One of the quirky aspects of being at Lincoln is that there is no spring break.
As a result, the semester is an intense four months beginning in January and ending in mid-April. With just over two weeks until the end of the semester, many of my students are already looking ahead to their summer vacation.
It’s hard to keep classes engaged at this time of the semester, primarily because many students have a lot of other activities going on. My seniors are preparing for graduation and life after college while underclassmen are either looking for internships or just feeling burned out by the classwork.
I have to admit, I also have started to feel the wear of the semester. I was speaking to a few of my friends at other universities, and they all mentioned how important their spring breaks were in helping them recharge for the final weeks. Since I don’t have that luxury, I have tried to find different ways to keep my energy levels high.
Most educators don’t want to admit it, but we do look forward to the end of the academic year as much as our students. It gives us time to catch a breather, catch up on research and re-connect with friends outside of academia. This is why the last three weeks are so vital to keeping focused.
Lately, I’ve been staying in my office later to make myself more available to students in need of advising or just a person to talk to. Talking with them actually gives me a “second wind,” since those conversations often remind me why I’m at Lincoln.
I’ve also been taking longer breaks from grading papers. Fridays and Saturdays have become my days to do anything and everything not related to work, including spending time with my family and my fiancee. These breaks often give me the time I need to collect my thoughts and prepare for the week ahead.
While thoughts of feeling burned out are still unavoidable, I have noticed that my energy levels in the classroom are still pretty high. I also notice that my energy level, if sustained over a period of the class time, motivates my students. Last week, I spoke in class for over half an hour before a student finally raised her hand. Once she spoke, she spurred a discussion that lasted the rest of the class.
With students now gearing up for finals, I know I have to keep them focused for just a little longer. I know I can’t keep all of my students motivated, but I’d like to make sure as many of them as possible feel energized by the last week of the semester.
Once we get over that hump, we can all catch up on our sleep.