  2. Switch it up.  Go somewhere new for class – a computer lab, outside, the student union.  Just get out out of the rut that has become your classroom.  If you can’t do that, switch up the classroom a bit for one or two sessions.  Move desks around or have an activity where everyone has to stand and walk around (I have what I call “public speaking cocktail parties” where people mill about, introduce themselves and talk about their speech topics – no alcohol is included).  Have a guest speaker come in for a class.  Show a Ted Talk.  Anything that will get your students (and you) feeling like everything old is new again.
  3. Start planning for next semester.  It seems kind of counter-intuitive to start planning for the next semester before you’ve even finished this one, but I’ve found if I wait until its all over, I forget what happened in the first half of the semester.  So, I’ve started doing a little “mid-term review” of my own.  What worked?  What didn’t?  What did I want more of and what did I want less of (or even none of)?  It helps to note all this somewhere and it makes me start to feel a little more positive as I can look forward with fixes rather than looking back with disappointment.

So, those are my three things to do mid-semester.  What about you other teachers out there?  What do you do mid-semester to keep the momentum going?

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