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August 2014
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December 2014

10 Things Every Professor Needs for Their Back-to-School Kit

It's now two weeks into September, and college and university classes are in full swing already. Some may have yet to start, but the biggest back-to-school wave has already crested. It might not be until the end of the month until students and professors and institutions FEEL like they're in a routine, and most of the welcome parties have taken place, but within a few days, we'll hit the mid-September mark. If you're not ready for everything, you may get left behind or never feel caught up until next year's (or semester's or term's) opening days! So--what techie equipment do you need? One column I always enjoy reading is ProfHacker from the Chronicle of Higher Education.

  1. OneNote or EverNote. If you take a few minutes to master this notetaking app, it’ll pay back dividends to you the entire semester. Check out these tips:The Digital Professor: "How to Use Evernote for Everything; and Lifehacker: "Faceoff--Onenote-vs-Evernote".
  2. Back-to-School Tote or Messenger Bag (for Professors). Save your shoulders from future rotator cuff surgery—take my word for it! Try something along these lines:
  3. Cell Phone chargers or power packs you can live with. Every single time I NEED my cell phone, it hasn’t been charged properly. If you say this to yourself all the time, too, Get into the habit NOW of charging your cell phone every night! But for those times when you slip, perhaps succumbing to the welcome blankets of blissful sleep after grading one too many papers, here are a few power pack options to stow in your desk and/or messenger bag:
  4. Cleaned-out and Re-Organized Bookmark or Favorites List on Your Browser—Enough Said?
  5. A lined “record” book that you keep in your desk drawer but take home with you at night and write in EVERY SINGLE DAY you work and ESPECIALLY when you interact with others in your office, dept., campus quad, or classroom.
    You need to keep track of the things that happen on a day-to-day basis. This will make you more aware of the wasted time you spent shooting the breeze with Professor Talksalot and capture the accuracy of who said what to whom that may or may not come in handy to know somewhere down the line when or if department factions start causing problems.
  6. A lunch keeper—even better, a mini-frig a microwave. You have to eat. And it is better to eat healthier things than vending machine pretzels and soda. These lunch keepers will save you loads of time walking back and forth to get something to eat between classes, save you money by allowing you to eat the leftovers that you end up throwing out anyway and not shelling it out for drive-through fast food or overpriced, trendy bistro food. But, for heaven’s sake, don’t bring your most smelly dishes! Even if you love, love, LOVE this pungent curry dish you discovered on your last trip abroad, others won’t appreciate having your nasty lunch vapors wafting through the halls for hours on end. If the main department office does not have a refrigerator or microwave, spring for whatever you need to outfit your office most conveniently. It’ll save you money and time in the long run.
  7. Lightweight headphones (not those little earplugs that you can’t see). JetBlue sells flexible but workable headphones for $3 apiece.

    You don’t need these for the obvious reason of listening to music privately; instead you will be using these (or at least have them handy in your drawer) for a rop—to slip on whenever you hear someone coming down the hall when you don’t feel like getting drawn into an endless gossip cycle or pointlessly rehash department politics. Wearing these will indicate that you’re listening to music, a lecture, podcast, whatever, but it sends the sign that you’re BUSY! This way Professor Talksalot will keep walking past your open door, and you can keep on grading or reading without having to shut your office door completely.

  8. A glass bowl or apothecary jar filled with Hershey’s Kisses or Dove Dark Chocolate squares, hard candy, peppermints, root beer barrels, or lollipops---One caveat (learned from embarrassing experience) DO NOT accidentally sit on the chocolate candy! The candy or chocolate is there to make others feel welcome, serving the opposite effect of the headphones.
  9. A writing plan chart with visual measures Just like you kept yourself motivated when you wrote your dissertation, you need—even more now than before!—a visual indicator of how much scholarly work you are doing. If you mark down how many pages you write or how much time you spend researching for work you’re currently doing, perhaps with a bar graph or a milestone chart. Keeping that visual reminder handy will continue to encourage you when your motivation is flagging, and remind you to stay on track.
  10. A subscription to your favorite humor column/comic strip(light humor, not sarcasm)—So you can keep your sense of humor every day.