Thursday, January 13, 2011

That went worse than I expected

Or maybe about as well as could be expected, if you are cynical about that sort of thing.

What sort of thing? Well, take your pick:

- flying from sunny California to somewhere east of California through someplace that was not Atlanta but might as well have been from all the various delays, weather cancellations, mechanical troubles and missed connections. PS: Delta, you suck, putting pesto (which has nuts) on the one entree that does not already include nuts or peanuts. Must I only eat Pringles on the plane?

- Remember parking at Postdoc School? And how sucky it was the first week? Ooh, let's add some snow to that, have it partially melt, and freeze it again! Oh joy! PS: students, you suck, picking winter as the big time to jaywalk across that one street while on the phone and not looking either direction ---I thought you people were supposed to be familiar with the difficulties of braking on slush?

I foolishly thought that having later classes this time would be good, but I arrived early (8:15) so I could copy and scan things and everything was full. Full and slushy. Luckily people don't seem to understand that the parking lot next to Facilities Management is a faculty one. Unluckily it is on the far side of campus away from every single academic building. I may have to get on campus at 7:30 anyway and just have super long days.

- "Hello Dr. Cog!" You'd think having a former student call hello and give a big wave and a smile would be a good thing, wouldn't you? Especially since this student does not seem to be initiating an angry grade complaint --- perhaps the only one, or almost. But looking up to respond involves taking one's eyes off the sidewalk for precious seconds while still ambulating forward --- leading to slipping, my knee doing something weird, and then half-sliding, half-falling into something approaching the splits. But not actually doing the splits. Doing something much more awkward-looking, if possible. Hello, I appear to have sprained my dignity. That's better than I expected: I thought I had no dignity left!

- Stripey Class will officially be my nemesis this semester. It was last semester too, but in different ways. I thought I would on principle hate teaching it as a night class with remote-tv-broadcasting to the next town over, and I do. What I hadn't counted on is that multiple equipment problems and breakdowns would render my ability to hold class almost impossible, stop us three different times, and have the majority of the time wasted on watching technicians unsuccessfully work on the problems.

I have no clue how to run a GE intro course as a 3 hour seminar. And no clue how to use quizzes and group work and writing in a class where 25 of the 50 people are not physically present. But the most significant problem is that I can tell there is at least a 2-second delay, from watching myself while I lecture (which is also sucky and distracting, by the way). Seriously, it's a long time. And both my lecturing style and my pedagogy are absolutely terrible for this format --- I am quite manic and speedy and have lots of random strange hand gestures that help me think from one point to the next, and I can see my gestures significantly lagging my speech. Plus my style is to run the classroom in a fairly informal way, with lots of back-and-forth, constantly pulling words out of the students, asking little questions, cracking little jokes. Again, it's pretty manic, so it may be too fast for students (I would argue it is fast enough to interest students), but it is definitely too fast for the camera, and also only I am miked. The students have to push little microphones and hold them down while talking in order for the other classroom to hear them (same setup for both classrooms). The students don't remember this, and it hardly seems worth it (to them) for them to push the button to answer "yes" or "I agree" or "they would think this author was crazy." (In response to "what do you think people would say if the author did this?") I do a lot of pulling answers out of them, asking a student to elaborate on the one word another student said, asking them to read me a line that gives them that impression, and so on. Over in Other Town, none of the students can hear my back-and-forth, and I am too damn impatient to ask some little question and wait through 2 or 3 seconds of delay to hear if someone from Other Town is going to answer. I don't wait much in a normal class --- I use movement and facial cues to see if someone is on the verge of saying something --- and I can only see about 6 of the people in Other Town on my feedback monitor. Seriously, it's a clusterfuck all around. And I have no love for this topic or readings. Sad to say but I am counting down the weeks to be free of this class already.

- I have no beer in the house, which is a terrible oversight and clearly something that will need to be stocked for Stripey Class night (maybe it would help if I drank beer during the session?). I just tried to drink a glass of orange juice (only non-caffeine thing in the house) with my black bean chili. Mm. That was worse than I expected.

May the rest of the week only be an improvement from here!


Dr. Koshary said...

Make your students watch this. Say nothing about why.

Get yourself some proper footwear for the weather. I rather suspect that you're wearing the wrong kind of shoes, if you're having that much trouble staying on your feet in slush and ice. Look for something grippy as well as warm. You'll have to train your body to react slower to greetings, too — it's a survival skill in such conditions.

Dr. Koshary said...

And by "watch this," I meant "watch this:",18705/

Earnest English said...

I'm so sorry for this clusterick of a class! (Making up new words in the early hours of the morning.)

But one question: pesto has nuts in it? Pesto often has pine nuts, but aren't they really seeds? Are people who are allergic to nuts also allergic to seeds? I didn't know that.

Sisyphus said...

Dr Koshary, it's true I was wearing dress boots, but also they scraped all the sidewalks and then only salted some, so in a lot of places we packed down the snow and then it got slushy and then it froze that way so it was like a raised-terrain map of ice, in the shape of boot treads. And if only it was _my_ students randomly jaywalking! Unfortunately I can't broadcast this to the entire campus ... or can I?

EE, pine nuts are tree nuts --- they're off pinion trees. I assume that's the same as pecans and walnuts and such. Actually, peanuts are not really nuts since they are not off trees, and people usually are allergic to one or the other. I never finished all that testing before moving so I'm still operating under the assumption that I'm allergic to peanuts too, "just to be safe," acc. to the allergist.

Sadly, I love pesto, and I love pine nuts! They are very good when you sautee some spinach with raisins and some olive oil.

anthea said...

Sorry to hear about this class..sounds like a nightmare. As for almost doing the splits in teh snow scenario ...I understand and know what you mean. Wear some snow boots and have the dress shoes in your bag to put on when you get there is the only alernative I can think of.

I've had some pesto made with pistachios rather than pine nuts. It was ok...but I prefer pinenuts.