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From the Archives: New Semester, New Year

classroom The start of each new semester and academic year offers lots of new possibilities, as well as memories and echoes of past events and experiments.

ProfHacker’s series of open letter posts are multi-authored posts that offer advice to people taking on certain roles in academe, like new graduate students or first time tenure track faculty. If you’re not new in your current role, it’s worthwhile to reflect on what you’d like to do differently this year, and what you’d like to retain from your past habits and practices. As George suggests, recognizing that your stress level may rise during the new semester can help you practice good self-care now so that you can better handle whatever comes up.

Many faculty and instructors are mostly concerned with creating or revising course syllabi at this time of year. Mark explains Planning a Class with Backward Design. A group post offers 11 Fast Syllabus Hacks and I wrote about a Syllabus Extreme Makeover. Brian discusses Asking Students to Revise Your Syllabus and Jason offers a round up of Creative Approaches to the Syllabus. (See also 2010′s Archives post on syllabi and course design.)

Along with readings and assignments, planning for the semester also entails considering the different devices and modes available to students. Mark offers Best Practices for Laptops in the Classroom; Ryan explains his Digital Etiquette Policy; and I described my observations of students’ use of cell phones as e-readers.

As you plan for the first week, remember that some students may be absent during the first week or may add the course later.

No matter how carefully planned your syllabus is, keep in mind that there may be times that you don’t want to stick to it, as Amy explains. Or as Heather suggests in When Hacking is in Your Lungs, you or your family might get sick. Having a Catch-up Day on your syllabus can really help you smooth out those adjustments.

Beyond writing up the syllabus, you might want to create a checklist for the semester, practice some strategies for learning student names and think about what you might wear on the first day. Jason also usefully reminds us that your expectations and reality of the first day or week may not exactly mesh.

As you prepare for a new academic year, what questions or concerns do you have? Let us know in the comments!

[Creative Commons licensed image from flickr user James Sarmiento]

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