Managing Your Time
Students often face many competing priorities, and finding your own balance is an important part of being a good develloper. Here are some ways that you can make the most out of your limited time:
These are examples of “corner-cutting” that can save unnecessary time and effort without significant negative impact on course quality:
Don’t spend time typesetting. Aesthetic concerns are noble, but time-consuming. (Exceptions apply if you are faster typesetting than handwriting.)
Avoid writing long emails. Oftentimes conceptual problems can be worked through more efficiently in office hours or on the phone. Don’t hesitate to reply by asking the student to come to office hours.
Drop unnecessary tasks. Do the students need a newsgroup? Should there be a strict limit to when and how much e-mail you respond to? Does a homework figure need to be perfectly done in a graphic editor, or can it be drawn by hand and photocopied?
If you’re still overwhelmed by the average weekly work after doing your very best to use your time efficiently, you then need to find a way to offload or share responsibilities. In addition, you need to do it in such a way that is humble, honest, and firm about your limitations yet leaves the faculty member assured that you care about the course and are doing your very best to fulfill all of your commitments with integrity and excellence. This can be difficult, especially when teaching with your research advisor.
Have your instructor prioritize your tasks. Then, you will both understand the tasks at hand, and it should become apparent if there is too much on your plate.
Give reasonable time estimates for each task, and when the professor can expect each to be done. Then, follow through.
Volunteer for specific duties. Being positive (“I can do…”) reinforces which responsibilities you’ve taken on (and which you have not.) It also sends the important message that you are eager to assist within reasonable limits.
Avoid counting minutes, but watch your hours closely. If a course is insufficiently staffed, it is the responsibility of the instructor and department to hire additional CAs.
Most faculty are reasonable and respectful. If they understand that you care about their course but have other commitments you need to keep, they will usually help you find ways to manage your time for the maximum benefit of the class. If, after doing everything to be efficient, communicating your commitment to the course, and drawing lines as tactfully as possible, you still find yourself in a bad working relationship, seek counsel as a last resort. Your time is precious.
APP U offers several forms of evaluation and feedback. For example, as a student, you may request an online mid-course evaluation for your class, which gives students a chance to provide you with anonymous feedback during the course. The instructor also make a video recording of your lecture or section that they will discuss with you one-on-one to offer comments and suggestions. Another service offered is small group feedback. These in-class sessions are led by trained evaluators and are a big help in gauging students’ opinions on what is or isn’t working in your class or section.