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Monday, August 30, 2010

"You may fire when ready, Gridley"

As in, I'm as ready as I'm going to be for the first two weeks of classes. Came in to campus today, spent what felt like four or five years at the copier (aware of the vulture-like circling of fellow faculty and office staff awaiting their turn but steadfastly continuing to copy away). Of course, as I was copying 101 syllabi, I also had the Michael Pollan pieces in front of me and thought, "I don't think I need to copy these now; I've got some time. When did I assign them?" Frantic riffling through syllabi. Oops. Big, major oops. Hadn't assigned them. The copies for the M/W 101 section had already been run, and the copier was just starting on the 60 prints for the T/Th sections when I quickly deleted that print run. Finished copying everything else, ran upstairs, made changes to the syllabi, reprinted just the changed pages for the M/W class, printed the corrected syllabus for the T/Th classes, changed my abbreviated copies of the syllabus, changed the student record cards (where I keep track of all their assignments: fortunately I'd not printed that part yet)--and just spent a nice, brainless 20 minutes pulling apart the M/W syllabi and inserting the new page.

Of course, one might think there had been some brainlessness going on prior to that point, but at least I caught it before it got too far--and had a place in the syllabus where I could put the Pollan articles without sacrificing anything else. I now have 11 reading journals assigned for the 101 classes, which means I can cancel one--or, if we have time to get to all of them, at least drop the lowest mark when figuring final grades. I always like to have a little wiggle room like that.

Everything for the first few weeks is also posted on my faculty homepage (though I do want to add a link to Pollan's official web page). I've got preliminary rosters printed from Banner. I have an idea for a first-day exercise with the 101 students regarding time management. I have an idea how I'm going to start things off with the 101s on the first day, have to come up with a good opener for the short-story class (and of course that's the one I teach first: 11:00 on Wednesday morning). If I'm forgetting anything, I'll either remember it with a jolt sometime along the way or it will just mercifully be forgotten.

I had a nice little talk with Paul, too, and one of the topics of discussion was a furor that's been going on through the faculty e-mail circuits. One administrator said that students could continue to register for classes all the way up through the end of the second week of classes--not drop-add, mind you, but register. The reasoning? Why not let them if there are seats available? Huge bruhaha from the faculty about the importance of the first day of classes, not to mention the second. It really is insulting as hell to act as if the first classes don't matter--and gives the students the impression that this is, indeed, 13th grade. (Why do administrators hate that reputation and then do everything they can to bolster it through their expectations--or lack thereof?)

I have to say, the drop-add period is similarly problematic, and I may face that issue, but I don't think I'll have new students registering for my classes because the sections are filled to the brim (the new caps are absurdly high, and all my sections are filled to those new caps--a problem to discuss another time). In any event, my plan, should new students crop up on the second day (second week), is to let them know that they have already used one of their three allotted absences. If anyone tries to come in on the third class--which is actually the third week of classes--he or she will be told that even one absence beyond that will result in the need to withdraw. And any fuss from the student will mean he or she will withdraw immediately. There may be the incredibly rare student who can come into a class that far down the line and get caught up, but I've yet to encounter one. I'll give a student a chance to be the one rare exception, but I also don't believe in giving out false hope, or setting up failure.

This whole registration idiocy is simply more of the institutional madness that we're facing these days, in which--as is all too often the case--decisions that are made for financial reasons work directly in opposition to our ostensible educational goals. I have to say I'm glad I'm not the person who has to try to figure out how to cut however many million dollars from an already too-tight budget, but somehow, doing things that are detrimental to the stated purpose of the institution seems, shall we say, ill-considered.

Ah well. My new mantra about nearly everything in my life is "We'll see." We'll see how things shake out in terms of the current budget crisis and administrative realignments. I'll teach my classes and weigh in when I feel I've got something important to contribute that isn't already being said--sometimes even said better than I could (imagine that!)--by someone else.

And now, it's a matter of breathing deeply for a little bit, disengaging my brains for the balance of the evening, and tomorrow turning my attention to that book review, which I will, goddammit, get done and out of my hair. It'll make for a hell of a day tomorrow, but it'll feel good to have that checked off the freaking endless and ever-growing "to do before it bursts into flames" list.

And the semester hasn't even started yet. Yeesh. Now, however, it's time for food. Fooooood....

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