I'm going start as an assistant professor at a state R1 in September. I'll be teaching two courses the first semester, and both are new preps for me. I'm currently shifting between prepping my courses and advancing my research, but I find myself wondering if I might be better off focusing primarily on one or the other. I'm curious: How did others spend their time during the summer before beginning a tenure-track position?
Date: 01 Jul 2013 18:37
Number of posts: 8
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Hopefully others weigh in on this and a consensus emerges, but in my view it is best to work on research for at least a little longer (e.g., start of August) before turning your attention to getting the classes in shape. I offer this advice for a few reasons: 1) you're at an R1 so teaching is almost certainly less important than research (2) I was shocked at how time consuming teaching was my 1st semester as an asst prof - I had much less time for writing than anticipated until I was settled in and more comfortable balancing research and teaching responsibilities. Worth noting, I had my courses nearly fully prepped so my time wasn't consumed by making lectures but by grading, mentally preparing for each class, reviewing lecture notes etc.
For these reasons, I say take the next month and try to get some papers written and research planned for the fall. Then, once August rolls around you can start devoting more time to course prep. I am curious myself what others will recommend.
I'm going to agree with "noname." I just finished my first year in a tenure-track position. I spent most of last summer working on a grant proposal and papers (one revision, and one new submission). Then I started prepping my class for Fall in late July, early August. However, my teaching load the first year was 2-1 (now 2-2) and I had already taught one of the classes. I took on one course in the Fall and two in the Spring. It was extremely helpful for the transition. I guess it depends of what else you have going on this summer and how "new" those two preps will be.
Best of luck pre-assistant! I'm sure you'll do great.
I agree with noname and anon04. I just finished my first year on the TT and had I not focused primarily on research through most of the summer, I don't think I would have been as productive as I was. When your teaching you have immediate deadlines…(e.g., must have lecture prepped by Monday), whereas with research you have less formalized deadlines (e.g., I need to have a paper done this semester). Unfortunately, the pressing deadlines tend to win out so you end up spending more time on your teaching than research during your first time teaching a class and may end up just putting off research. So, get as much in the pipeline as you can before you start teaching.
There's been good advice already, but I'll offer something of a different notion.
I think that your choice of activity over the summer is related more to how you handle stress. If you do not mind having a sense of things being "out of control" with seemingly endless looming deadlines, then ditching the course preps for the summer makes sense. Indeed, research productivity tends to suffer during one's first academic year. However, if you're more of a stress-prone sort who will lose sleep over unfinished tasks when deadlines are abundant and urgent, then I strongly recommend having at least one of your course preps largely developed prior to the semester start.
It's incredible how mentally draining it can be to have multiple simultaneous new course preps at the same time the courses are in session. I think it's worth noting that academic research and the all important publishing doesn't stop just because one is in the fall or spring term. One may well send out a new research article over the summer only to receive a "revise & resubmit" in October or November. If one must constantly work on course preps during the academic semester, then such revisions might simply never get done, and this could well lead to a publication lost.
If you opt to wait until August to prep your courses, then I suggest at least developing the syllabi in advance. Take time to really think about these as they are the binding contract with your students. A poorly designed syllabus and poorly planned course can really cause endless headaches and even some embarrassment if students start to find holes in the grading, for example.
Best of luck for a great start!
Similar situation. I'm going to prep my syllabus and look into this and that, but I taught as a grad student. Lectures…eh, read the book over the weekend, teach the class…eh. Not that complicated. I'm gonna take care of my research right now.
But overall, if you're focused right now you should get your research done. If you're not focused …well maybe prepping the course isn't such a bad idea if it helps you be productive.
Thanks to everyone for the helpful comments. It's great hearing how others have divvied up their time. I'll turn my focus to research for the time being, which is was what I was leaning toward anyway. (Fear of not being productive with research > Fear of all things teaching-related.) That said, DocJ's comments about feeling "out of control" resonate with me, so I'll continue to work on syllabi/course assignments in the background. Best wishes to you all!
I'm in the same position and here's my thinking. With research that are some natural breaks while you wait on other people - send a paper out for review, submit a grant proposal, even get an IRB application submitted, and you may have a few months in limbo while you wait for the verdict. If you do get a revise-or-resubmit or a chance to retool the grant proposal, you often have a window of time (a month or a few months, longer in the case of a grant) before it needs to be turned around. For that reason, I think it's wise to time those breaks for the beginning of the fall when you'll be consumed by teaching. My goal is to get 2 papers and a grant proposal submitted this summer and then 'teach as I go' in the fall, with the assumption that I'll be treading water research-wise during this time.