In the fall, I will be teaching a new upper level course, and I decided a while ago that I would do the major preparation work for the course in August. I did some preparation last winter -- enough to get all the required information online so that students could decide whether to register for the course.
I will have plenty of time to get things ready if I start next week (or the week after). I taught a similar course at my previous university, and I have taught pieces of the course material in more recent specialized seminars.
I think it is entirely reasonable that I not spend much time working on course preparation in the summer months, when faculty are not paid a salary by the university and when I need uninterrupted time (and effort) to devote to research. I want the class to be good, so of course I will devote some summer time to working on the material, but not until August.
All summer I have had students coming to my office and sending me email asking me about the course. I can give them basic information (the same information that is available online), but some of them ask me about things that I won't know until August, when I will focus on course preparation.
I tell them that I don't know/have these things yet, but I will in August. Some say "OK, that will be fine." but others say "But I need to know now." One student described his busy August plans and explained that he is getting organized for his fall courses now, in July, so August will be too late for him to get a more detailed version of the syllabus.
Too late? I think not. I suppose I should be pleased with the dedication and organizational skills of some of my students, even if the absence of detailed course materials indicates that I lack these qualities myself.
I give a polite but firm reply that I have not yet had time to finalize the course materials and that I will not have the requested information and materials until August. I am half expecting to get an email on August 1st asking for the course materials. Perhaps during the course I can dispel the preliminary impression that I am a disorganized and uncaring professor, or perhaps this impression is already deeply imprinted.
I know that most undergraduate students and even many graduate students don't know how things work in terms of the teaching : research : service components of faculty jobs (and salary in the summer), leading to some misconceptions and misunderstanding. As a result, I am thinking of starting the course in the fall with a description of the research I did this summer, some of which is highly relevant to the course material. Some students might be interested in the research, and some might be interesting in knowing what their professor did during the summer when not devoting herself to course preparation (in August).
8 months ago