One of the challenges of teaching is teaching multiple classes within your discipline rather than multiple sections of the same class.
Teaching multiple classes means having different class preparations or “preps”: that is, different texts, curriculum standards, and different lectures and activities. This can be stressful and nearly impossible if the different preps begin to reach four or five. In addition, for adjunct faculty, the courses may occur on different campuses.
Fortunately, however, there are some methods to manage the course load and still serve students well.
10 Time Management and Teaching Multiple Classes Rules
Know the Standards and Course Objectives of Each Class
Knowing intimately the standards and course objectives of each course will help in instruction in that you’ll have internalized the direction of the course and what educational goals students are headed toward. Therefore, much time is saved in not having to go back and review and check off objectives as you design activities. With clear understanding of the objectives, some “automaticity” will take over, and you’ll be able to plan the direction of the course fluidly.
Familiarize Yourself with the Curriculum of Each Class
Similar to understanding the course objectives is knowing the curriculum and materials intimately. You will with this knowledge be able to connect the curriculum with each objective. You’ll be able to see where an activity will meet a course objective, perhaps impromptu, during “live” instruction, if it’s in your repertoire of teaching strategies, and know how to implement the activity without much preplanning.
Order Books and Materials Early
Ordering books, desk copies, related materials, and setting up accounts on related sites as soon as possible helps enormously in advance planning. The book and related materials are usually a major focus of the instruction. You may also go on the publisher’s website and/or Amazon; many sites now have the table of contents of the textbook available so that you can begin some preliminary planning even before you have the text.
Practice Good Organization and Time Management
Strong organizational and time management skills are critical to successfully navigating a large course load. Keeping all course materials in separate files, for example, and maintaining the file system, correcting student work as soon as it comes in rather than procrastinating (as tempting as that may be), and budgeting time for planning are all strategies that will help you in successfully plotting a course for a successful semester with a full course load.
Plan a Semester Schedule Based on Course Objectives
Plan out a draft of the semester’s schedule based on course objectives, noting what goals and activities and assignments will be completed and what should be read on a week-to-week basis. This schedule can and will change, of course, but there is now a tentative plan in place to keep everyone, students and instructor, on target, and the instructor at a glance can get an idea of what the class should be prepared to do on a week-to-week basis with some adjustments.
Plan as You Go
As you are finishing one class session, take notes on possibilities for the next. If something was not finished in one class session, or questions came up this class session that were not addressed, then the instructor knows what the next session should cover. If she noticed during the course of the session a skill or point of understanding that students are weak in, then that may suggest the next session’s learning focus.
Learn Students’ Names
As difficult as it may be if you have six rosters of thirty students, learning students’ names early is invaluable in building relationships and saving time. If the instructor knows the students’ names, for example, she will not have to go back through six rosters to identify which student in which class just emailed her (or is on the phone at this moment). Learning names can be accomplished through such techniques of saying each student’s name when returning papers or during discussion, having students make up name cards to place on their desks in the first weeks of class, or even saying each student’s name to yourself as you circulate the class during group work.
Regularly taking notes, even a couple of lines, during group discussion, individual conferences with students, and after a lecture can help in keeping a record or what material was covered and what students’ individual concerns are, again saving time in reconstructing where the class is and what student concerns are when planning.
Use Reminders and Other Memory Tricks
Most smart phones these days come equipped with a calendar application, which has a “repeat” and “reminder” system. Noting all of your classes and their times and places, set to repeat through the term, as well as a reminder set for a half hour or hour ahead of time will help you avoid the dilemma of running across campus trying to remember if you are now supposed to be in English 105 or 51 or if it is in Building B or C, or even avoiding heading south on the freeway toward one campus when you are supposed to be heading north toward another. If you don’t have a smart phone with a calendar application, much the same principle applies to noting the classes in pen throughout the term in a paper day planner/schedule.
Utilize the School’s Learning Management System. Post Lectures, Assignments, Grades. Store Materials in All One Place
Course management systems/companion websites, available through such vendors as Canvas and Blackboard, are really one of the great educational innovations of the technical age. On the class site the instructor can post announcements, email students, upload important files, read and mark student work and return it to them. All of this saves time and space in not having to phone or email students with changes in the schedule, not having to keep and organize multiple copies of the course syllabus and important documents, and keeping student papers organized and safe. It is all on the website.
Teaching itself is not easy, and teaching a large course load with multiple classes spread across various campuses is more difficult still. But by utilizing time management and organizational skills, as well as taking advantage of such developments of the technical age as smart phones and course learning management systems, the instructor can successfully navigate the very busy term.