Thursday, May 22, 2008

Just your run-of-the-mill first-day-of-class anxiety dream

It took most of the dream I had the other night (i.e., about 5 milliseconds in real time, most likely) to put my finger on why it was I felt underprepared for the dream-class in front of which I was standing: I'd not yet pulled up my students' photos on OnePort, so I was completely unable to put names with faces. While I usually get 80% to 90% of the names right on the first day, in this dream I was shooting blanks: everyone was a stranger.

Why is it that so many of my anxiety dreams involve classroom underpreparedness?

Yes, I'm always fully clothed in these dreams...usually I'm anxious I haven't planned the activity for that particular day of class.

Ah, but class is done for the year here, commencement's come and gone, and the late-spring conference season is winding down (one to go, in Austin at the end of next week...I'm nearly prepared, and I'm very much looking forward to it!). I've got a brief lull of about two and a half weeks right now, time in which I've got to get my REU ready to go for the summer. I've got a list of about 40 problems made up for the REU. I hope that by the end of the program's first week I can throw the list to the kiddies and let them spend the weekend looking up primary source material they can then mine for their own interesting problems.

Speaking of commencement (as I did, briefly, above), I'd like to send my heartiest congratulations out to all of my wonderful students who have now passed from these hallowed halls of academia and on to bigger things. You've done wonderful work here, and I'll miss you all.

Just a few days back Fiona sent me a picture her stepmother took of Fiona, Niobe, and me, all clad in regalia (ah, pomp and circumstance). Maggie's made it the desktop image on her computer. (She's entranced by the novelty of the photo, as I'm not often seen decked out like that.)

Since returning from Nashville the other day, my time's been focused on applying the writing rubric our research team's developed to the discipline-specific writing assignments gathered by me and my colleagues. I've had the honor of reading management research papers and reflections, and response essays and creative writing assignments from a course in French composition. These works include everything from taxonomies of corporate social responsibility through original poetry pitting Baudelaire against a red balloon.

I've found it very hard to apply our rubric to the French papers, in particular to the creative writing assignments whose brevity and informality make it difficult to assess a student's mastery of items such as "be able to contextualize a thesis within the body of existing knowledge." For both assignments from the French course, and for the brief reflection papers from the management course, I've noticed certain of the items on our eleven-item rubric blending together. I wonder if my experience is similar to that of my colleagues (some of whom have the misfortune of having to slog through my 280 students' homework papers!); if so, it may be that the rubric is more difficult than we had suspected to apply universally, or it could just need some subtle tweaking. I'll be interested to hear how our conversations go on Tuesday when we all meet to compare notes before Lulabelle and I take off for Austin with the assembled data.

And speaking of assembled data, this morning Lulabelle sent me a nice thick spreadsheet full of very nice numbers showing significant gains on a number of items from the pre/post-test administered in my 280 class last Fall. I wonder how my students' responses compare with those of my colleagues' students.


Yes, I'm a nerd.

Anyway, I'll leave it at that for now. Maggie's likely to be home from work in a half-hour or so, and I'd like to free up my evening schedule to spend some time with her.


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