Close Out Your Semester by Meggin McIntosh, PhD

Apr 4th, 2014
Just as last week I shared ten ideas for getting your semester started out productively and so I thought that this week, we would talk about ten ways to close out your semester.  And, you might be reading both of these right during the middle of the semester, but that’s OK!  You will need both sets of tips soon!
Note:  If you are reading this week’s tips and it is not the end of your term, then just print out this email so you have it for later.
  1. Get all your grades turned in by the deadline.  You really want to be FINISHED and not have gotten an extension of even a few hours, which some colleges and universities will grant faculty (this is the same thing you tell your students, isn’t it).NOW, you can really start to close out your semester.
  2. Look at the (potentially) frightful place that your office has become in these last few days and know that, ahhh….the semester is over and you can get it back in order the way you like it.  First, grab any item related to the semester that will not be used again and is of no value and put it in the trash or recycling bin.
  3. Gather up all materials related to the semester that belong in the library, store room for the lab, a colleague’s office, or anywhere else that is not YOUR workspace.  Then, deliver those items back to their rightful place or delegate this task to someone who works for you or is just hanging around with nothing to do and would love to help.
  4. Think (if you can) about what you are teaching in the upcoming term.  If you have course materials that you will not use during the next term, then put them away.  You may put them away in your file cabinet, a special space in your lab, a box that gets stored somewhere, or any othe place that is not out and in the mix for the upcoming semester.
  5. Find out what the policy of your department, program, college, or university is (and get the REAL policy) for keeping student finals.  It ranges from 10 days after grades are posted to 3 years at the various institutions where I’ve asked.  When you find out what it is, put your students’ finals/final projects into a file cabinet and make note (in whatever kind of planner you use) regarding when you can get them out and shred them or otherwise dispose of these finals properly.
  6. If you have student work that has not yet been retrieved by students (and it will be by a particular deadline as per YOUR policy), then consolidate those items and put them in a container that you can slide under a chair that is out of the way but can be easily accessed as students come by.  If you have some other place (an admin’s desk or other spot) that you told students to pick up their work, then place all items there.
  7. Look on the class shelf for each of your classes (as recommended in the tips about how to open your semester from last week).  What is still there?  Make a decision about each and every item on that shelf until that whole shelf is cleared off.  Even if you are teaching the class again next term, you want to have it emptied for a few minutes.  Once it is cleared off, wipe it down with a paper towel or sanitary wipe.  I’m serious.  Clean it off.  Then, and only then, may you put anything else back on there.Newsflash:  Let’s say it’s the end of the spring semester and you aren’t going to be teaching this summer.  You could leave your teaching shelves open for a few weeks before you even begin thinking about putting your fall class materials there.  I’m not kidding.
  8. Gather all the “as soon as the semester is over, I will…” items that are poised and positioned around your office.  Put them all in one place (such as a giant basket, a box, or some such container).  Over the next couple of days, take a brutal look at each of these items.  If you really (REALLY) need to get to the task, then get to it or schedule when you will (writing, contacting a colleague, calling someone who wants you to do a presentation, etc.)  If life will go on quite nicely even if you don’t follow up, answer, call, or whatever else you had written down, then dispose of the item.
  9. Grab all the few-sheets-left-on-the-pad tablets that are scattered around your space and if there are notes worth looking at, tear them off and then toss the pad into the recycling bin.  In most cases, the notes are also so out-of-date and unnecessary that you might as well toss those into recycling as well.  You’re closing out the semester so much of what was gathered during the semester is part of what is being closed out…do so.
  10. And now, think through what went really well this semester.  Ask and answer, “How am I going to do more of that next semester?”  And get a plan for doing just that.

Congratulations!  You did it!

And if you want to get your current semester organized or prepare for the next, I highly recommend If You Do Nothing Else This Semester. With the strategies I present you will get the strategies you need to not only have a successful semester, but a successful year.