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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Teeny Tiny Improvement...

Bruce and I spent another chunk of time today canceling sections, shuffling things around, flagging things to be switched from adjunct schedules to FT if need be; there's more to be done, and yet contract signing has begun. Tomorrow may be mass chaos, but I'll have to abandon Bruce for most of it, as I have two doctors' appointments that may mean I can only be on campus for about 45 minutes at a time (if that). I figure that's my pay-back for last week, when I came in to do nothing.

Not all the shuffling has shown up on Banner yet: the office staff are drowning in the deluge of typing up and revising contracts, contacting adjuncts (and FT faculty) about changes or potential changes, and actually affecting the changes in the web platforms. I can't express how good they are at their jobs, or how much we rely on them. Oh, yes, and they're dealing with students who are in snits for one reason or another, on top of everything else. I don't know what they get paid, but it isn't enough.

In any event, once the actual switching around has been done, I should have a few more students in my later 101, which has the lower enrollment of the two. But the classes may run with the absolute minimum number of students. Of course, students can register (or drop-add) all through next week, so I won't know for sure what I'm facing until the second full week (and even then I may not know for sure, as freshmen sometimes think there's nothing wrong with turning up for the first time on the third week--because "nothing happens the first weeks anyway"). But at least I don't have to worry that I'll suddenly have to prep a 102 class--or, even more horrifying to contemplate, an 001. For a while there, I truly was braced for that possibility. Now Bruce tells me I can rest easy, so I intend to do just that--at least in terms of concern over enrollment numbers.

Meanwhile, I've been enjoying giving a little "survival tips" talk to students at orientation sessions. In addition to the usual "work through frustration" thing that I say to my own students, I've come up with a few other suggestions, several courtesy of Paul (of course). I like what I've been saying well enough that I think I'll use the same notes for my own classes. Here's what I have:

New Student Orientation Notes:

Some of your classes will feel a lot like high school. Some will feel very different. You’re here to learn, which means you’re here to change. If you think you know everything you need to know and are perfect just like you are, maybe you don’t need college—or now isn’t the time for you to be in college. Don’t look for what’s easy or just to get more of what you already have. Look for challenges: want them.

Develop a work space and a tool kit. To do college-level work, you need to find somewhere quiet, without distractions, where you can settle deeply into your own thinking. It can be any place that works for you—but multitasking is a myth. You can’t do schoolwork and watch videos, chat (FTF or through cyber means), have the TV on….
          You need to figure out your own tool kit. You should always have at least two pens and two sharp pencils with you, and something to write on, no matter where you go. Have your own mini-stapler. Whatever will help you keep things organized and take notes that you won’t lose.

Figure out an organization system that works for you—and use it as if your life depended on it.

Develop a clear sense of the amount of time you need for everything in your life. If necessary, make a weekly grid. Figure that for every hour you spend in class, you need at least two hours of time for homework. (Some classes will use less; some will use more: it pretty much averages out to that.) So, if you are taking 15 hours of classes in a week, you need an additional 30 hours for homework: that’s already a full-time job.
          It’s better to slow down and do well than to try to load up with credits and end up having to re-take classes.

Be willing to admit what you don’t know and when you need help—and get the knowledge and understanding you need. Do whatever you need to do in order to be sure you have what you need to do well. (Lots of campus services available:

Learn to work through frustration.

I didn't write out the full idea on any of these (but it does seem typical that my "notes" are extensive and verbose): this was intended to be just enough to remind me what I want to riff on, another example of my tendency to over-prepare and then improvise on what I've prepared.

And with that, my brain shut down. I am sure I had other wildly scintillating things to share today, but whatever they may have been, they've been lost in a mental vapor-lock. It's time to get out of here. Two more days on campus this week (if you can count tomorrow: heaven knows how much time I'll actually have on campus around those appointments), then a three-day weekend, then it all begins in earnest. Ye gods. I'm prepared, but I'm not ready, if that makes sense. Still, as my buddy Jane and I used to say, onward and awkward.


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