Saturday, November 22, 2014
Week 14: Busy, busy, busy!
There has been a lot going on in Stewartopia this week. I should start with the turkey. Dear Husband put it on with a pork shoulder, and while the pork shoulder turned out lovely, the turkey was a bit...crispy. So what was salvageable from the turkey will go into the soup pot, and DH smoked a turkey breast and two chickens (because if you're smoking one thing, you might as well go ahead and do some other stuff with it). The turkey breast went to the registrar's office yesterday for their Thanksgiving bash. I was invited along, which was lovely, and I got to meet DH's co-workers and help them gang up on him, which he so appreciated.
Also on Sunday night, I typed the words THE END on my novel! It's about 53,000 words right now, so I have some things I want to add when I start revising, but I'm very happy with the results thus far. It's not my first book--I wrote three as a teenager (all of novel-length, and all truly terrible and derivative, but that's how we learn to write as kids). And if you count fanfiction, then I've written seven. But this is my first, honest-to-goodness, adult novel, written for adults as an adult. And naturally, I immediately started the next one! I'll come back and revise Chosen at the beginning of next year, probably, as I have several people who are reading it, and I'm looking forward to their feedback.
Monday was positively nasty. We had a gale come through early that morning, and I woke up with a migraine about three a.m. At seven, my head hurt so badly and I was so dizzy, that I called off my classes and went back to bed. As of right now, we're waiting on another cold front to come through in two waves and bring us some nasty weather, but so far, my head seems to be all right.
I started Little Women with my American Lit class on Tuesday. Only two people had read it before, and they had both read it in high school! I was completely flabbergasted by this. Mom gave me Little Women as a child, and I ate it up. My students also seem to find it as a slog to get through, which has confused me greatly, as I chose it particularly because I thought it would be an easy, pleasurable read for them at the end of the semester. Many of them are actually reading it along with an audio book on YouTube to help them understand it.
Thursday and Friday brought something new to me. I'd never truly appreciated the work that goes on behind the scenes in a department before. Even having served on the Lower Division Curriculum Committee, I don't think it prepared me for this level of work. To comply with the new mandated assessment protocols (partly state and partly SACS accreditation), we've had to put together new program outcomes. That necessarily means that we have to ask - well, what's our program? We have a group of developmental classes, first-year composition, and sophomore literature courses, and first-year comp is complicated by the fact that many of our students don't have to take 1302 (and 1302 is not a pre-requisite for our sophomore lit courses, which is not our doing).
So as a department, we've had to put together new program outcomes - program being defined as what someone with an A.A. in English, transferring to another school, should have when they leave. (As in, are we preparing them to complete a B.A. in English with the foundations we've given them.) That's taken several weeks of discussion online. We voted at the department meeting on Wednesday, met Thursday to distill what was voted upon into the bite-sized chunks needed for SACS and then got together again on Friday to put them into a curriculum map and decide where we would assess each program outcome.
Don't get me wrong. I like assessment--I may be the only person in the department who does, which makes me fear that I'm going to end up being the go-to person for it. I like looking at what we've done, identifying where we're doing well and where we're not, and then taking steps to make our program better. I think that sort of self-reflection, both on a personal and a departmental level, is incredibly important if we want to serve our students.
At the same time, I'm also seeing a bit of friction between new and old philosophies. Is this the state interfering in our classrooms again? (Yes, in some ways.) Shouldn't we have the freedom to teach our subject however we see fit? (Within reason.) I think there's some fear that any kind of strictures put on our program, either by ourselves or by the state or by SACS, will end up depriving us of some of our academic freedom.
This has been a bit of an adjustment from MTSU, where we had a solid, laid out curriculum for first-year composition which everyone was expected to abide by, and the curriculum was put out in a manner that was heavily informed by a number of experts in the field of composition and rhetoric and which followed recommendations set out by the Writing Program Administrators conference, the Conference on College Composition and Communication, and the National Council of Teachers of English. Our curriculum is informed by these things, but it's not standardized between all of the instructors.
Next week is Thanksgiving. We are not going home--we don't have enough time, and the cost is prohibitive. Instead, we will celebrate here. We've been invited to the joint Thanksgiving celebration on Wednesday night with our church and the local synagogue. The celebration is now in its 80th year, which is pretty awesome. DH is looking forward to time off, as he's been working Saturdays as they try to catch up in the registrar's office, and I'm looking forward to time off just in general, though I will have a bit of grading to do over the holiday.
I also read the new Jan Karon book - Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good and was delighted by it. I hate that I've finished it, but I know it's there for me to go back to any time I want. Youngest Brother had a liver biopsy on Friday morning that went well, praise God, so now we wait on results and pray.
And I think that's it for the week, but that surely is enough. Next week is blessedly short and should be relatively restful, and with any luck, I might actually get some of this house straightened up!