I may not be wearing myself out reporting on storms, but as a new university instructor, I still feel the cold slap of wind and rain. And there is more at stake than a few ruined elbow patches and disrupted night cap schedules. When my school shut down, I put my research skills to work, resulting in five tips to help you survive the rest of Hurricane Sandy — with your emerging reputation and sanity intact.
1. Survey fellow faculty members to determine best practices in the case of school shutdowns. A simple Facebook inquiry last night brought a long list of valuable suggestions for keeping your academic energy up. This was especially helpful for me as a rookie eager to keep momentum rolling. For example, I learned that with just an Internet connection and a copy of your syllabus, you can both stream horror movies and protect your desk from the condensation on your Side Car.
2. Assign storm-inspired essays, problem sets, or reading. This is one of the ideas I received from my Facebook survey, and it’s a stellar one. It could mean valuable practice in engaging with current events, or an opportunity to demonstrate nimble lesson planning to your colleagues. Even a chance to earn points when you casually mention it to your chair or dean. …Or it could make up for the fact that you would have spent the 50 minutes on a “critical thinking exercise” in which the kids had to debate the wisdom of going to a Halloween party hosted by your ex.
3. Stock up on heating pads and tiger balm. You will spend a lot of time in front of your computer, so get ready for sore shoulders. Who knew those intervals of standing at the front of a classroom or trying to look attentive at a committee meeting actually served a purpose?
4. Don’t drown in your work. Once you’re sitting at your laptop for a few hours with the trees swaying outside your window, you may be tempted to stay on to stalk the Twitter feed of your favorite brilliant (okay, hot) scholar, or retool all of your Blackboard modules with a fluorescent sea foam motif, finally following through on the lesson you always wanted to teach students that when they complain about how hard it is to find assignments on the course site, it can always get worse. Resist. I know you are dedicated, but believe me — overworking yourself will just lead to more aches and pains.
5. But don’t go on a Community-watching bender, either. Too much of a good thing is why, by the fifth week of fall semester, your brightest first year student started showing up with drool-covered assignments in her hands and Jell-o in her hair. So just go with two seasons on the first day, and one Side Car per episode.