April is the cruelest month

Finally!

After a long winter, the air is warming, birds are chirping, the snow has melted away! For some reason, this winter has seemed longer than usual. Probably because that’s what everyone’s been saying and after a while we tend to believe it. Winter was the same length as usual, of course. And so, April has its usual effects.

We want to be outside. We want to exercise, socialize, celebrate, do something fun. Or we can become forgetful, distracted, feel fuzzy-in-the-brain.

The last thing we want to do is prepare for class or grade that stack of assignments! We begin that count down to the last day of classes. I’ve found myself staring at my Moodle site, counting down multiple times a day. It’s really hard to just sit still and work. I can’t concentrate. The other day I actually was thinking that if I jumped up while walking down a hill, I might just fly a little. I think I might have spring fever.

At the beginning of class last week, a fire alarm went off and we all headed outside. Deadly effects! The sun, the birds, the fresh air, combined with taking a mental breather from class really ruined any concentration I could muster. I literally felt giddy and unable to concentrate. Even after we were cleared to re-enter the classroom, I found I couldn’t quite get us organized to focus. Students kept asking questions, I kept going off on tangents. I ditched my carefully thought-out class format and just winged it at the board. Ugh! Spring Fever bigtime. And it was a key class with a difficult and important reading as we head into our last subtopic.

I find that a good treatment for spring fever is a nice and explicit list of things to do. My list-making fetish goes into high gear in the early spring.

If we have spring fever and find we can’t wait for the semester to end, what about our students??

I think it’s important for us to give some advice to our students as they begin the last month of classes and as finals approach. Our students are much less experienced than we are with the seasons and tides of the academic workload. They will much more likely give in to spring fever and hang out with friends, play frisbee (or was that only a fad when I was in school?) and feel an urge to buy new clothes at the mall. They will much more than us feel like they need to party. I well remember when I was in college, the number and intensity of parties suddenly increased in April.

Oh, though, April is cruel to us in academia.

Most students have to begin to work on larger assignments, culminating experiences like final projects, presentations, term papers, final exams. In many courses, they still have more than half of their graded material to do. (Of course, we faculty have more than half of our grading still to do!) Students need to keep up their pace, even quicken their pace.

I usually talk explicitly with my classes at the beginning of April about spring fever and the effects at this time of semester. I suspect that few of them really get what I’m saying (because they are in the throes of the fever after all). What else can we do?

  1. Give them a few interesting preparation-for-class assignments that relate to spring fever in some way.
  2. Ask them to use the internet to investigate some aspect related to spring or to how we feel in spring. Or how they feel compared to the last week of winter.
  3. Ask them to reflect on what they have learned so far this semester. This could take the form of an in-class short writing at the beginning or end of class. By reflecting on what they have done so far, you might be able to jump-start their enthusiasm for the rest of the course material.
  4. Add in small group work in your class that has them review the assigned reading. Chances are some of your students didn’t do the reading, or read it without adequate focus. You can bet that if you have trouble preparing for class, they have trouble too.

Probably best not to hold class outside…..

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One thought on “April is the cruelest month

  1. Nice post. I’m not sure I see spring fever so much in my students as just increasing tiredness. Maybe they add on too many parties and activities to their increasing class work – I don’t know. But I think I will try #3 in class soon. Hopefuly it will help them appreciate how much they’ve learned so far and as you say, jump start some enthusiasm.

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