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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Further semester prep

I was fit to be tied last week when I came in two days to help Bruce--and one of the days he wasn't even here, the other he said he didn't have anything for me to do. Fortunately, there is always work to be done: the job will suck up as much time and energy as one gives to it, so the only limit is what I set for myself (thus far and no further). I got lots of organizing of handouts done, so papers are in dated stacks, ready to be handed out, and I know when I need to send out the next batch to be copied (it will be a while, thank god).

Of course, I've prepped for my classes to be filled to the max--27 students in each section of 101--but at the moment, neither of my 101s is even in double digits. Bruce and I did some shuffling around of courses, including canceling some, which will help a little, but I have a suspicion I have lots and lots of paper that is simply going to go into the recycling bin in a few weeks. My environmentalist conscience winces.

I'm hanging around now because I'm going to talk to incoming freshmen at an orientation session at 6, a performance I will repeat tomorrow and Thursday (earlier each of those days). After doing all the organizing I could think of in terms of the coming semester, I found myself thinking, "Well, I could finally clean out my bookshelves..." and lo! Again, I could do much more organizing (putting the books in more careful and well-considered order--even, dare I say it, getting rid of some old textbooks), but the shelves haven't looked so neat and tidy since, well, possibly since I first moved in to the office.

In the process of cleaning out a folder that was marked "sort and file," I realized that, now that I've done the gut renovation of 101, I'm pretty sure I'm due to do the same for my 102s, next time I teach them: most, if not all, of my standard handouts are either going to be revamped or ditched entirely. So a lot of the "sorting" that I did was tossing huge stacks of outmoded stuff into the recycling bin.

And once more, there is much more I could do along those lines: I did go through my files not too long ago, but I could be a great deal more draconian about getting rid of stuff I'm unlikely to use ever again--or that I'm likely to forget I have and will consequently reprint and recopy, obviating the need for the file drawer full of copies. There are times when I almost feel that the best thing to do would be to just throw everything away without even looking at it and start fresh, but I know as soon as I did that, I'd need something (a lot of somethings) and would regret the hell out of it. It's an interesting balance to achieve: "there's a reasonable chance I'll find this useful" versus "it's too unlikely that I'll want this again to hang on to it."

Shifting topic streams pretty wildly: pursuant to a little series of posts I've had on Facebook about the possibility that the low enrollment in my 101s may be because students have been reading my Rate My Professor ratings, I decided it might be time to take a look at those again. Although I no longer have the red, frowning "danger-danger-danger" face next to my name, I don't rate a green happy face--which is fine by me, actually, except that reading the students' comments starts to feel quite toxic. I know the reasons why it's useless to pay much attention to what they write: it's usually quite clear what kind of student is giving the "she's an evil bitch" ratings--and as long as they can post anonymously, they can be as vile as they like and consequently probably express their dislike of me in particularly heated terms. I will say, too, that most of the negative ratings are older: my (slight) mellowing over the years apparently is keeping a few students from feeling the need to vent on Rate My Professor (even though they still drop the course). But it's interesting to me how snake-bit I feel after reading the ratings. I'll shake it off pretty quickly, even find some humor in some of the posts (some of which are so profoundly stupid as to be potentially funny--if I squint just right). One student said that only those with extreme patience would be able to refrain from smacking me on a daily basis: I feel like smacking the students who wrote the snotty posts. So there. A very mature exchange of opinions.

I may have call to post again this week--who knows what may transpire between now and Friday afternoon--but for now I'll wrap it up and toddle off to scare the crap out of the incoming freshmen. Or simply tell the truth, which may amount to the same thing.


  1. A huge :) to you for writing these posts. I'm feeling not so alone in my prepping for courses now. Also, do you post handouts on BB for your classes? I've cut down on photocopying and needing to recycle unused and outdated copies by requiring students themselves get their resources from BB. See you soon!

    1. I'd love to use BB, but as you may recall, from my occasional, plaintive "Christina, please help me" e-mails, I haven't figured out how to use BB, despite taking the workshops (and I wasn't able to get to any of the help sessions this week: if only they'd hold them later than 2 p.m.!). I do have a lot of stuff on my faculty home page--and am sure to give students the info about how to access the home page on a separate handout, which I tell them to keep someplace separate from all their other school papers, someplace **safe**--but I use that as a back-up for those who either don't get a handout because they are absent or who lose something. I suppose I need to put more faith in my students and trust that they actually will go to an online source for the handouts (or figure it isn't my problem if they don't), but I haven't been able to take that step just yet. Your example may inspire me to do so in the future--especially if I can actually start using BB, which students seem more comfortable with than they are the faculty home page. Maybe someday--before my spring sabbatical--you and I will actually, finally be able to sit down so you can hold my hand while I get myself up to speed on BB. I don't know why I find it so utterly opaque, but I do.