Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Early Autumn at Wyandotte County Lake

Autumn seems to be arriving later this year. There is a slight change in the color of the trees in these pictures taken at Wyandotte County Lake.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

That's Why We Call it Work

It has been a long time since I have taught only four sections of writing in a semester. Although I was originally scheduled to teach a fifth section this semester, starting in October, I am relieved to only teach four sections. Before students began withdrawing from my classes, which actually started during the first week of class, I started the semester with seventy-eight students.

I will be ending the year with only having taught twelve sections instead of the fourteen that I have taught in some years. A friend of mine from graduate school says that he typically teaches six or seven sections each semester but has summers off. If my summers were free of teaching, I would be teaching six per semester.

My semester starts a couple of weeks before classes get under way because I have to update my classes for the new semester. The students expect to see not only the syllabus but also the first assignment when they log into an online class for the first time. The degree to which an instructor makes his/her policies and expectations clear in an online class affects how the students respond to the class. Teaching a face-to-face class is somewhat easier because one’s teaching material can be created during the semester, instead of having to produce so much material prior to the start of the semester.

In addition to teaching my subject area, I have to help the students negotiate the technology used in an online class. Although both colleges where I teach were using Angel, they recently decided to adopt another Learning Management System, with one opting for Desire to Learn and the other one choosing Blackboard. I took a course in using Blackboard last spring and one in using Desire to Learn (D2L) last fall. These two learning management systems take time to learn. D2L proved intimating at first. Once I started using it last summer, I quickly adapted and actually prefer it to Blackboard, which I am using for the first time this semester. I sometimes catch myself dreading having to switch from D2L to Blackboard as I work on my classes.

Despite this somewhat easier load this semester, I have no more free time than usual. I currently have twenty-seven essays to grade. I get twenty-six more assignments to grade on Monday, and I have to get the next two writing assignments in two classes revised and available by Monday.

At sixty-three, I am ready to retire if such a thing were possible in this country. I am ready to do something other than grade student writing. Sure, I know that my work is far less strenuous and stressful than other jobs and that I am lucky to work in a field where my health is not endangered. I am thankful for having a job that pays the bills even though I have no job security, no paid vacation, no retirement plan. Like millions of other Americans, I have no prospect of retiring in the near future. We work until we die in this country.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Parkville on a Summer Evening

I am including a few pictures from a recent trip to Parkville, which is south of where I live, and located along the Missouri River. It's primarily known as the location for a private university and a scenic park along the river; otherwise, the town features expensive restaurants, pricey grocery stores, and expensive houses. It reminds me of a town located outside of Hartford, Connecticut--Glastonbury, for example. Some homes in Parkville can be purchased for $100,000, which seems to be the low end; there are many more homes listed for four or five times that amount, with one currently priced at the upper end and going for $1,500,000. Oddly, this highest priced home is located near a major highway. I would prefer more seclusion if I had that kind of money to spend on a house.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Content With the Old and the Worn

When is it necessary to replace something that works fine but that may appear tarnished or worn?

Although I have other watches, I purchased my favorite watch, the one I wear most often, fifteen years ago from a local big-box store. I don’t remember what I paid at the time. It was probably something like $20 or $30. Oddly a few years later, when I took my watch back to this store to have the battery replaced, the clerk at the jewelry counter said that the store doesn’t sell and never sold this item. Although a few other watches made by Wilson, the sports company, are available at eBay, I haven’t ever seen the model that I purchased in 1999 listed on eBay

My sweat from mowing the yard during a number of summers caused this watch to lose much of its finish on one side, so a couple of years ago I took a nail file and rubbed all of the finish off that side. It may not look aesthetically pleasing. Even so, this watch keeps great time and is currently in sync, to the second, with the online clock available at this link. A few years ago, I purchased the mechanism that would allow me to unscrew the back so that I could change the watch battery myself. The current battery has not needed replaced for more than a year now.

My wife worries that the metal exposed below the stainless steel finish may be harmful. We tried to have the metal identified at a jewelry store, but the clerk erroneously thought that the watch only recently has acquired a silver finish from wear.

Despite my wife’s suggestions that I replace my watch, I have opted to hang onto it. There are other watches, and more stylish ones, that may supply the correct time. I could even dig out one of my other watches, but there is no reason to get something else. My watch works fine despite its appearance.