Monday, January 8, 2007

Look what I'm in for!

(Edited for clarity)

Yesterday I packed up the Christmas ornaments and disassembled the Christmas tree. That must mean today is the beginning of the new semester for Rust Belt U!

As I write, Bullock has started his first class of the day. My first class starts tomorrow -- both of mine are in the exact same time slots as his but on opposite days, weirdly. It's a good thing they don't start until tomorrow, since I'm currently in pj bottoms and a minor league baseball t-shirt over long underwear. Nice!

Anywho, I spent the morning finishing up my review of the editor's comments on chapter 2 of my book. 3 more chapters and the works cited to go before January 25. I was kind of hoping to power through it before the semester began, but clearly that didn't happen. And now I have to plan for the first day of classes tomorrow. The syllabuses are written and copied, but I still have to make some short poetry handouts -- because, yes, I *do* use the whole class on the first day of school! -- and figure out just how much time to spend on various tasks on the first day. Every year I change what I do. In the medieval lit survey, for example, sometimes I ask students what they think of when they hear the word "medieval." Or I put a timeline on the board. Or I just jump right into some lyric poems. In Shakespeare tomorrow, I might talk about Will's life and times, or I might just jump right into a sonnet. In the classroom I'm often as New Historicist as I am in my work, but I'm starting to realize that sometimes students need a little bit of New Criticism first, and I'm trying to build in more close textual work, even when they're reading stuff in translation. So it might be good for me to start there in each of my classes tomorrow and get them to start participating and doing it themselves right away.

But so far, we're just talking about tomorrow. My subject line actually refers to what I'm "in for" for the whole semester. Last semester I had two graduate classes with a total of 25 students (though, keep in mind that that meant about 400 pages of grading at the end of the semester and a greater level of reading and other scholarly preparation on my part). This semester, I have two undergraduate courses with a total of 70 students (35 each). In one class they'll be writing 3 medium-length papers. In another, they'll be writing 6 2-page responses, a short paper, and a research paper with an additional proposal-and-bibliography aspect.

What have I done to myself?!!!!

Oh, and did I mention that I took on an independent study student? Or that I'm training for the Boston Marathon (on a more intense, but less time-consuming-than-usual 3 day/week schedule)? Or that it's admissions season and I'm the Grad Director? Or that Bullock and I will have Wiley with us until April? And then there's the little matter of my book, which I'll be indexing myself as I review the proofs in March (thank the FSM that that's supposed to arrive over Spring Break!).

Woo boy. By K'zoo time in May, those of you who are medievalists should expect to see a very exhausted Dr. V. But at least I won't be giving a paper there this year and can just use it as a well-deserved fun-but-still-professional reward at the end of the term. I'm going to need it!


Karl Steel said...

Wait is that 70 students total or 140 students total?

Either way you have my sympathy.

Dr. Virago said...

Thank the FSM that it's 70 total (I should edit that), but that's still the largest number of students I've ever had in a single term.

Karl Steel said...

Right-o. But think of the excellent trove of late paper stories you'll get at the end of the semester! You'll probably be a featured blog at IHE three weeks running...

Dr. Virago said...

Te-hee. You know, I can totally predict when IHE is going to pick up a post. Sometimes, in fact, I keep that in mind while I write.

Ancarett said...

This semester I only have 102 students in two classes and I'm expecting a total output of 2676 pages to mark, not including the final examination in the larger class. Which is less than I had to deal with last term (4 classes, 166 students, over 3000 pages of work excluding the exams).

About the only thing that helps me there is to be very organized for when the assignments come in and to get those short assignments back to the students as soon as humanly possible. It's either that or spend the last month of term buried in despair (which was me last month). I will wish you luck in your daunting pile of marking!

Tenured Radical said...

Good luck Virago!

Take a hint from me though - one way to lighten your load is to pay someone else to do the index. I did the index for my first book, and it took about a month of slogging away at it for 2-3 hours each morning. Ihad planned to do it myself anyway, being in the throes of tenure-time control freaky behavior (I also straightened a lot of drawers). It also turned out to be a good activity because my dad had just died and I wasn't capable of any creative thought at all. But minus the passed-away parent? I would not even consider doing it again, and I would exercise my control freaky behavior in some more useeful way, like putting all my collected change in rolls or sorting files left over from my grad student years.

Happy first day of class,


Anonymous said...

Chiming in on TR's excellent advice -- can you arrange a grant from your publisher to hire an indexer? the fee would be charged against royalties, BUT they'd most likely hire a professional indexer with whom they've worked before (and who is familiar with house style).

Self-Congratulator said...

Sometimes you can get a grant from your home institution for things like a good index. I'd look into it.

I usually teach around 70 a semester, but it's divided between lit classes (of different levels) and technical writing, and I try to space things out so that I'm never completely inundated.

That being said: devise a rubric and use boxes and check marks, followed by three sentences of written comment. The good students will come to your office to ask for more.