Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Deep Breath

The grading is done.  The semester from hell is over.

What made this a semester from hell (with its attendant light blogging)?  Well, here was my teaching load:
  • One undergrad medieval survey -- 25 students.  Two short papers, two exams, two individual conferences per student for the major paper. On the positive side, I had most of my lectures and presentations and discussion notes ready to go.
  • One combination undergrad/grad seminar for the World History field -- 18 undergrad and 7 grad students.  Lots of reading, lots of weekly grading (5 short reading responses per student), plus a draft and a final version of the big paper.
  • One brand-new prep as an emergency fill-in for an undergrad course for the Early Modern field --which I last studied in 1999. 25 students. Constant reading and lecture-writing just to keep up. Two short papers, two exams, two conferences and two drafts per student for the major paper.  Made it even harder for myself by getting "creative" (= "self-destructive") with the major assignment. To be scrupulously fair: I volunteered for this course, as it appeared to be the least of three evils. And it probably was.
  • Two grad independent studies for comprehensive exams.  Two entirely different sets of readings. Meetings every three weeks with students, plus for one of them, I had to do most of the reading myself from scratch. (On the plus side, for this last one, the readings were mostly things that I had long wanted/needed to do.  So it was good for me.)
  • One grad independent study to prep for a thesis prospectus and defense of same.  Meetings every three weeks. Medieval stuff, but other than that, about as far from my own research interests as you can get.  Intriguing topic, but rough, because I felt like I didn't really know enough to direct her to the good stuff. But this is how thesis supervision goes when you're the one faculty member in a field that covers 1000 years of history.

Add to that the constant low-grade stress of repeated budget cutbacks, plus the usual committee work, and trying to get even one little conference paper done, and you've got a recipe for exhaustion. Is it any wonder that I'm still not over the flu I came down with at the beginning of finals week?

But... all semesters end.  Pretty much everyone got the grades that I expected.  All three grad students did just fine, and two of them are graduating.  Hooray!  And now I've got some recovery to do.  I'm leaving for a week-long vacation (with just one short work duty in there) on Sunday.  Between now and then, it's all about cleaning the clutter in the house and on the computer, so I can be ready to go for summer.

There will be more news, but I thought I'd catch you all up on what's been going on.


Janice said...

*pours a stiff drink*

I am impressed. I may have taught more in sheer numbers but I didn't have the added stress of the new prep being a fair bit outside my comfort zone!

The work with the grad students is staggering, isn't it? I love these students but it exhausts me to develop new competencies in order to support them. However, when they build on that to write awesome papers and impress my colleagues, it's well worthwhile.

Just remind yourself of that when you're enjoying a bit of a break. Hopefully this fall will be humane.

Dame Eleanor Hull said...

Congratulations! I'm sorry not to have seen more of you at the Zoo---breezed by you once when you were deep in conversation with someone, so I didn't interrupt.

Fie upon this quiet life! said...

Sounds like a lot of stress! Yikes. Deep breath is right. Congrats on getting through it all. Now, relax and enjoy your vacation!!