November 22, 2022

The countdown is on: SFU faculty share their strategies for surviving the end-of-semester rush

Making lists, self-care and keeping priorities in focus are some ways that instructors are staying centred at the end of the semester.

With just two weeks of classes left for Fall 2022, this is one of busiest times of the year at SFU.

We asked faculty members to share their tips and strategies for navigating end-of-semester demands and priorities in ways that support themselves and their students. 

 Providing deadline extensions 

One way that I make this time of year less stressful is by accepting all extension requests for assignment submissions. Although this prolongs my grading period, the quality of papers I receive is much higher and my classroom atmosphere becomes a lighter one. My grading and teaching experience is much more enjoyable and satisfying as a result.  

    — Bidisha Ray, Senior Lecturer, History 

 Setting boundaries and making time for you 

Keeping a handle on your boundaries is key this time of year. Everybody is stretched thin and leaning on the edge of their focus and time. I recommend being very judicious about saying, ‘I can't do any more right now’. I am also careful about making sure to integrate small bursts of play into every day so that I can be at my best.  

    — Kathleen Burke, University Lecturer, Business

Choosing content review over introducing new material

There is a temptation as we near the last few weeks of the semester to cram in unfinished course content. Covering new material in a crunched timeline risks stressing students. My advice is to pace yourself. Instead of adding in new content, spend the time reviewing content from previous weeks. 

    — Sami Khan, Assistant Professor, School of Sustainable Energy Engineering

Keeping your priorities in focus

Focus on what matters most. The core at the university is teaching and research. Put boundaries on anything that is peripheral to that.

    — Derek Bingham, Professor and Chair, Statistics & Actuarial Science

Finding clarity and presence

As instructors, we have many different roles at the university and so our brains are pulled in different directions. I often meditate in my office before or after class and I find that helpful for getting clarity. Also, just remembering to take breaks and enjoy yourself—bake a cake or do whatever gives you pleasure. The busy times might subside for a while, but they always come back so you need to find ways to enjoy the present. 

    — Nienke Van Houten, Senior Lecturer & Undergraduate Programs Director, Health Sciences

Planning for student exhaustion

My tip is to try to structure your courses in a way that you purposely plan for the fact that this is a peak moment of stress and exhaustion for students, who have probably just submitted a big assignment and are now thinking ahead to their final assignment. I do this by giving students less readings and requiring less of them in class around this time, so that they can put their limited energy towards their end-of-term assessments.

    — Juan Pablo Alperin, Associate Professor, Publishing

Making lists and having clear expectations

I prepare for this time of year by expecting it be extremely busy. If it comes as a surprise, that’s going to make you feel more stressed. My other strategy is to empty my mind onto a to-do list every night, organized by course. I even make little boxes beside each item because checking things off makes me feel good.  

    — Carmen Bott, Lecturer, Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology

If you have tips for managing learning and teaching responsibilities that you would like to share or would like to respond to one of the ideas shared here, reach out to the AVPLT communications team at