Friday, October 9, 2015

So How's Your Semester Going?

Glad you asked.  It's not too bad.  Dare I say: It's actually pretty good.

The start of the semester slowly progressed as each of the first three weeks of class were only three days each with Labor Day and several Jewish holidays.  A nice way to ease into a new session of teaching.

Promotion awaits in the near future, so in addition to teaching, I'm putting together my application binder.  The application form is about 27 pages. I then have an additional 150 pages of what I like to call "Proof I Did Stuff."  I consider the whole activity an arts and crafts project that involves highlighters, plastic binder sleeves, and stickers. The due date is in February, but since I'll be on sabbatical in the Spring, my due date is December.

I've also been focusing on pushing through a new class about Writing for Digital Media and an online version of Poetry Workshop. Lots of curriculum stuff that I began over the summer is now in high gear.

Speaking of Curriculum, I joined the department Curriculum Committee, so I took on the task of revamping the department's catalog page.  Also, during the most recent meeting, I was stung by a yellow jacket.  Mid-meeting, I put my hand on my head, felt something funny, went to pull out whatever was in my hair, and BUZZZZZ it was a yellow jacket stinging the heck out of my finger.  So I reacted like a normal adult and shouted OW OW OW OW as I jumped up from my seat.  With my colleagues stopping midsentence and staring, I explained, I was just stung by a bee; I'll be right back.  I hung out at the water fountain down the hall for a while and kept my finger under the cold water until the water started turning brown.  Well, that's gross.  So I went back to the meeting, and the guy in front of me was like, That was so weird!  And I was like, I know!

I spent the rest of the meeting shaking my hand vigorously.  My finger turned bright red with bright white lines coursing through the middle, tracing the venom.  Then the skin felt really tight as it started to balloon up.  When I got back to the office, I rinsed it off more in the bathroom until that water turned brown.  So gross.  When I came out, SD was at her desk so I explained: 1. The water is brown and has nothing to do with me, and 2. I got stung by a bee.

My finger ached well through the next day.  So that was a noontime stinging followed by an afternoon and evening of a lot of pain and then some more pain the next day.  Plus, the night of the stinging, I went to Oceanside Library to present How To Write A Basic Essay as part of their programming.  The whole carride, I was shaking my hand and sort of laughing in disbelief--how could it hurt so bad?

Anyway, that's probably been the worst part of my semester.  I've gotten a little snarky with some of my classes at some times because of their rudeness, but overall, they have been listening and learning and participating and being nice people.  Like, the other day in Comp, I taught a grammar lesson, and they participated, and the next time I saw them, I reviewed the lesson, and they, like, knew the answers.  I can't remember the last time that happened.  They weren't all sleeping or staring off into space.  They were being studious, and it's been refreshing.

Also refreshing is the amount of work I'm getting done on campus.  I'm still bringing home the huge paper stacks, of course, for marathon grading sessions.  However, the small assignments that I usually bring home too have not found their way into my bag.  Nope, I'm doing all my grading at work. I have mandatory built-in grading time now.

That's not really true.  What I have now are Seminar Hours during which I mold young minds.  Those young minds have yet to show up, so I spend the time grading.  I'm getting so much done!

You see, the English Department has had an agreement that full-time professors teach four courses as opposed to the five that other full-timers in other departments teach.  This four-course load is due to our teaching composition and having an abundance of grading every week.  In exchange, we were told hold normal office hours every week like all full-timers, but we also hold floating conference hours to meet with students throughout the week, not at a set time.  This schedule worked well for me.  I was able to make appointments throughout the week with my own students who could not make it to office hours.  Every week, I met with at least two students off-hours during these floating times.

With a new contract this year clarifying what these hours should really entail, the powers that be came up with this plan:

1. We were to hold seminar hours during set blocks of time.  No more floating.
2. We could not meet with our own students.
3. We could mentor developmental students, mentor non-developmental students, mentor a specific cohort of students (like online or creative writing--though the creative writing cohort was nixed because apparently they don't need mentors), tutor in the writing center, work with LINCC (the program for English language learners), or advise in the advisement center.  Only any mentee or advisee could not be our own student.

So this semester, I've held my Seminar Hours twice a week and I look at my Seminar Hour schedule daily and usually, the schedule is gray, which indicates I have no one to mentor at all.  Once it was a light blue, indicating that I had someone scheduled.  I turned that into a dark red when that student did not show up.

Instead of being able to offer a slew of possible appointment times as I have in the past, I can offer like one half-hour of free time as a possible appointment time for my own students.  So they either have to make it to office hours when they might not be able to because they have class or are not on campus, or they have to find my one half-hour of free time available in their own schedule.  They can't come during Seminar Hours when I sit by myself with no mentees because that's just not allowed.

Ideally, I'd like to not mentor anyone.  I'd like to have simply extra office hours.  If we can't be trusted to hold floating conference hours, then I want to have double office hours, and I want to be able to help my own students.  Since our classes have increased in size, having time to meet more students one-on-one would help immensely since more of them can get lost in these bigger classes.

But for now, I spend my time in the office grading, working on curriculum, working on my promotion app, reading submissions for The Nassau Review (I'm still the editor), finishing up committee work for four other committees I'm on, NOT holding my former floating conference hours and NOT helping my own students. I go to teach my four classes.  I hold my regular office hours during which my own students who are available at those times stream in and out regularly.

I'm looking forward to sabbatical.  Even though this semester has been pleasant, I need a break from the illogical ways of thinking.

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