Thoughts at the end of winter term, beginning of spring “break”

I just posted the final grades for the winter term (well, all but one– a student emailed me a corrupted file), meaning the spring “break” begins.  I say “break” like that because, like all academics, I feel compelled to be a bit defensive about how professors don’t really get the whole summer off, that it’s not like I am going to be on “vacation.”  I actually have an unusual number (for me) of projects in progress that need attention during May and June, and I will be teaching again in the summer term, which begins at the end of June.  Still, I won’t be teaching anything for the first term in at least three years, and we really will be taking an honest-to-goodness vacation in mid June.

Anyway, some thoughts on the term that was, the coming spring, and other things, in no particular order:

  • I’ve done more rethinking about 328 in the last two years than I think I did in the first ten years of teaching the class, experimenting with new assignments, changing orders of things, changing from the emuonline CMS to a WordPress-empowered web site– — and I already know about some other changes I will make in the summer term too.  I think that’s been one of the anticipated benefits of bringing in a new guy with new ideas about the course.
  • Oh, and I will not be returning to emuonline for a CMS anytime soon.  I might put up some protections on the wordpress installs for 516 and 328 though, particularly 328.  In 516 (that is, “Computers and Writing, Theory and Practice”), the openness of the class site worked great because we had about a half-dozen of the authors of articles we were reading stop by and participate in the discussions.  But in 328, I think the publicness of it all kind of scared a few students off.
  • The next time I teach 328 (in the summer), I think I am going to have a peer review experience that requires students to get feedback from a reader from outside the class and report back on that experience.  I keep trying to impress upon students the idea that they need to keep that magical audience of a “reader beyond the class” in mind, but it seems like this is very difficult for most of my students to imagine in the abstract.
  • It is really interesting to me how radically the “same class” (more or less) can be with different students.  My section of English 328 in the fall term was, to put it charitably, “problematic;” this term, it was great.  As I wrote about here last year, my graduate class last year was not the best, in part because of a rather troublesome exchange I discussed about a year ago here. I mean, I have always known that no two classes are ever the same because of the differences in readings, discussions, assignments, and students.  I guess I’m just struck now how a few really “bad apples” (which I did not have this term) really can make a huge difference for the worse.

Anyway, farewell winter term….

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