Monday, November 30, 2009

Problem diagnosed. Can I get a do-over?

So, this weekend I was preemptively mourning the end of my glorious ten days off, contemplating a return to teaching, and wondering why my classes were going so badly this semester. My students (undergrad and grad) are doing poorly, and while I'm sure some of it is on them, I'm also aware that I haven't been doing the level of mentoring or even basic organization that I'm used to doing, in spite of the fact that I'm in the office until 7-9 p.m. six days a week.** None of these are new classes, mind you, though two of the three are kind of complex, and made more so by the fact that we've lost several teaching days here and there in the semester due to furloughs. Still, some of the problems this semester:
  • Medium-sized errors in the syllabus (like, having the dates wrong)
  • Forgetting to post readings online
  • Spacing off my pop quizzes in one class until I'm cornered into doing them every single day until the end because there are only that many days left
  • Late posting of essay topics, forcing me to renegotiate due dates
  • Astoundingly poor organization of my methodology syllabus, to the detriment of my students, who need this information
  • Complete inability to keep on top of the three grad students who are supposed to be turning in exams and thesis chapters before I go on sabbatical

Add to this the students' problems in paying for books -- one couldn't afford to buy the book, so he had gotten one from the library. Unfortunately, the library book was in the fourth edition, while I had assigned the tenth. Throw in the swine flu, the regular flu, and a nasty upper respiratory/headachey RINO virus, and low student and faculty morale due to furloughs, and you've got a recipe for disaster. I am dreading looking at my evaluations from this semester.

But this weekend, I just realized something else: part of the problem can be boiled down to four days; to be precise, the last four days before the semester began. Due to a confluence of circumstances, those four days were all I got to prep for my courses. And I think I've been paying for it all semester.

I need my upcoming sabbatical. But I'd also like a do-over on the semester.

**I only teach one night class.


Another Damned Medievalist said...


Susan said...

Me three. I am planning to take a long time over the holiday to make sure my syllabi for the spring are well organized and I'm not racing around trying to catch up with myself.

auto ethnographer said...

I don't think it is possible to over-represent the degree to which classes, grades, and faculty and student attitudes have been negatively shaped by the furloughs, budget, low morale etc. I don't want to see this semester again, even in the rear view window.

Dame Eleanor Hull said...

I'm with autoethnographer. Let this one pass as fast as possible.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Just got my first irate student e-mail on the subject, and I'm no longer sure whether to be sheepish or deeply irritated:

"We have class tomorrow? How come it's not on the syllabus?"

(Again, no salutation, no sign-off. Same student as before.)

Well, student, it's because, as we pointed out in class, those two syllabus dates are a misprint. But hey -- if you'd prefer that we all stick to the syllabus as printed and come in on the 5th, which is a Saturday, just let your classmates know. I'm sure they'll be fine with that.

Bavardess said...

You have been doing it hard - I think anyone would be starting to make mistakes with working hours that long. Roll on the sabbatical!