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During the summer, it’s easy for teaching to take a backseat to the research duties that have been piling up all semester while you have been busy grading. Taking a break and switching gears is healthy and can bring you fresh focus upon return to teaching, but it is also important to schedule some time for reflection and fall semester prep. Don’t add stress to your fall by cramming all your planning into the week before the semester starts!

Most importantly, reflect on your semester as soon as possible. Doing so while the semester is still fresh in your mind will enable you to pinpoint more accurately and honestly what did and did not work for you this semester. If you have time and need to make relatively small changes, make sure to get to them right away. Nothing is worse than having an assignment not meet expectations, only to remember that you had a fantastic idea for solving this issue last semester but forgot to implement it. At the very least, jot down a to-do list and place it in a spot that you are sure to check when prepping for the next semester. Place it on the fridge next to your kid’s finger-paintings, add it as a google calendar event in August, or add a document to your class folder with a prominent title.

It is best to complete this self-reflection before you receive your course instructor feedback (CIFs) from students. This way you can focus solely on your own instincts and then supplement your initial reactions with those received from the CIF reports. CIFs can never provide a full picture of a class, nor do students always appreciate your pedagogical intentions or their own significant learning. Reflecting before and after the CIFs can help you better understand and contextualize the feedback that students provide.

Next, make a schedule that paces out your workload and stick to it, even if you can only afford a day a month in June and July. A consistent schedule will make sure that you don’t leave everything until the last minute. Spacing out future semester planning will provide you with time to reflect on your choices in between planning sessions so that you can be as intentional about your pedagogy as possible. We discourage students from cramming and should always follow our own advice. Come fall, you will be grateful for your proactive reflection and early planning.

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