Wednesday, January 25, 2012

RBOC: Spring 2012 semester edition

  • It's been an emotional rollercoaster for me this week, just like the rest of January.  I'm increasingly convinced that Ghosttown, for a variety of reasons, is actually bad for my mental health.  It is therefore uncomfortable to speculate on the possibility that my only hope of employment for next year may be begging to have my current contract renewed for another year.  Sick irony, anyone?
  • My therapist seems to have zeroed in on my emotional distress as rooted in guilt, shame, and self-loathing.  I find myself agreeing with this and, at the same time, wondering, Are there survivors of graduate school who don't fit this profile?
  •  The semester kicking off doesn't do much good for my emotional stability, since there's the inescapable fear that I will somehow screw everything up and scar my students.  I'm calming down from that one, as the classes start to knock themselves into shape.  The add/drop period makes everything so chaotic that I have totally abandoned teaching actual material for the first week, since so many people register late.  I feel good about this choice, now that I've tried playing it both ways.  This is definitely the more efficient way to go.  The students may be bored the first few days, just going over the syllabus, policies, study skills, etc.  But hell, it's not like students won't be bored anyway.
  • Even faster than last semester, students are dropping my courses (or the idea of them) after getting a look at the requisite work.  Effort appears to frighten them intensely.  I feel I chose wisely this time around by forcing the students to go through the entire syllabus with me so I can explain to them what college professors mean when we say things like "read" or "take notes."  No one seems to arrive at Ghosttown U. with any study skills worth a goddamn, and I figured that out too late to really address it properly last semester.  Now that I'm walking them through the processes en masse, and am forcing them to confront the reality that they will have to read for nearly every single class session, a few more of them seem to be jumping ship during the first week.  
  • My favorite example of this so far: a senior came by my office today after class, apologetically explained that zi had just registered a few minutes before, and wanted to know what zi might have missed the first few days.  Zi seemed on the ball, well aware of how college operates, and I was fine letting hir know where we'd be picking up.  I printed out a syllabus and the little sheet I concocted this morning about reading and note-taking skills and gave them to the student, who seemed almost insulted by the thought that zi would have to read such elementary instructions.  I practically apologized as I gently urged Stu to read them through to understand my policies, even though I was sure zi knew all of this stuff already, and explained that these things were intended primarily for my first-year students.  Before the work day ended, Stu had already dropped the course.  I believe zi was on my roster for approximately two hours.
  • Not that this is brag-worthy, but I have managed to write bits of my book manuscript more days than not, so far this week.  This evening, I was puzzling over which chapters to focus on preparing for my potential book editor's review, and I suddenly realized, while fiddling the wording of a footnote, that Microsoft Word doesn't include footnotes in the word count.  (Is this a Mac thing?)  I can't for the life of me find whatever widget in Word would change this scenario.  But anyway, I created a separate document and copied all of my footnotes from all my chapters into the body text, so I could see the count.  It expanded my manuscript word count by nearly 3,000 words!  Celebrate!


  1. At least on my PC version of Word, when you click on Word Count, there's a check/uncheck box asking you whether you want to include footnotes and endnotes in the word count. But your way works too. Congratulations!

    1. Oh. So there is. I was not aware that I could alter that arrangement by clicking on the word count box itself. Thanks, Heu!


  2. So do footnotes count for a book project word count, or are they excluded? I thought they didn't count.

    Also: the more students you scare away now, the fewer papers to grade later.

    1. Good question, Sis. I haven't looked at enough presses' submission guidelines to give a knowledgeable opinion, but from what I've seen so far, most of them don't mention the matter in the first place. I know for sure that the last journal I submitted to wanted to know the total count, notes and all.

      And I don't have papers to grade, just tests. My take on the early bail-out students is that the more I scare away now, the fewer unhappy conversations I have to have about "why you have failed this course."

  3. That "earnest" student who dropped hours later? Aggggggggggggggggggggh! Sheesh. *facepalm*

    For some reason, that really pissed me off. On your behalf. ;)