Thursday, September 04, 2008

The usual fall term frustrations

Classes are now in full swing, both the ones I teach and the ones I take. I agreed to teach a writing class this session after not having taught writing for quite some time. Because it is so time-consuming, most of us in my department tend to burn out on it after several consecutive sessions.

I like to have my students do lots of peer-editing, primarily because I think it benefits the peer editor. I have also been trying to be more conscientious about preparing rubrics so students can both know what is expected of them in their writing, and know what they're looking for when they are peer-editing.

We only have eight weeks, so when my students peer edit, I also edit/proofread their work too so they will have the benefit of whatever expertise I have (I always ask them to bring three copies). However, I have 19-20 students this time (don't ask why I don't know...that is a long and never-ending story, so it is difficult for me to get their rough drafts back to all of them during the same class session. Because of that, this last time I tried to give feedback to those I couldn't in class via e-mail. Because I do not yet know how to have them submit a paper to me electronically which I can then correct electronically, it's twice as much work. I burned out on it after several papers in a row and did not get e-mail back to everybody. However, I tried to get the marked papers back to them via their other teachers (we are a small and specialized department), and was only mildly successful.

I also have some issues with transitional technology. Both at home and at work (and when I take classes at the satellite center here in town for my university) some of the computers still have the 2003 version of Word and some have 2007 (and my desktop has 97, I think). Depending on the computer I'm using, I can not always open up a .docx. In the classes I take, the onus has been on us to put our work in Compatibility mode.(I have 2007 on my laptop at home but not on my desktop because I have lots of quizzes and tests I created using I asked one student to do that I don't remember why he didn't have the rough draft available during class, but when he sent it as a .doc, it opened up as gibberish.

When I told him, he got kind of mad and asked why I didn't download a 2007 reader. That kind of made me mad, and I also wasn't completely sure what he was saying. Because of heavy accentedness, we were having trouble communicating. If he had been one of the students I hadn't gotten feedback to on time I wouldn't have been upset, but he was the one who didn't give me his rough draft on the day it was due. The hard thing to explain is I have to use different computers at work which I share with others, and I tend to be reluctant to download much of anything on them, plus when I take classes, I'm supposed to make sure my work is readable. I had never had problems receiving attachments before when people used the Compatibility feature.

Anyway, then I felt bad and tried to be nice the rest of class. The thing I get frustrated about is I could do a half-baked mediocre job and be very timely, but if I'm going to give them quality feedback, they have to have stuff ready when I need it--and they have to label it properly, and it has to be readable. When I have not been timely, I will give them extra time, but I get very edgy in writing class when students create more complications for me than I already have.

The other complication is that because of some weird scheduling stuff, I'm teaching half-days four days a week instead of full days two days a week, which is the usual process. Not only that, but I started out teaching one writing class but was switched to another when another teacher had a scheduling issue at her other job. I also have decided not to sub in high schools for now as I have done in the past for extra money, because the system has been privatized and it kind of messes up the money which previously went into my state pension fund, which was one of the primary reasons I was doing it build up that tiny, tiny nest egg.

I'm also a bit on edge because I'm taking my required Information Technology class which I have been putting off for some time, and which is now only offered online, AND which now requires taking three certification tests. I'm actually very excited about the class, but at the same time, I'm very nervous about keeping up with the workload and I am somewhat out of my comfort zone. Fortunately, I have loved both the hybrid and online classes I have already taken. I'm just worried about the lack of direct, in-person access to the instructor when I run into problems.

Now that everything has started and/or settled, I will fall into a rhythm by next week, I think, and I hope I will be considerably less frustrated and moody.


Shanghai Laowai said...

I have 120 writing students. I have 4 writing classes. I am missing LCC right now. I would oh so gladly take on the writing classes there. I dream of classes with less than or equal to 20 students. It would be fantastic.
I miss having a chance to talk to you about my classes. I think that peer evaluations are really useful, but I cannot figure out how to get them to work in my classes here. The students just do not take it seriously nor do they give valuable comments. It is just checking grammar but never thinking about anything especially not ideas.
I too have my own fall frustrations. I did stick up for myself when my boss tried to give me more classes for the same pay. To top it off we also need to find a new apartment and move.

Mary said...

Wow...that's a lot of writing to deal with. I feel very bad about whining now. I was primarily annoyed with the way everything kept changing the first week, rendering some of the work I had already done absolutely useless. Also, some of the students who come out of the gate in a high-maintenance way sometimes end up dropping, but you never know who they will be.

I have had the same issues with peer editing. I found it helped a little to give them the rubric to show them how I think when evaluating their papers, then telling them to think like me in order to help their classmates. They will still need practice with it, though.

Do you get anything like a teaching assistant to help you? I can't imagine how you are able to read and evaluate all those papers. Yikes. And moving on top of that sounds like a nightmare.I hope things settle down for you soon.