One of the perks of working at a very large university is the extensiveness of the faculty development network: my current institution, UCF, hosts more events and workshops than anyone could possibly attend. I admit that during the school year as my workload has crept up, quicksand style, to envelop my weeks I rarely take advantage of these sorts of discussions. However, last week the university held its largest faculty development event, our summer conference, timed to fall just after the end of grading but before everyone scatters for the summer. I’ve found it a useful way to transition from the pace of the semester into the mindset of writing, course revision, and (somewhat) less scheduled time of summer.
A workshop this year that struck me as the perfect way to start my summer was a discussion lead by Julia Metzker on “designing with the end in mind.” It’s a process of working backwards that is of course very familiar from a design perspective: building an interface without knowing what the user is trying to accomplish is disastrous, and similarly building a course without an idea of what students should master as they leave is unlikely to meet those goals. Wendy Laurel Belcher’s How to Write a Journal Article in Twelve Weeks came up repeatedly in conversations throughout the conference and is similarly goal-oriented.
Every summer I wrestle with the problems of scope: no matter how many posts I write on realistic summer productivity, I’m not always great at taking my own advice. However, I like the idea of planning my summer based on where I want to be when it ends. Think about the words that might come to mind with this mindset: for me, it starts with healthy. Re-energized. Perhaps with a yard that is under control enough for sitting outside and grading, and with that stain on the ceiling dealt with. A bit stronger. Caught up on some of the games I missed this semester so I can chat about them with my students. And yes, with a book manuscript out the door would certainly be ideal.
How am I going to get there? Probably not by jumping on every interesting call for papers that catches my way. Definitely not by spending hours on Twitter. Certainly writing every day will help, but so will exercise, making time to cook, and all the other things that slide out of my habits during the semester’s most packed days. Shifting to think about my summer in terms other than numbers (particularly word and page counts) has helped me escape some of the overwhelming feeling of the to-do list. Ultimately, I’m looking at each day as a set of habits to build towards goals that are broader than my usual checklist.
How are you approaching the summer? Where do you want to be on the first day of fall classes? Share your strategies for planning summer in the comments!