A Brief Note of Apology

As happens every so often, other stuff has popped up for me. In attending to it, I’ve not been able to attend to this webspace (or a couple of others) as I would prefer to do. Rather than push out work that doesn’t meet (my admittedly low) standards, I’m pushing back a bit. I’m still working on the Robin Hobb Reread, and I mean to have my next bit of it pop out on Monday, 12 August 2019. Today, though, I’ve not got it ready.

I apologize for the lapse.

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Additional Comments for the July 2019 Session at DeVry University

Since making initial comments about the session, I’ve had some additional information come up about my work in the July 2019 instructional session at DeVry University.  Namely, I’m only teaching one course this time around–ENGL 112: Composition.

Related image
Image from The Scribe’s Desk,
used for commentary.

The reduction in the teaching load does not mean all has changed, of course. The session still spans 8 July to 31 August 2019. On-site meetings for the class will still be Wednesdays at 1800 US Central Time in Room 105 of the San Antonio Metro Campus. Synchronous online sessions will still occur at the same times; sessions will still be recorded for later viewing. Office hours will still be online on Mondays at 1800 US Central Time; other meetings may still be made by appointment. And I still I appreciate having the chance to do this again.

Review of materials in the interim has shown me a few things about the course’s new assignment sequence. I am lucky in that some of what I have developed for my previous session teaching the course remains viable. There is still a profile essay called for, as well as a rhetorical analysis. Prior materials about the profile are here and here; those about the rhetorical analysis are here and here. I link to them again in the hopes that they will continue to prove useful to my students as they progress along their own work.

One of the larger shifts in the course is the alignment of the last two major assignments to a single topic. (There is mention of a course project as a separate assignment, but it does not appear in the gradebook, and it is not supported by other materials; I think it is a holdover from earlier iterations of the course.) I’ve still got some work to do on them, both in generating examples and in setting topics–for the assignments, a short essay and a short presentation, both work from a set of prescribed topics in the University’s online course offerings. The topics are decent enough this time; I’ve noted in such places as this my dissatisfaction with prior topic selections, but I think that is not the case with the new stuff. I still want to add more options, though, if only because I expect I’ll need other available topics if and when I teach the class again. My fallback, and probably the area in which I will develop the examples for the July 2019 session, is curricular reform. (I’ve floated the idea before, here and elsewhere. I’ll likely borrow from the older materials to generate the newer.) We’ll see how it goes over this time.

Over the next weeks, then, in and around posting class reports (since there are synchronous meetings, it makes sense to do them again) and adding to the Robin Hobb Rereading Series, I’ll see about getting the necessary examples and other materials put together. Even if I no longer put instructional materials together in the hopes of landing an academic job, I do still enjoy the work, and I do still think others benefit from seeing it out in the world. It is some comfort, at least.

Initial Comments for the July 2019 Session at DeVry University

I have been offered two classes for the upcoming July 2019 instructional session at DeVry University: a section of ENGL 135: Advanced Composition (which I am teaching even now) and a section of ENGL 112: Composition (which I last taught during the November 2018 session). Both are co-sat, as was the case for the SPCH 275: Public Speaking section I taught during the recent March 2019 session; they combine an on-site hybrid group with an online-only group.

Image result for teaching
Image by David Senior for Flower Darby’s Chronicle of Higher Education piece, “How to Be a Better Online Teacher,” which I likely ought to read; used for commentary.

ENGL 135 appears to have gone through a redesign, which means the materials I’ve prepared for past students will not be applicable, or not as much so, as they are for the present session. There do appear to be fewer deliverables, though, which means I will likely not have as much work to prepare things as I have had in the past–or as much work to grade, which also has its attractions. I’ll need to review the course in more detail before I proceed, however, but that’s not particularly onerous.

ENGL 112 also appears to have gone through a redesign since I last taught it, so I’ll need to review the course and generate new materials in response to it, as well. Honestly, though, it is good for me to do so. Refreshing my teaching from time to time is helpful; it keeps me from growing complacent. I have seen many instructors at several colleges and universities grow fixed in their ways, inattentive to developing knowledge in their subject areas and in teaching, generally; it has not helped the students to be mired in the understandings of thirty years ago and more, nor has it helped those of us who have done more recent work in the academic humanities, to have such be the case. Nor yet is it good for the world outside to have things root in the exhausted soil of conclusions decades out of date and unresponsive to the many things learned since.

The session spans 8 July to 31 August 2019 (that’s what my contracts say, anyway). On-site meetings for ENGL 135 will be Thursdays at 1830 US Central Time in Room 106 of the San Antonio Metro Campus; on-site meetings for ENGL 112 will be Wednesdays at 1800 US Central Time in Room 105 of the San Antonio Metro Campus. Synchronous online sessions will occur at the same times; sessions will be recorded for later viewing. Office hours will be online on Mondays at 1800 US Central Time; other meetings may be made by appointment.

As ever, I appreciate having the chance to do this again. I’d hate to think that I’d get no use out of the studying I did to learn how to do it…

A Note on an Upcoming Project

At this point, I am back from my conference trip (about which I’ve remarked), and things are slowing down a bit for me. They are not slowed as much as would let me get started on what I want to do (I’ve got two gigs coming up, and my daughter is performing this weekend; such things need preparation.) Thus, as before, I’ll have to ask for a bit of forbearance as I get going again.

Image result for harried man public domain
It sometimes feels like this.
Image from PublicDomainVectors.org.

