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1st job

I was five years post-PhD before I got a TT job. By then it felt like a relief - I was no longer applying to 60-100 jobs per year. That was a lot of free time I now had. But still, there were adjustments. I think Marcus and his mother are right. You need to structure things so that your time is used effectively. Many student e-mails can be answered in class during class time - the answers are often relevant to other students. And the key to effective teaching is getting them working - that is the real lesson of flipping the classroom. They need to take charge of their learning. It is not your job to do all the work - you need to reprogram them. Also, in preparing class, do not aim for "finished lectures" - you want to present something that engages them, and gets them thinking about the topic. You then direct the conversation when it goes off the path. But - stop and congratulate yourself ... you got the prize, a TT job!


Once you've taught your main sequence of courses once, it gets a lot easier. After you've taught them a few times, you can pretty much do it on autopilot, apart from whatever new things you introduce. The time saved on prep--especially reading the readings and making the slides--is substantial. You just have to survive this first round, and think about how to ease the grading burden. Remember that teaching stuff will suck up as much time as you give it, and that past a certain point the returns are pretty slim.

As for email, I recommend setting aside a small, fixed amount of time every day to reply--say, twenty minutes--and just do it all then. It piles up quickly and the more it piles up the more dread you experience--and the more likely you are to miss something. So aim to reply to everyone within a day, and aim to get it all done in twenty minutes or so each day. Here, again, email can suck up pretty much any and all time you give over to it, so limit the amount of time you spend on it.


I've also found that first semester to be rough. This is why people often negotiate a course release for their first semester teaching. Also, if that's not possible, talk to the chair and try and get as few preps as possible. They will forget that there is a period of adjustment and may assign you courses as if you are a seasoned, tenured professor. So it's fine to say "hey, could I teach three intros, rather than intro, ethics, and a grad seminar? I just hear the adjustment can be difficult and so want to reduce my preps and maybe save the grad seminar for the spring" etc.

You are adjusting to a lot ... Not just teaching courses, typically new ones, or maybe a new schedule, or maybe multiple preps, but also to living in a new place, figuring out the various parts of the university, and so on. Just relax, it'll get easier.
Lean into teaching, maybe cool it with the research. Some more concrete tips:

Come up with a schedule for teaching prep and stick to it.

Prep smart, not hard. An intentionally and thoughtfully designed class activity takes less time to prep and can often be more effective than a very detailed lecture. Obviously *just* activities leads to a bad course, but if I'm short on time, I often just decide to prep something where the students do most of the work that day, and I can come in with corrections/clarifications as needed, and summarize everything towards the end of class.

Put more thought into the major points you want to hit for the course session, and less into the details. We all overprepare. I wanted to be an absolute expert on everything I taught, but this turned into me spending too much time poring over literature, and then I would "TMI" every question, with a "well, scholars disagree" ... which is not an effective way to teach undergrads. Think about what exactly it is you want them to know, and then what exactly YOU need to know to teach them that, and stick to it.

Bill Vanderburgh

I echo the other comments about reducing your prep time. As a noob teacher, I was prepping six hours for each lecture hour, and that is WAY too much. Eventually I got it down to one hour per hour, and these days (now that I've taught these classes many times) it is much less. A load of three preps is nine hours in class; aim to double that in prep time for a total of 27 hours, leaving 13 hours of a "normal" 40 hour week for the other stuff. Forget about research during the semester for your first year, at least.

Plan for your first semester to NOT be your best semester of teaching. Do just enough. Sure, your evals won't be stellar, but then you will easily be able to steadily improve in future semesters, which is what tenure committees hope to see.

