Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The in-between time

I am in a transition week. The lectures of the semester are over, but final grades have not yet been calculated and turned in. I have a few days of delicious freedom to catch up with the semester's unfinished business before heading home for Christmas. It's a time to wrap things up, archive the semester's work, and assign priorities to tasks for the break.

A similar transition week happens just before the first day of classes of each semester. People plan their lectures, their travels, and organize the semester.

Transition periods are wonderful. I think that they are key to being in control of one's professional life.

When I was a professor in France, there was no clean break between semesters. The Fall semester ran well into January, and the last meetings and unresolved questions related to the Fall semester overlapped with the beginning of the Spring semester. As for the summer, one of the worst things about it was that it ended, not merely with the preparation of the Fall, but also with make-up exams for students who had failed in the Spring and who had spent the summer studying. Because of those make-up exams, there was a continuum of teaching-related tasks, with never a chance for a reboot.

Transition periods happen at all time scales. For example, google calendars offers the option of planning hour-long meetings so that they're actually 50 minutes long. That gives time for a bathroom and coffee break between meetings. Brilliant idea!

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