by Ann Abbott
June is gone.
July is almost half-way gone.
In exactly five weeks from now, my contract begins for the academic year.
There are two possible reactions to this:
1. Ahhhh. Five more weeks before my duties start.
2. Ack! I have to get things organized now so that I'm not in a panic when classes start.
I'm not panicking, but I am going to start preparing my Spanish community service learning (CSL) courses now. I'll do a little bit each week so that things are as ready as possible when classes actually start.
How about you? Will you wait or jump in now?
I'm sharing my calendar here. Feel free to follow my calendar and to-do list. Let me know if there are any other steps that should be on the list. And let me know if you run into any snags.
Monday, July 13: Course materials
1. Double-check my book order. I had been using a coursepack, but now I'm ordering Comunidades.
2. Re-read the syllabus and make any necessary changes. Again, that change from the coursepack to a textbook will require a few minor changes to the syllabus: list it as the required text, refer to the companion website for the reflection prompts, assign the audio portions as homework, etc.
3. Update the course calendar. The basic structure will remain the same, but I need to change the dates.
Monday, July 20: Web materials
1. I use Illinois Compass (WebCT/Blackboard) as my course management system. I need to make sure all the elements there are ready for the students: upload the syllabus and course calendar; change the instructions in the "discussions" to coincide with the reflection prompts in Comunidades; update the due dates.
2. My website--http://www.spanishandillinois.uiuc.edu/--contains information for community partners and students. I will update that information and read through it with fresh eyes to catch mistakes. I'm especially interested in simplyfing the information whenever possible.
3. The course wiki is the absolute most important part of the program for me. I use it to give information to students about the course, describe the community partners, allow students to self-schedule for the CSL hours, and check up on students' actual completed work hours. I need to copy last semester's wiki, create a new one for the fall semester, read through the information and try to simplify it and update any necessary information.
Monday, July 27: Community partners
1. Send an e-mail to all community partners. Give them an update on the program, how many students will be in the community, when the semester starts and ends, and ask them if they have any questions.
2. Set up the date for student orientations.
3. Request appointments with partners I haven't seen in person for a while--or ever. One of the schools we partner with has a new principal, and now that she has been there for a little while, I'll try to contact her for a personal appointment.
4. Write hand-written notes to all community partners with thanks for their support and appreciation for all their organizations accomplish with and without my students.
Monday, August 3: Students
1. Send a welcome e-mail to all students who are currently registered for "Spanish in the Community." I'll tweak last semester's message if necessary.
2. This can open the flood gates for follow-up e-mails from students. I will handle any emergencies, but I will tell them that their TA can handle most inquiries once classes start.
Monday, August 10: TAs
1. Prepare materials for Spanish CSL TAs. (Many of you are teaching the course yourself, so you can skip this step. But TAs teach "Spanish in the Community" at the University of Illinois.) I need to give TAs access to the on-line training materials in Compass/WebCT, prepare a very clear document with their duties (teaching and grading, of course, but also handling student sign-up on the wiki, controlling their actual hours on the wiki, and knowing when to refer problem cases to me.)
2. Outline the in-person TA orientation that I will have with them at noon on Thursday, August 20.
Monday, August 17: Honors Projects
1. Prepare a list of possible honors projects for James Scholars students. Students who want to earn honors credit for a course must do a special project. In the past my students have done things like blog about their experiences in the community, write a grant proposal for a community partner, prepare training materials for future CSL students, and many other projects.
2. Before I can make the list of projects, I need to contact my community partners and ask them if there are any projects they would like an honors student to tackle, in addition to their weekly two hours of work in the organization.
3. Post project list to website/wiki.
4. Write one more reminder e-mail to all the community partners about the upcoming semester.
Whew! When I write it all out like that it seems like a lot. And it is! But I think my plan to tackle things one week at a time will be helpful. I'll let you know how it goes, and I'll share any materials I create. And be sure to let me know how it goes for you!