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.