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Thursday, August 29, 2013

It's already started

I've been working like mad the last few days to make sure I've done all I can to help Bruce with scheduling and also get my courses put together. The Fiction Writing was the scariest, er, most interesting--and I'm still scratching my head for ideas for the second story-writing assignment (not to mention the third). I'm also not at all certain that the assignment I've come up with for the first story will be do-able: it might be way too ambitious, complicated... I don't know. But I was trying to make some kind of connection between what I'm having them read and what I ask them to do. We'll see.

Of course, I also just found errors in two of the three syllabi--which have already been photocopied. I made corrections to one of them by hand; the other, I'll just let the students know and have them make the correction. God knows if there are any problems with the third one: I certainly proofread it enough times, but I've been proofreading professionally long enough to know that mistakes can (and do) slip through anyway.

But what I meant by "It's already started" is that I already have the "Oh shit, what am I forgetting?" feeling. Maybe the last two days of scramble have simply been more productive than I am aware, and maybe I'm just more organized than I thought would be possible at this stage, but I think I'm OK for at least the first few weeks. I have to hope that the copy center comes through on time (or even early) with a huge bolus of handouts: I didn't want to burn out the department's copiers single-handed by running all the copies of everything I intend to hand out.

I have changed my thinking about a lot of handouts, however. I was about to make copies of one that I routinely distribute--and then I thought, "I have zero evidence that the little buggers actually read this, or understand it, and indeed, I have quite a bit of evidence to the contrary." So I thought, why make copies that won't be read? Instead, I've made a one-page list of all the helpful handouts that I've put up on my faculty home page: if they want 'em, they can go get 'em.

I'm working, too, on getting more electronic delivery systems set up. The students in 102 and Mystery have to submit their papers through It's intended as a teaching tool, to help students learn to avoid plagiarism--but Paul and I agree that when it's used that way, it just teaches them to be more sophisticated about cheating. So I'm simply using it as a first line of defense: papers go through the online check automatically, and I don't have to do a damned thing. I can also comment on their papers electronically, if I want to. I'm not sure about that, as I have very precise check sheets that will now accompany each version of their papers, so I still want things in hard copy--and again, I don't think most students read my comments anyway: they're too long, too detailed, and overwhelming. And they take me too fucking much time. So, I'm working on streamlining the process: I'll point out a few things that work, check things off the list, and leave it at that.

I think.

On another electronic delivery front, I'm trying to figure out how to use Blackboard, the online teaching platform that NCC has chosen. I took a workshop in how to use it just as a resource for fully face-to-face classes--and I retained bugger all from the workshop. (It's the perpetual flaw of teachers--including yours truly: we make huge and erroneous assumptions about what people understand and can retain.) I'm debating going in to a drop-in help session tomorrow (they've been running all week--but I've been running, too, and not able to run to a help session). I think if I can put the stuff to use for real, instead of in a "let's pretend" situation, it will be more valuable.

Well, I'll think about that tomorrow (when I'm stronger). I have a little more fiddling around the edges I need to do, primarily creating the shortened version of my syllabi that also includes when I need to be ready with various handouts (my cheat sheet for the term), but I deeply need to go to the grocery store, and if I dick around much longer here in the office, I'll once again be too fucking tired to go. So I'm wrapping it up. Off I go, into the wild blue whatever.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Pre-semester post

I've actually had a lot going on over the summer that I've thought about sharing here, thoughts about teaching, a huge re-vamp of the 102 classes, concerns about the two new courses, and so on. But I'd just like to check in to say that I've already been engaged in an e-mail conversation with a student who is in both the Mystery & Detective class and in the Fiction Writing class.

Oh, yes, update needed: when I started working on the adjunct schedules earlier this month, I realized that an adjunct had been given the Fiction Writing that I wanted, at the exact same time as the general Creative Writing that I was fretting about. I don't know what happened--I suspect Bruce just screwed up--but the upshot is that I told Bruce I wanted Fiction Writing, was all set to go to battle for it if need be, and by the time I went in to campus this morning, it was mine. So, that's better.

In any event, this young woman contacted me about using Kindle editions of the books for M&D--and I said as long as she could highlight and annotate the text, that was fine. She can, so that's been approved (I just need to remember to change the line in my syllabus about that). I was glad that she contacted me with the question in the first place, that she made sure she can do the annotating, and that she's been in enthusiastic contact. Of course, I worry that this apparent good start will end up bombing: one just never, never knows how things are going to work out. But it's a happy little anticipation to add to the hopper for next week.

We got our first photo rosters today, too (which is ridiculous, as they'll change six or seven times in the next few weeks). I confess that I looked at the photos to see if I could tell just from the faces who will stick, who will probably bail. I'm less sure about those who may do well, but if the photos are any indication, I can already see a few faces that don't seem to show the light of much intellectual promise.

I also participated in new student orientation today: a little 15-minute "here's what to expect" kind of lecture--very similar to my first day of class speech about frustration and the changes that college will bring about. I shared a gorgeous definition of critical thinking with them, and overwhelmed the shit out of most of them, just because the verbiage was so dense. And there were the usual smart eager-beaver types, and the usual (larger proportion of) lunkheads. I doubt I'll see any of those particular students ever again, doubt I'll ever know if they got anything valuable out of what I said, but it was fun to do. I think I'll become a regular at these things. Why not?

I do feel way, way, way the hell behind where I'd like to be in terms of preparedness for next week (next week! Good Christ!) so I'm hoping madly for a productive day tomorrow--mostly photocopying, so I have at least 102 and M&D nailed down enough to get me through the first few weeks. I still have a lot of thinking through to do on the Fiction Writing course--but if I even write much about that right now, I'll be up for hours, mentally futzing around, and I'm exhausted, so (since I'm writing this from home), I will now tumble myself into bed and do the Scarlett O'Hara routine.