I am back at work now — teaching Developmental Writing. It was a long first day back, but it was pretty good. I have four classes - 3 of them back to back. I apologized to the last class today, telling them I was tired and that I would probably be tired for their class more times than I would like to admit. If I am not tired physically, I will be tired of saying the same thing over and over. But we will all adjust. I am actually looking forward to seeing how the semester goes.
The year is starting off with the uncertainty that I know will continue to plague me. Classes start on Tuesday and, once again, I have no idea who my students will be or even if I will really have any. There is still a chance they will decide to cancel my classes for low enrollment. I am not sure what would happen then!
Oh well… This will all be made clear in a couple days. I only wish the rest of the year were going to be so easy!
I will be teaching in the spring, which starts in two weeks. That much I know. At the present time, I have no idea what I will be teaching, though. I was scheduled to teach 2 classes — Academic Reading and Writing and Research Writing. At the present time, there is only 1 student registered for either of my classes. No ESL class has more than 2 students registered right now, so I am not taking it personally! But it is hard to know how to proceed when I don’t know what is going to happen. Will the classes fill? Will we end up cancelling some or even most of them? Not knowing makes it hard.
I have those two classes planned out, but it looks like I may teach others either in addition or instead of these two. I have started thinking about them, but I am also having trouble getting into gear on it. I’m running out of time, though, aren’t I?
Yesterday I felt great. The administrative part of starting the semester was mostly done, and I could finally stat to concentrate on my classes. Then I learned we have more students coming still! It is crazy! But it’s better than how I started the month: thinking I wasn’t going to have even 1 student!
Or at least it looks a lot better than it did a few weeks ago. I officially have students for the fall semester! I am happy! But I am also having to scuffle to finish getting everything ready for them. I had kind of given up there for a while! But I don’t mind. The important thing is that I have students!
August is usually my favorite month. I love the start of the school year. I love buying school supplies. I love getting ready to face a new groups of students. This year, however, I am not looking forward to this month at all. It is largely because if the fact that I do not know how many, if any, students I will have.
I have planned all my courses, prepared all my syllabi, but it now appears that, if I have students at all, they will be at a lower level of proficiency than the courses are currently designed for. Not a huge deal. I can re-do the courses. But I am not going to do it until I know for sure what is going on. And that won’t be until the students arrive. They should be here before the end of next week so I can test them and we can get them registered. But I don’t think even one has a plane ticket yet.
This year I am not really looking forward to the month of August at all. I am actually just hoping to get through it!
I have been working on my classes for the fall, and I have decided NOT to use Blackboard. Well, actually, I will use Blackboard to post students grades and to link to the websites we will use. But otherwise, we will be working from the wiki and posting to blogs. I will use my classroom blog as the portal to the student blogs. I think it will work pretty well.
At the present time, I have one class that was halfway set up on Blackboard before I made this decision. I am not sure if I am going to go back there and finish it or if I am going to continue with the wiki/blog plan for all my courses. Even though I have spent so much time working on that course, it is a long way from finished. And I don’t like it. So I have reasons to abandon its current incarnation. But I am not sure if I want to give up all that time I have invested.
I have some extra time to work on this since my summer class was canceled. And, of course, at the rate things are going, I may not have any students for the fall, either, so this may all be an exercise in futility! Oh well…
Yesterday I had the privilege of listening to a number of excellent science fiction writers at the annual Jack Williamson Lectureship at Eastern New Mexico University. It was such a treat! Connie Willis was there. Steven Gould was there. Walter Jon Williams was there. Melinda Snodgrass was there. Ian Tregillis was there. And, of course, Jack Williamson was there in spirit. Also present were publisher Stephen Haffner and agent Eleanor Wood.
The highlight for me was attending a session with Connie Willis speaking to history professors about her new book Blackout. She talked about the eight years of research she did for it and the second volume All Clear, which is due out in the fall, She talked about trying hard to get the facts correct but trying even harder to get the feel of the book right. I came away from that session with a lot to think about in terms of my own writing. It was great!
Anyway, I am already looking forward to next year’s lectureship — probably about the 2nd Friday in April again. If you are in the neighborhood, why not drop in?
I have been busy working on an assessment of my program and an explanation of how students in the program are assessed. It has taken a lot of thought to do. As we are still really just building the program, I hadn’t put a lot of thought into assessing its effectiveness yet. But I think I have it done now — at least an initial report. They may want additional information, but they are going to have to be more specific about what they want if they do.
It was an interesting process, but I am glad to have it behind me so I can start thinking about other things again!
Up through Tuesday evening I was holding out hope that Moodle would be up and running in time to start the semester with it. (We have permission to sue Moodle but they won’t let the server housing it access the internet! Hopefully that will change soon.) So yesterday morning I had to scuffle to figure out how I was going to handle the quizzes and answers to homework that I was going to post to Moodle. I already had the courses basically set up on a wiki, so what I ended up doing was creating pages for the answers to be posted and another for the quizzes. I am only going to post them for the time that students have to check their answers and take the quiz, and then I will take them down and later post the next answers and quiz. It isn’t a perfect system, but I think it will work.
I could, of course, have used Blackboard. I looked at it and even posted my syllabi there. But I really don’t want to do that. I will give Moodle a couple weeks and, if we still can’t use it then, will just continue with what is already in place. If it works that long, why not stick with it?
My students have started posting to their blogs. You can find the list here, if you are interested.