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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Chip, chip, chip

I'm in the office, got in sometime in the early afternoon, and I've been sorting through handouts, trying to figure out what I have ready, what I need ready, and by when. I'd already sent a bunch of stuff off to the printing office, orders that I didn't want to tax our departmental machines with--nor did I want to stand there watching copies get made (a definitive definition of tedium). I also hope that sending things off to the printing office may be easier on our departmental budget than using up the toner in our machines, though perhaps not. In any event, in addition to all the things I already had copied, I now have a good-sized packet of further copies to be made, which of course also means that I'm trusting the printing office to have them completed by the time I need them.

I also spent a fair amount of time reworking some handouts--yet again, part of that apparently endless process. I truly do not understand some of my colleagues who have been using the exact same handouts for decades (seriously: I've seen some of them and they clearly originated on old manual typewriters). Part of why I'm taking a break from 102 is that it's gotten stale for me--including the handouts I've not felt the need to rework for some time. When I return to 102, I may not do the kind of systemic overhaul I'm doing for 101, but I may well reconsider some of those handouts: both whether they accomplish what I intend and whether they could be made more clear for students.

That's the other part of the endless revision of handouts process: trying to strike that balance between covering all the bases and overwhelming with too much information. I still lean quite heavily in the "overwhelming" direction, I know, but I hate it when students find new and unique ways to misconstrue my clear (to me) instructions.

Speaking of overwhelming, however: in the batches of stuff I sent off to be copied back in May or June are examples from my own reading of what an annotated text looks like (all my little stars and comments and what-have-yous) and what it looks like when I took those annotations and did some further thinking about them: what I'm calling "expanded notes" for my students. And now that I look at that material--even the cover sheet I wrote--and I worry that it will just scare the bejesus out of the students. The cover sheet is my attempt to reassure students: "you don't have to be this extensive; you don't have to get what I was reading or what I was writing about; you don't even have to decipher my handwriting: this is just a visual aid so you see what annotations and notes look like." But I'm not persuaded that they will be reassured. My thought now is that I'll give them the handout that explains what I want them to do--and then I'll ask them if seeing examples of me doing the same thing would help or simply intimidate. Or maybe a little intimidation is not altogether a bad thing--though I don't want to send them fleeing for the hills immediately.

And speaking of that: right at the moment, enrollment in my 101s is insanely low. This is not, I hasten to assure you, because of my reputation as the psycho bitch from hell. Enrollment is down across the board, and now that we have the new ENG100 class--which combines a bit of remediation with credit-bearing work--I suspect those sections are filling like mad and there are fewer students who are considered suitable for the outer edges: 001 (remedial) and 101 (credit bearing). Also, sad to say, students often enroll at NCC at the last possible second for various reasons: they weren't sure they were going to go to college at all; they thought they'd get accepted somewhere better and didn't; they're too lazy and unmotivated to realize that if they plan to go to school in the fall, they really do need to register. A large proportion of them fit into that last category, so the two weeks before classes start is always a madhouse, especially in Advisement, when students appear, wild-eyed and in a flop sweat, desperate to put together a schedule they like when all the courses they wanted at the times they wanted are already filled. My courses are late afternoon, but they fall into a sort of "neither fish nor fowl" time of day when students who work may not have finished their shifts yet and those who don't want to be done with classes earlier in the day. As of right now, there are five students in the earlier section, three in the later.

But I'm not worried: those are "gut" courses, so they'll fill--or Bruce will do what he calls "leveling," in which he moves students around so they're more evenly spread across the sections at any given time. And I don't have to worry about my elective, Fiction Writing: it filled almost immediately (two of the students were in my classes both semesters last year), and even if someone drops out, someone else is very likely to pick up the seat, as the class fulfills the "fine and performing arts" requirement, and a lot of students think it will be an easy A. (Hah.)

In any event, I hadn't planned to come in today: I was going to wait until tomorrow, when I have to be in the area anyway for a doctor's appointment, but I'm glad I did. I shouldn't have a lot that really needs to be done tomorrow (except for sending the stuff off to the printing office), but if I end up having knocked everything off my "to do" list with enough time to spare, I can always organize my bookcase, or start cleaning out old files (ye gods, talk about an endless task).

For now, however, I will draw this post to a close. My third of the summer, if I'm counting correctly: a banner year for "break time" posts!

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