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Monday, July 31, 2017

The search for clarity

OK, so here's what I know.

My syllabi are overwhelming. Not only are they incredibly long and incredibly detailed, they contain complete (and detailed) schedules of assignments, which can be confusing--especially when multiple things are due on the same day.

Trying to figure out just the visuals--the design on the page--of the assignment schedule for the 101s is turning out to be daunting (and, yes, it makes the syllabus even longer).

Students need more hand-holding than I like to admit. I really do need to give them some thematic material to look for in the SF class, for each of the readings.

I have a hard time setting out thematic ideas in any simple way. I have a hard time even figuring out good questions to pose in order to lead the students in their search for evidence (and meaning) in the texts.

I should reread the books I've assigned. All of them, though the Atwoods and (of course) the Le Guin I've read countless times and know pretty damned well. But still: I should reread--and probably before the semester starts.

I can feel the online Nature in Lit breathing down my neck. Even though it won't be offered until spring, I know (and keep saying in this blog) how important it is to have as much in place as possible before fall starts, or I'll really be fucked come January 2018.

The 101s are way, way, way more complicated than the SF class. Not only are there lots of smaller readings and the multiple steps of essay writing and revision (which, side note, I still haven't begun to re-evaluate), but I have to reconstruct a lot of the online materials (discussion boards, Turnitin assignments)--and just keeping track of what's been done and what still needs doing is challenging.

I am hitting walls much more quickly than I like--largely, as I mentioned yesterday, because I'm not just fiddling with changing dates or making similar small changes to existing handouts; I'm doing the big conceptual work.

Even figuring out the visuals turns out to be a matter of conceptualizing--and trying to think like a student: what can be missed, or misunderstood, and what can be done to prevent the typical student from missing important information (like what has to be turned in on any given date)?

It is too early to obsess over enrollment numbers (though it's still weird to see that the early classes are generally full and the mid- to late-day classes are pretty empty). Yes, there is a full section of 101 at the G hour that is currently unassigned--but my T hour section may yet get enough students in it to run, so I don't have to reconstruct my schedule. Yet.

So, with all those givens, I find myself in desperate need of at least a break (though a "break" threatens to turn into "no more work for today," especially given the hour)--but also frantic and anxious, wanting to feel like I have a lot more clarity on all levels and yet knowing that there are times when stepping back and letting things simmer unattended for a while is the right thing to do.

On the "good news" front, I did catch a moderately embarrassing error in the SF syllabus, and a colleague alerted us all to an error in the boilerplate, so I made both those changes, uploaded the corrected syllabus, and printed new copies of the fixed pages. I also some work done on the 101s. Some is better than none. And I heard from the bookstore manager, and the special edition of the style guide is available, so if it's still not in the post office, I can swing past campus on the way to the beach tomorrow to pick up a copy (or two).

That said, I am going to at least take a break now. (We'll see if I get back to work after the "break.") I'm going to go to the Post Office (file under "hope springs eternal") and to pick up some good, fluffy beach reading that has come in to the town library via inter-library loan. If I don't get back to work after those little errands (and a few others in the life-maintenance department), I know everything will be bubbling in the back of my brain while I'm on the beach tomorrow. (And how's that for alliterative?)

Tomorrow is August 1. Jings, crivens, and help me Bob. (And thank you to Kate Atkinson for handing along that now antiquated Scottish expletive. See? Summer fluff reading can actually come in useful.)

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