Tuesday, January 15, 2008

two days down...

Have met all the classes, including the two sections of the Dreaded Two-Hour Comp course. In my experience, there is inevitably a Good Section and an Evil Section (and I'm pretty sure I already know which is which), but I guess that's better than having only an Evil Section, like I did last semester.

Since last semester's comp class felt like a disaster, I've been looking at what I can revamp. (I don't know for sure that it was a disaster; in the final papers, several students said that they had never had a class where they had to write multiple drafts of essays, and claimed to have learned a lot from the experience, and four of them did re-enroll in one of my comp sections this semester, so maybe it was a not-too-awful experience for more of them than I thought. But there were definitely, as they say, Student Engagement Issues, and three people flat-out failed.)

So far, the lessons I've learned seem to be: 1) Pick a theme that is interesting to someone other than the professor (last semester's "So what ARE the liberal arts, and what is college supposed to do for you?" fell resoundingly flat on this front); and 2) front-load the fun stuff early in the semester, so people get into the habit of liking the class, or at least not minding it. (Come to think of it, before this year I always had higher course ratings in first-semester comp courses than second-semester, possibly because the U of Basketball's comp program mandated that the Fun Stuff was front-loaded in the first semester and end-loaded in the second semester. I'm pretty sure that I've just uncovered a General Principle that will make my life easier in the future, assuming that I'm still working in my chosen field in the future.)

On the job search front, life remains uncertain. I made the mistake of Googling the other candidates for the job at New SLAC and reading all about their teaching awards, and now I'm depressed. Have got two other campus interviews, and one of them finally broke the MLA jinx (before this year, I'd had campus interviews with schools that did phone interviews, and with schools that went directly to campus visits with no preliminary round of interviews, but I had never, ever gotten anything but a rejection after an MLA interview, so I'm pleased that at least one search committee has met me face to face and doesn't think I'm totally hopeless). At this point, though, it's all starting to feel like an infinite series of first dates, and I'm not really expecting anything to come of anything. At least you get a free meal or two out of it.

Must prep teaching demo. And pack. See you all when this damn week is over.


Anonymous said...

Concerning your 3rd paragraph:

After more than 10 years of academic teaching: I still don't know which themes will not only interest me, but also a somewhat elevated number of students. No idea at all. (o.k.: interest in Harry Potter is still elevated, but it's not as big as it was). The only exceptions are: themes connected to "Machiavelli" and themes connected to "sex" seem to be rather popular. So popular even, that up to now I refrained from offering a seminar on "Machiavelli and Sex" (let alone "Sex and Machiavelli") in order to avoid having to translocate to our auditorium maximum with such a seminar. But apart from that: it's always a surprise to me with which theme I draw how many (or how few) students.

As for the "fun" bits: If these are the "soft" bits: yes: put them in the first few sessions, so that you can increase pace and need for the ability to tolerate frustrations in later sessions. If this is about the "spicy" bits (if any): no, I wouldn't rearrange the order of the chapters of let's say Tirant Lo Blanc in oder to get the bedroom scenes dealt with in the first few sessions. Mentioning that they exist and that there might be reasons to stay on and read on even for those not liking (the other) court scenes and battlefield scenes should be enough.

Concerning your penultimate and your last paragraph:

Best wishes, good luck!!!

Breena Ronan said...

I agree, there is always a good section and a bad section. Usually the bad section happens late in the afternoon or evening.