Sunday, October 11, 2015

Mid-October Smackdown

Two of my students are in the hospital right now.  Disasters continue.

A few students are recovering from their disasters.

When I meet with students in office hours, I try to take a bit of time at the end to check in with them, and see how they're doing.  By and large, my first year students are both overwhelmed and enjoying college.  I think that's about right.  A few seem more overwhelmed.  A couple seem like they should be more overwhelmed, but don't quite realize it.

My intro to lit students are having a midterm this coming Wednesday, so Friday was our review session.  They filled the board with stuff they should know, and a couple of them commented that they didn't realize how much there was they should know.  Better they realize that on Friday, with most of a week to study, than realize it on Wednesday during the exam.

I have to write the exam.  And then grade them, of course.

I had about 10 hours of conferencing this past week.  The thing about conferencing is that you have to stay pretty focused.  Or I do.  I can't think about what's happening in a different course, or whether I did laundry.  I have to think about what's happening in the room, how I can help this particular student with this particular project and with the course in general.  It's really tiring. 

I talked to one of my colleagues who cancels class and uses that time to meet with his students.  So, for the writing course, he cancels five days of class, and each of the 20 students gets to talk to him for about 12 minutes.

I cancelled three hours of class, scheduled 20 minutes for each student, and used huge chunks of time over three days.

I think he may have the better idea, frankly.  Maybe I can cancel another day, use some extra hours, and still schedule 20 minute meetings?  (I find that 20 minutes is about right.  I finish with most students within three minutes either way, and every five students or so I give myself a 20 minute break in case I've run over, and to use the restroom and such.  I rarely get more than 15 minutes of that time, and I need it.)

My question for you: how do you handle conferences for, say, a writing course, where students really do need one on one help?

If you're meeting with students in time that you normally use to grade and prep, you need to prep at other times, and grading tends to fall behind.  Which is where I am today, and why I should be grading like a demon.  And I will.

But in the meantime, I've baked some pumpkins (now cooling) to make pumpkin mush for stuffs (pumpkin bread/muffins, probably).  I've got the seeds roasting, having tossed them with olive oil, chili powder, cumin, brown sugar, and salt.  I may have over-salted.  :(

Yesterday I went on a short hike with friends, and took a bunch of pictures on my newly cleaned camera, only to find this morning that the cleaner took out the card and didn't replace it, so I got NONE of the pictures I'd taken!  GRRRR!  I'm disappointed about these pictures, but the card is pretty easy to replace, and I'm pretty good about downloading from the camera after each session, so it's not a disaster.

Trust me.  The fall colors were AMAZING!  The friends were wonderful.  And getting outside was superb.


  1. I always cancel classes when I hold conferences. We have 28 students in each comp class. There's no way I can teach comp without conferences; there's no way I can hold that many conferences while still meeting classes.

    I used to feel (a little) guilty about not holding classes during conference time. But frankly, you get what you pay for. The state legislature has signaled quite clearly that they don't care to pay for quality education for their citizens.

    There should be no more than 20 students in a comp class. Everyone knows that. 15 would be better. With 15-20 students in a comp class, I could actually teach the citizens of this state to write.

    As it is, I'm doing what I can with the time I have.

    (Am I pissed off? Am I bitter? ME?)

  2. And -- obviously -- it could be worse. At one of my former universities, we had 40 students in every comp class. That was literally impossible. I was teaching four sections of comp with 40 students in each section.

    And those 40 students were all on various levels -- that is, some were excellent, and some were average, and some were flat-out illiterate. No one can teach students to write under those circumstances.

    I left as soon as I could. I don't know what's going on there now. And I pity those who had to stay.

  3. In my developmental writing class I cancel a week of classes and schedule 20 minute conferences (I plan for 15 minute conferences and give myself a 5-minute buffer per student). This semester, I only have 2 sections with 15 students each, so I can get all of the conferences in during the class time and office hours. When I have more students that that, I still cancel class, but spread them out over two weeks. I that case, I sometimes schedule 30 minute per student--I use the first 15 to read the draft and the student comes in for the last 15. I do this twice; for the second conference I don't cancel class, but give them that time to work on group presentations and still do in-class conferences,

    In my other comp classes (with larger class sizes and and longer papers), I've given up on meeting every student for the same paper. It was killing me even with canceling class. For that, students have to sign up for one essay conference with me during office hours, and they choose which essay (but I set it up so that they're spread out fairly evenly across the papers, not all going for the last one). For the other essays, they have to visit the writing center.

    1. And I still cancel class in the regular comp classes, but I cancel one for each set of conferences instead of all the same week.