Good day for (rubber) ducks

Spring semester started last week at both Babson and Framingham State, so I’ve spent the past week getting my proverbial ducks in a row. My syllabi, assignment prompts, and Canvas sites were ready on day one, and I’ve spent the past week and weekend setting up attendance records and updating studio schedules for my Comp I students.

Although there have been semesters when I’ve built my pedagogical plane as I was flying it, this semester I’m revisiting classes I’ve already taught. I know from long experience the more planning and preparation I can do early in the semester, the easier things will go later. There will be weeks when I’ll be buried in grading, and at those times I’ll need the guardrails of a well-designed course to keep me on track. A detailed syllabus and course calendar are for my benefit as much as my students’.

”Executive function” is the term psychologists use for the planning and processing skills both students and instructors alike need to stay organized and on-task. Many first-year students struggle with executive function, with college being the first time they’ve had to juggle school, socializing, and other aspects of adulting without a parent present. This is especially true in Spring semester Comp I classes, where many students are repeating the class because they got derailed last semester.

I am not a naturally organized person, as anyone who has seen my messy desk can testify. Over the years, I’ve learned I need a scaffold of to-do lists, calendar reminders, and So Many Alarms to remind me what I need to do when. I’m only as organized as the structure surrounding me.

They say second marriages represent a triumph of hope over experience, and I’d argue that students’ second or third attempts to pass a class represent a combination of hope and experience: my students’ hope, and my experience knowing what it takes to stay on-track. As lead duck leading a flock of younger ducks, it’s my job to keep everyone on task and on target: ducks, meet row.