Saturday, January 4, 2014

Scheduling Frustrations

Arrgh! Who put all these goddamn holidays and teacher inservice days all right next to each other at the beginning of the semester!?!?! This is messing with my scheduling. How am I supposed to train my students into my system and good student behavior if we aren't meeting consistently? This is just all exacerbated by my MWF schedule for the one class. Grumble Grumble.

Plus one of the complaints students had about me in the student evals was that they had trouble knowing their grade in the class especially early in the semester. I worked with my dean to make a plan for using the early grade report button online (not the course management system but the actual place where we upload final grades), which comes available in week 5, and he suggested his system of breaking the semester into 3 6 week segments and giving a grade update to them in class of where they were in the points total at the end of each of these sections.

But 4 major essays (poetry, drama, short story, novel), 3 grading segments, a week 5 grade report and 5 holidays in the first 6 weeks, AND a 3 times a week schedule all add up to nothing matching up with anything else. Argh.

It reminds me of counting triplets in music,

except not, because you can just run things cleanly together musically in a way that doesn't quite work with reading assignments.

And THEN, to add insult to injury, everything turns into a vast desert of class sessions in the middle, with no holidays in sight for weeks! Do we need refreshing from our schedules in the beginning of the semester? No!!! We need consistency and practice! Later in the semester, when my students were not doing the reading and were looking exhausted and putting their heads down on their desks, do we get any holidays? No! Of course not. This all makes me grumpy.

Last semester I front loaded one class's assignments and back loaded the other, but students complained that they did not really know how they were doing in the class before the drop dates, but this semester I can't really front load if there are damn holidays in the way!

Plus, there is the additional problem where MWF is great for walking through the writing process and tough to really get into depth in terms of literary content. I have mentioned before that I love teaching freshman comp MWF, but here it is an extra unit and they will only let me do it 2 or even 1 day a week (which messes with my system M bring in an outline W bring in a draft for peer review F turn in the final (or do a second revision exercise)) and they much prefer to do the intro to lit classes MWF. The problem is, if I want to assign multiple short stories on the same day, 50 minutes is too tough to look at literary terms and set the context of the story and discuss the story in detail ---- or, while I might be able to get at that for 1 story, 2 stories and 2 contexts is too much. This means I assign an incredibly tiny amount of reading, even when you add up the whole week. I think it might work well to do a class of novels this often and break it up, but my anthology doesn't have more than one work by each author. Putting a 19th century Russian short story along side a modernist English story and a contemporary American story totally throws them for a loop, too, even if they have very similar themes. Clearly I need a different anthology. I might, in the future, revamp this class to have a very limited historical/geographical focus even though I am not supposed to --- that way I can have my historical background stuff carry over across the weeks, and then if we end up losing a lot of time discussing, say, why Ireland is not so fond of England, or that yes indeed women were not allowed
to own property at one point, then they can apply that knowledge next week instead of jumping into introducing them to the existence of serfs.

Hmm, maybe if I started off with poetry instead? That seems slightly easier to work with through disruptions. Though that still gets me at the troubles of context ... and poetry from other time periods was written for vastly different purposes and contexts than today's lyric/MFA journal, and I've found that setting up that idea takes a lot of time, too.

I am starting to see why people in my department don't want to teach this class and prefer to teach the into to nonfiction writing class instead. If I had less oversight and fewer restrictions I might be able to throw out a lot of these lumpy, conflicting elements and teach something that worked really well, but that's not really a possibility. Yet. And it doesn't help me with the damn holidays and schedule and do not even get me started on my classrooms next semester. Grrrr grumble grumble grrr.

1 comment:

Susan said...

Do you have a faculty mentor? Because these are real problems, and some are structural. If people don't warn to teach intro to lit because of the constraints, maybe it's time to change the constraints. Which would be, in your context, a departmental decision.

And the timing stuff? It's playing 3 against 2... The problem is that these national holidays pay no attention to the academic calendar!