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Thursday, January 5, 2017

The usual "shot out of a cannon" feeling...

The start of the new semester is always a lot like being hurled forward, and this one is going to go down in the annals as a particularly violent shove for the start. Cathy and I were working on scheduling--but we didn't even touch adjunct schedules, except to take courses away from some of them. Forty-eight course sections on full-time faculty loads are in jeopardy because of low enrollment--and some of those are classes that have always run full-to-bursting in the past, to the point that we're usually being begged to open more sections. This semester, we've canceled seven sections already, and we'll probably cancel three times that before we're through. We're even going to have to give FT faculty evening sections of comp classes. That may not sound like a big deal, but the rule is that any comp course that is not scheduled during regular day hours must be assigned to an adjunct--unless there is a dire emergency.

This is a dire emergency. And the adjuncts are going to scream. I don't blame them in the least: I'd be frantic and furious if I were in their position--but we are that desperate. We're asking FT faculty to take classes at horrible times even within the day "grid," and we're hamstrung by the fact that--unless the faculty member is teaching online--she or he must teach no more and no less than four days a week.

There's a line in the movie G.I.Jane when an operation has turned out to be a nasty mess, and the Master Chief says, "What a goat fuck." Yep.

As for my own courses, I did manage to pull some things together over the holidays--including putting in a little work for the future online Nature in Lit. I have a syllabus for the FTF version I'll be teaching in 12 days (Jesus Christ on a bright blue bicycle!!), and I think I have a syllabus for the 102s. I haven't changed as much as I'd have liked in terms of trying to lighten the grading load for myself, but I have some intentions about how I'll do at least one phase of the marking. If I can follow through on those intentions, things will be somewhat easier than they were this past semester. And so far, I don't have anywhere near as many students. In fact, one of my 102s is on that "danger" list. I'm hoping for a surge in enrollment; I just looked at other options, if it doesn't get enough students in it to run, and they're bleak....

But I'm not there yet. A lot will become clear over the weekend. But I am definitely working with Cathy all day tomorrow. There's a little bit of furor over the fact that there is a "winter weather advisory" issued for tonight into tomorrow--but although I may have to drive to work slowly and carefully, it doesn't look like it's going to be anything that would cause a complete shut-down of operations. Of course, I remember my father's story of listening to a radio program in Pittsburgh, and someone called the station to say, "I just want to let the weather man know that I'm shoveling 8 inches of 'partly cloudy' out of my driveway this morning." Then again, there have been many times we've prepared for a blizzard of epic proportions and gotten nothing. So who knows.

But I'm taking it on faith that both Cathy and I will be able to grind through a lot of work tomorrow. It would be a miracle if we get to the point where we actually can start working on adjunct schedules--but man am I ever glad I didn't go any further with making preliminary assignments than I did, as pretty much everything I did is going to get undone. Cathy is even talking about coming in to work on the weekend--but that's partly because she's still in the process of moving into the Chair's office from the Placement office. I advised her to only focus on moving over the weekend and not work on scheduling at all; we can see where we are on Monday.

And I'll see where I am with my classes on Monday as well. I do want to try to squeeze out a little more plain relaxation and enjoyment before classes begin, but that will only be possible if I feel confident that I'm ready for the semester to start and won't be playing catch-up from the first week. The readers for the 102s have been printed and are in my office, and so far, I don't have to ask Printing and Publications for more copies of the Nature in Lit reader: I asked for 20 copies, and enrollment has been holding steady at 19 students for a while now. Worst case scenario: a few students have to start with just a few of the pages and get the full reader later, which wouldn't be a catastrophe.

And writing that makes me realize that I really do need to rethink the readings for the online version: it's just not feasible to scan as many documents as I'd need to in order to do my own tailor-made reader--never mind the fact that I'm treading on thin ice in terms of copyright laws if I post a bunch of PDFs of copyrighted material online. The early stuff I can find online already and just provide links: things that are in the public domain are pretty easy to find. But much of what I want to use isn't in the public domain, so....

Well, again, that's not a concern for today. Right now, I want to get out of here and take care of some life maintenance. (Yes, life still needs to be maintained, even when one is being stampeded by work pressures.) But it seems I'll be back in the swing of blog posting pretty early in 2017: I expect I'll post a bit sporadically over the next week and then the usual rhythm will assert itself.

Holidays? Did we have those? I don't remember...

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