dxmachina: (teaching 02)
[personal profile] dxmachina
For the first time in what has been an extraordinarily temperate summer, the temperature has broken 90° here at Casa Machina. We are the midst of the first real heat wave of the year, and of course, I pulled the air conditioners out of the windows two weeks ago. Actually, calling it a heat wave is kind of an insult to heat waves. It has been more a matter of humidity than heat. Until today the temperatures the past couple of days have only been mid- to high eighties, but with the humidity hovering around 70%. Soupy, but tolerable. Today is a bit different.

As noted, this is the first time the temperatures have even touched 90° this year. Till now it's been quite an enjoyable summer. Up until this past weekend, the night-time temperatures in August were in the low sixties, or even down into the fifties, with day-time highs in the low eighties, with only the occasional humid day thrown in. That's why I pulled the A/C units out. I only have one window in my bedroom, and I wanted to open it full up.

I'd turned on the A/C only four times in July, and hadn't touched it in August. I tried to avoid the heat by doing some stuff down in the basement, but when it hit 85° on the first floor I gave in. I reinstalled the big portable unit in my office. That one's easy — it's stored in a cubby next to the window anyway, and it only took ten minutes to set it up. The bedroom one is more involved, and I'd have to carry it upstairs, so I just left it down in the basement and closed the bedroom door.

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Now if it were tomorrow, I wouldn't have bothered. I'd have just left for work early, and enjoyed the A/C there. I met my new MCC class last Wednesday. Well most of them,anyway. I had four no-shows, a new league record. MCC has a program that phones people who have registered but no shown up, so I forwarded their names, and calls were made so we'll see. There was one who has no phone number on file with registration,so she's still a mystery.

I was pleased with the first session. I finished the lecture portion with plenty of time for the lab, and yet still was able to add a couple of tweaks to it. I'd been a little dissatisfied with the flow in previous semesters, but this time it seemed to work well. I didn't even have any after-the-fact thoughts about new tweaks. I was also pretty happy with the lab lecture, too. Those are easy to second guess, because the feedback is immediate when you haven't explained things well.

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I came across an unfamiliar term the other day, "syllabus creep," although I'd suspected it existed in some form or another. Last week I came across not one, but a couple articles on the subject, including this one in Slate. If you haven't taken or taught a college class in awhile, syllabuses have gotten to be enormous documents. My syllabus for the course at MCC is 15 pages long. When I was teaching back in the day, my syllabi were maybe a page and a half, tops.

Now, part of the bloat is because of the lab portion of my course, and the necessity of keeping all seven sections of what is a core course on roughly the same page — the last seven pages are a detailed session-by-session schedule of readings, assignments, and experiments so that my section is in sync with all the other six sections. In the past, I would've assigned readings and homework as the course progressed, so this is probably more efficient. Least ways, students can go download the pdf of the syllabus if they're uncertain as to what's due.

The real bloat comes from all the stuff the college insists on, most of which is just regurgitated from the student handbook and the college's website*. The template sent out by the college is five pages long*. Even if I wanted to assign homework and such on the fly, the template insists that it be included. Grading and evaluation methods are to be spelled out in detail so there are no misunderstandings (or lawyers) later. I don't mind that last, but it tends to get complicated, too.

* Required, non-editable rules for attendance, withdrawal and incompletes, academic integrity, disability services, and class cancellation (a total of about three pages worth), along with some notes about online resources, which will be identical to every other syllabus the student receives.

CCSU, by way of comparison, requires far less, presumably because the student can readily find all the boilerplate online. All they really require is the section on grading and evaluation. My syllabus there last semester was four pages, and I probably could've gotten it down to two if I'd left out some of the stuff the bled over from my own MCC template.
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