Saturday, September 06, 2008

The Semester is Rolling

The semester is fully underway now.

I've been keeping up with my running schedule! I've now had two weeks of 4 times of going out for a 30-minute walk/run, and can run continuously for 5 minutes. I then add in other times of running as I am able to manage for the next 10-15 minutes. This walk/run is framed by 10 minutes each of walking to warm up and cool down. I am really really happy that I have been able to do this. To succeed for two weeks is a solid step along the way of instituting something as a new habit in one's life.

My classes are starting off pretty well, I think. One course I'm teaching is part of a new experimental program we might institute, and I was pleased to receive permission to teach it as a pass/fail course. This will greatly simplify my life, because I can give students feedback without being evaluative about it!

Shockingly enough, one student dropped the course, claiming that it was too demanding in her already demanding schedule! But also, interestingly enough, already I could tell on the first day that she wasn't really going to do this. What put her off? Mostly I have very good rapport with my students, but every now and then I do encounter a student who, so to speak, takes one look at me and runs as fast as possible in the opposite direction. I try not to take the personally. Since they don't really know me yet, maybe it just indicates that somehow I remind them of someone in their past that they had a bad experience with. While I know to give people the benefit of the doubt until I really do get to know them, young people especially maybe haven't learned this in life yet.

But I have to admit that the design of this course is pretty intense. It's a chance for sophomores to connect philosophy with real life. (The course is called, "The Meaning of Life.") And I think students see that I'm really serious about this, and some students are really drawn to this and find it exciting, but others are terrified -- and maybe for good reason!

At any rate, to be honest, I'm kind of pleased to be able to say to some of my dubious colleagues, "I scared one student away from my pass/fail course," because most of my colleagues think that pass/fail courses are fluff courses. Those who know me and have examined my teaching know that all of my courses are demanding, in very good ways. But those who don't know me so well still do know that I question our grading system (I'm kind of famous on campus for that), and so they are inclined to scrutinize my various experiments with grading somewhat critically. I don't mind. I think this is healthy and important. I totally agree with them that we don't want to change our system unless we are sure that doing so would genuinely improve the effectiveness of the kind of education we want to provide. And I know that I haven't myself figured out how to do this, and so I don't presume that my experiments so far are anything more than experiments. I have not developed a system I myself am fully happy with yet.

My research did stall out last week, not so much because of the busyness of the start of a new semester, but because of new extraordinary events in my life. But I think that things are calming down again, and I did find some time to work on research again yesterday.

Just when I was starting to think that I had calmed the forces that bear down on me imposing great pressure upon me, they begin to intensify again. In counseling, I continue to work on trying to understand my own role in all of this, and how to deal with it effectively.

Meanwhile, I haven't been oblivious to current events in the world around me. I just haven't been blogging about them. There's a lot I could say about politics, for example, but, well, don't get me started...

No comments:

Post a Comment