Thursday, August 02, 2007

Another Long Hard Slog

My summer classes finally came to an end over the weekend when I turned in my grades. It was a long hard slog. Every semester is hard, but this summer session seemed especially hard because of the constant round of grading. The amount of work required in teaching three classes, that is, the late nights and the long hours spent grading essays, makes the money earned that much more valuable and makes me more reluctant to let go of it very readily.

Already, there are students who want to know why the grade they earned isn’t as high as expected or hoped for or why the points awarded for a certain element of the course didn’t correspond with their expectations. I haven’t as yet answered any messages from students.

My time spent grading this summer has kept me from doing much reading. I’m still reading the book that I started in late May—Craig Miner’s Next Year Country: Dust to Dust in Western Kansas, 1890-1940. I generally managed to read a few pages once I climb into bed. This history text is a continuation of Craig Miner’s examination of western Kansas that he began in West of Wichita: Settling the High Plains of Kansas, 1865 to 1890. The years 1865 to 1890 are certainly more eventful in western Kansas. The years 1890 to 1940 are characterized by the emergence of a wheat culture and the people slowly adjusting their lifestyle and their farming practices to the climate on the other side of the 98th meridian. I suspect that this history of western Kansas will become Craig Miner’s lifework, with him completing the last volume before he retires from Wichita State University.

I think it’s important for a teacher of academic writing to read more nonfiction than fiction. As I read, I remain attuned to how the author integrates quotes and constructs his paragraphs, for example. Some of my quizzes use the material that I’ve been reading, such as when I ask the students to decide whether ten paragraphs taken from various works of nonfiction integrate quotes smoothly by naming the speaker and providing a signal verb instead of simply dropping in quotes without an explanation, forcing the reader to make the connection between the quote and the intended meaning. Ultimately, I want my students to recognize that the things I emphasize in my grading comments apply outside of the classroom and will improve their writing if they make a conscious effort to improve their prose.

Both my wife and son have managed to read the last Harry Potter—Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows. The copy that we spent two and half hours in line for remains available now, but I haven’t been attracted enough to open it up. Since my wife wanted the book on disk, too, I have heard part of it while driving or riding in the car. After an hour or so, I get tired of having the reader talking at me. I think I heard all of the sixth book that way; even so, for some reason the details of that book escape me. Probably the sixth movie, when it comes out in November, 2008, will refresh my memory.

Once we got home at 3:00 a.m. after standing in line at Borders on the night Harry Potter’s seventh book was released, I had to return to my grading so as to get more of it done before sleeping.

We were present for the midnight showing of the fifth movie of Harry Potter, too. At my wife’s urging, we saw it a second time last weekend after I turned in my grades. The movie was better the second time. I especially enjoyed the music more during the second viewing.

Fall classes, unfortunately, start in two weeks. I’ll be spending some of this time growing more familiar with Angel as I get three online classes up and running for one of the schools that employs me. The other school requires Blackboard CE. Since these schools have changed textbooks, I need to select new essays for my students to read, too. Sometimes all I want to do is to get outside with my camera.