You are probably assigning too much grading. Don't hesitate to issue a revised syllabus mid-semester. Students won't mind if you reduce their workload! (While you are at it, reduce the reading assignments.) These days when I give weekly 1-page reading-response assignments I just grade them for completion, and do comments only on the few that a quick scan tells me need the most help. Making those due at the beginning of class means students are better prepared for discussion, meaning you don't have to have as much prepared. You can also look into auto-graded quizzes online (though that is a time sink to set up initially, so don't do it now while you are already overwhelmed). In-class writing assignments fill class time, and you can make grading easier on you by creating a rubric and then having the students do peer grading (use sparingly and only on low-stakes assignments).

Email can mostly be ignored. Answer your students, your chair, and little else. Except for the social things--always do those. Find the YouTube videos that tell you how to create rules in Outlook, so key senders get sent to one folder you pay attention to and everyone else goes to the folder you ignore.

Do everything you can to avoid service until you find your feet.


On being kind to oneself during this, one thing I always found super helpful was to just be incredible honest with my students. It certainly doesn't help my mental health to have to pretend like I have it all together, when I don't. Instead, you can let the students know (especially first years) that you are just starting and learning it all, just like they are. Or, just saying in class, loud and proud, "Yea I dropped the ball on that one". They'll laugh; they'll relate; and they'll move on. Students like that you are human. It makes you less intimidating. And it might even help them with impostor syndrome, seeing that their professor makes mistakes. I think they are much more forgiving to that honesty than to the deception of having everything together. And, at least for me, remembering that took a lot of pressure off.

Marcelo Fischborn

In addition to what has been said (especially that first year is hard, and that it's students' work which mostly drives learning), I've been able to save time by defining a similar structure for different courses. For example, all courses will have (when possible) tests/assignments in the same weeks, the week before tests there is a review, etc. I also try to think of courses as having a certain number of topics/readings, class exercises, and key deadlines, which will be defined according to what the calendar allows. This makes it easier for me to remember tasks that must be done and stay within what is feasible.

Grad Student

I'm a grad student, but I have almost 10 years of experience of working in non-academic jobs, including in some university-size institutions where you get tons of emails each day. The solution - rules, rules, rules!!! Outlook rules are very convenient.

Among the emails you get, probably at least 20% are emails you don't want and don't need to see. Aake a rule for auto deletion. Some of your emails are emails you need to read, but not necessarily right now, and perhaps it's good to read them all together, so it's good if you can group them in a folder. For instance, when I TAed some courses, I told the students that they must put the name of the course in the subject of the email (otherwise I don't promise to read it). Then I made a rule that every email with the name of the course in the subject reaches a dedicated folder. Then you can read all the questions from students at a specific dedicated time and also see if there is a recuring question that justifies sending a collective email to all the students.

There are many many ways to build rules that help you spend much less time on emails and also note the important and urgent emails very quickly. Try it and thank me later.


I second most of what has been said above, especially about not over-preparing, letting students do the work of explaining the readings, and using assessment methods that are not too heavy for you. (A grading rubric where you just have to put a few X-marks can help too.)

One more thing I want to add: work out all your policies in advance and put them in your syllabi. It really reduced the amount of email I get, and it has the added benefit that you don't come off as making things up on the spot in response to student queries. In particular, you should specify:
- What are the deadlines exactly?
- What are the grade penalties (per day) for late submissions? When does it count as having missed the deadline?
- What are acceptable reasons for extensions? What constitutes a "family emergency"?
- Do you read drafts of papers and provide feedback? (No!)
- What university resources can you direct people to? (e.g. writing center, mental wellness center).
- What classroom behavior do you expect of students?

Make sure your students read the syllabus (perhaps test them on it), and this will save quite a bit of email (and also allow you to answer relevant email quickly).


I had the same experience as you (being overwhelmed in the first semester after research-only posts) and I can second the very helpful advice here.

This is probably trivial, but before starting as a prof I had only taught advanced courses (graduate level), very close to my research, and I found out I had totally overprepared for bachelor-level courses, wanting to cover too much, too deep, and too fast. Slow down and stretch what you have.

For this time, if possible, also cover some of your research, even if it is in an undergraduate course.

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