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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

That whole "I'll be working and posting more regularly" thing...

Turns out, I not only got caught up in life maintenance, I also got caught in a strong emotional undertow, to my surprise, and had to scrabble my way out of the doldrums and back into work mode. Life maintenance sucked up more of today than I anticipated (and I don't know why I didn't anticipate it, as everything always takes longer than I expect, so I should just expect things to take longer than I expect...). I was able to do a little self-justification about the delay as I needed to get to the post office to see if the long-awaited, correct edition of the handbook for the 101s had arrived. As to why it took me until Wednesday to do that, see "undertow; doldrums" above--but also, in the midst of life maintenance yesterday, I did meet with my distance ed mentor (at long last), which took some time. More on that later.

Meanwhile, I finally got to the post office today, and the handbook still hasn't arrived.

However, in coming out of the doldrums, I also came to a "duh" moment: there's no reason why I can't be working on getting everything set for the SF class while I wait (and wait, and wait) for that handbook. So, when I finally did commence work today, that's what I did. And I'm glad I did, as--of course--it's going to be a little more complicated and involved than I remembered, as I'd cheerfully forgotten that I'm changing a few assignments and need to review some of the work I've already done, to make sure everything dovetails.

I'd  also blissfully forgotten that--thanks to our accreditation review--we have to include more boiler-plate BS in our syllabi. I stumbled across an email from colleague Mary, who is doing heroic work in getting us all the stuff we need, and found 99% of the information I needed. All I'm missing are the specific "goals and outcomes" for the SF course; everything else is now in place. Or at least it's in the syllabus somewhere: I'm not sure exactly where to put what pieces in some cases. Does it make sense to put the information about the Writing Center next to the information about getting accommodations for disabilities, or should it go elsewhere? And if elsewhere, where? Since I now have to include the catalog description and prerequisites for each course, should I do that right under the specifics I have for my office hours and so on, or just before (or after) the Goals and Objectives, or....

And of course, all of this futzing around assumes that the students will actually read, review, pay attention to, absorb anything that's on the syllabus. On a spectrum of unacceptably incomplete to overwhelming with information, my syllabi already were off the charts on the overwhelming end. Now, even more so.

And the "simple" solution to that is to, well, simplify the information on my syllabi (maybe turn them over to Paul and let him take his verbal machete to them, cutting out all my usual claptrap). My mind just has a very hard time with verbal simplicity (witness, I suppose, the length and verbosity of these blog posts).

In any event, I didn't get a lot done today, but it feels great to have gotten even something done. And it turns out that the meeting with the distance ed mentor was not only productive but calming: recording grades for discussion boards online turns out to be easy. And if I want to use Turnitin's technology to comment on and provide grades for essay steps, those grades can be synced with Blackboard's grading system too. I don't know whether I want to experiment with that with the 101s this semester or not. It's certainly not necessary--at least not to do the commenting through Turnitin--but it will be helpful, I think, to test-drive before I have to go fully online with the Nature in Lit in the spring.

(I interrupted myself in the middle of that paragraph to figure out if I can record essay grades on Blackboard without a Turnitin link--as for the preliminary essays in the 101 classes, which don't need a plagiarism check. It is, but students have to upload something to an assignment for me to provide a grade. So, I just added that little wrinkle to the syllabus for the 101s--and I have to do a lot more futzing around with the Blackboard stuff for the 101s and for SF. C'est la guerre.)

In any event, I do hope I actually spend most of tomorrow working--though I have plans to see a movie with a colleague at some point, and I don't know if she wants to include dinner/drinks (or where we're meeting, or when). Friday, I'll work as much as I can before I dash off to my usual Friday things. And so it will go, falling (stumbling) into some kind of work rhythm here, avoiding further undertow...

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