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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

She's up! She's up! No, she's down...

Today's meeting of the seminar hours committee was relatively painless (though people talking over each other is always a bit of a problem), and when it was finished, I decided to come up here to the office to try to sort out the assignment schedule problem that tripped me up yesterday. I thought maybe it would make sense if I worked on the schedule document in the computer while looking at my hand-written grid, and that worked fine for the first paper--but when I got to the schedule for the second, things started to fall apart again. It feels a little like those moments in a riding lesson when the horse does something unexpected, I manage to keep my seat--yay, good recovery!--and the next thing I know, I'm lying on the ground looking up the horse's nostrils.

Backing up for a moment here: those of you who have been paying careful attention may be thinking, "Wait: second paper? Didn't she decide to only do two?" Well, yes, OK, I admit, I did--but then I realized I didn't want to lose either of the actual topics. Students may not be tap-dancing with glee at doing a paper that has an environmental focus, but I think it's important, dammit, and I don't want to boot that in favor of the social technology topic. On the other hand, students do get at least a little jazzed about the social technology thing, so I don't want to take away their lollipops. Consequently, I've been trying to figure out how to do it all--while accommodating the utterly screwed up schedule that is caused by the fact that four college holidays fall on either a Monday or a Wednesday--so we have a "Tuesday is a Monday" day and a "Tuesday is a Wednesday" day, and the "Tuesday is a Wednesday" hits just when the second paper would be reaching final stages.

Something's gotta give--and I'd prefer it not be my sanity. I'd also prefer it not be a paper topic, but I may not have a choice there, if I'm going to walk the students through more steps in the writing process.

I also was picking specific pages from the newly selected handbook to assign--and I realize there is a lot less in this new handbook about putting a paper together and revising than there is in the handbook I decided not to use. Hmmm. In a way that may be OK: most of the handbook assignments from the new book are relatively brief, so doing them should be somewhat less onerous for the students. On the other hand, I may have made a choice that means I lose the ability to turn some of the explaining over to the handbook instead of having to cover it myself in class. However, assuming the handbook will do the explaining for me includes the assumptions that A) students will read the pages and B) students will fully understand what they've read. Those may be invalid assumptions.

In any event, I've printed out the absolute, ungodly mess that is the syllabus and assignment schedule as it now stands--and maybe tomorrow, after Blackboard session 1, I can come back to the office and try to get myself out of the tangle I've created.

By the way, to my delight, Paul was here when I got to the office prior to the committee meeting. Not much to his delight, though, I'm afraid. He was happy to see me, but he's truly being hammered by the need to get up to speed on issues he has to address in his position on the Academic Senate Executive Committee (or Council, or whatever it calls itself). I do not envy him that challenge in the least, but purely selfishly, I'm thrilled to bits that Paul is in the position, because I know he'll be brilliant at it. Miserable, perhaps, but brilliant.

On a completely different note, I'm delighted that in the past week, there have been two comments on the blog: one from "The Brit" (who isn't), very charmingly explaining why his voice mail sounded so different from his voice in class, and one from an actual Brit--or at least a Ph.D. candidate in the UK--who is looking to establish contact with an educational forum. I explained that this blog isn't a forum of any kind (unless it counts as a forum when I stand on my own little soap box and rant), but I'd sure love to hear more from him, especially if he finds a more formal forum (or creates one).

And somewhat along the same lines, I've been engaged in lovely e-mail correspondence with a colleague from the biology department: I sent out an "All NCC" e-mail linking to an article about the fact that Mount Sinai is now actively recruiting undergrads in the humanities as potential med school students, and she responded with interest and warmth, I replied... and eventually we're going to meet to talk and exchange ideas, much like I did in the fall with the colleague from Marketing and Retail.

Somehow that reminds me that there is a building tucked away on campus that houses something like the "Center for Academic Excellence." My first thought about that is, shouldn't the whole campus be a center for academic excellence? My second thought is, why don't we know about this entity and what exactly it does? And my third thought is, can I join? I seem to vaguely recall that a colleague in the English department may have been involved with it at some point--and I got the sense that it was one of those "mission without a plan" sort of things: we're supposed to do something wonderful, but no one knows exactly what--or how. But I'm also thinking yet again about my long-standing desire to develop an Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies degree here--one that includes the humanities and social sciences (and sure, why not Marketing and Retail, if they're talking about sustainability, as apparently they are?).

I probably don't have the energy or interest to make it happen, but, well, one never knows. In any event, it's lovely to know there are like-minded faculty on campus--and to find more of them all the time. I wish more of the students were like-minded (and educated, or educable), but hey. That's why I don't want to give up that topic in the 101s--which, not so parenthetically--are still woefully in need of students. At this point, the only class on my schedule that I'm sure will run is the Mystery and Detective course. Everything else is a waiting game. Oh, Bruce and I are going to have so much fun in August. I suspect I'm going to start the semester already frazzled.

Which is all the more reason for me to get the schedule for the 101s at least worked out now: one less thing to fret about later. And in the count-down before I head off to the conference, I've entered the period of time in which things start to roll faster and faster until I feel like the White Queen in Alice and have to run as fast as I can just to stay in one place.

On which note, feeling rather breathless, I'm going to try to locate one file, then fold my tents (tense?) and steal away. Perhaps there will be another blog post tomorrow....

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