I am going to get going, though, and soon. And I know what I am going to be doing for a fair bit of it. Making reports on a class that meets online, and I am teaching one, seems a bit odd to me at this point; I think I’ll be on-site again soon enough, and I’ll make the usual reports at that point, but until then, no. Too, I may still do some of the In Response to posts that pervade this webspace; I run into things as I look at the world that seem to call for attention, and it does not hurt me to give it them. Neither, though, will be my focus moving forward for a while.

No, what I’ll be working on most will be something like my colleague Luke Shelton has had going on his website. (Check it out; it’s good stuff.) I’ll not be working on Tolkien, though; he’s already amply covered, and, after my recent conference trip, I feel so far behind in that research that I’ll not be able to catch up. Instead, I’ll build on the work I’ve been doing (less diligently than I ought to be) in the Fedwren Project and do an annotated re-reading of Robin Hobb’s novels. I had occasion to do some re-reading as I wrote the paper for the recent conference, and I was reminded in doing so of the love for the material I’ve felt for quite a while now. It sustained me through writing my MA thesis, and I realize I really ought to have pursued it more diligently in my research through the rest of my career in academe. (I might still have such a career had I done so, in fact, but that’s a different matter altogether.)

So, in the coming months, I’ll be working on that kind of thing in this webspace. I don’t know how long it’ll take me to do it, but I think it’ll be rewarding. I can hope I’ll not be the only one to see or feel the reward; I know what I’ve done on the topic has already helped at least one other person, and I wouldn’t mind adding to that, whether in the project itself or in others that I can hope might grow from it.

I can do more with your support!

A Brief Progress and Status Note

I have been working to post to this webspace at least every Monday and Friday, and I’ve generally done well with it in the past months. Occasionally, however, I have other things going on that keep me from doing as well with it as I might like. This is one of those times; I am preparing materials for the 2019 International Congress on Medieval Studies, and doing so is taking most of my attention and effort. I will try to have something up for the next scheduled posts, but I cannot promise it; I hope it will not be too much of a disappointment to have only such brief notes as this for a short time.

After the conference, though, I have ideas about how to proceed. I expect I will be able to spend some more time with them, and I hope they will be worth the wait.

Initial Comments for the May 2019 Session at DeVry University

I have been offered and accepted a class for the May 2019 instructional session at DeVry University, a section of ENGL 135: Advanced Composition. I’ve taught the course several times at the school, most recently in the November 2018 session, so I am confident I will be able to do so successfully again. Certainly, I welcome the opportunity to do so.

Image result for college writing classroom
It’s a nice idea.
Image from Faculty Focus, used for commentary.

So far as I know, there have not been changes to the instructional sequence at play in the course, so I think my earlier examples will continue to work for the students. If there have been changes, I will see about drafting new ones to suit. As a reminder, those examples can be found linked below:

The class will meet online only, which will be something of a relief. I will be spared the commute I have in teaching on site, which will save me a fair bit of money. And I will likely continue my practice of holding office hours online on Mondays at 6pm US Central Time; it works as well as anything else, so I have no reason to alter it.

I am sure I will have additional comments about things as the session progresses. I still have to get through the March 2019 session, so it will be a bit. But I am still happy to have the opportunity I have to earn a little bit more by doing what I spent so long learning how to do. I remain an academic expatriate even so, but I might as well enjoy having a little bit of support while I can.

Initial Comments for the March 2019 Session at DeVry University

I have been offered a class for the March 2019 Session, a section of SPCH 275: Public Speaking, and I’ve accepted the assignment. It’s a class I’ve taught before, though it seems to have changed a bit for the upcoming term–in part because of an institutional push towards larger student-counts in each section that has me balancing on-site and online lecture. So it will be something of a challenge to teach it this time around.

I hope it goes better than this.
Image from Giphy.com.

I’ve not looked at the course in detail yet, but I expect that I will not need to develop specific examples of student work for it as I have done in my recent writing classes. For one, students are likely to be more familiar with speeches and oral communication than with formal writing. For another, I tend to lecture, perhaps more than I ought to, and those lectures are themselves iterations of public speaking. The examples are already provided by the nature of the course itself. (I will reserve the right to change that, though, since I might well find more targeted work to be of advantage.)

The on-site portion of the class is set to meet Thursdays at 6pm in the VCC at the San Antonio campus, beginning 3 March 2019 and running through 27 April; office hours will be online on Mondays at 6pm, US Central Time. I do have some travel and other concerns that will need to be accommodated, but I have every expectation that things will work out well as I have another appreciated chance to do what I have been trained to do.

Initial Comments for the January 2019 Session at DeVry University

I have been offered a class for the January 2019 Session, a section of ENGL 062: Introduction to Reading & Writing, and I’ve accepted the assignment. It’s a class I’ve taught several times before, though it seems to have changed a bit for the upcoming term. (That’s good, because there were some things that needed adjusting, but it does also ask me to re-learn some things. But that’s also to the good.)

It can be a fun thing, indeed.
Image from Giphy.com.

I am likely to continue to offer samples of the work I expect my students to do, as I have noted that the students in classes where my examples are ready to hand do better on the tasks assigned them than those who were not. Too, I’ve not generated examples for the introductory students yet, and it can easily be argued that they are in the most need of additional assistance; I have been lax in not doing so previously, and I will address the lack. And it will help me negotiate the changes that have gone through since I last taught the course, which is also set to be to my benefit and my students’.

The class is set to meet in Room 111 of the San Antonio campus on Mondays at 6pm, beginning on 7 January 2019 and running through 2 March. It’s scheduled to run until close to 10, but how much of that gets taken up will depend on enrollment; keeping two students in for four hours is a bit much. And I will have to negotiate the MLK holiday, which will interfere with the class meeting. But that will be a relatively minor challenge–I already have plans in mind for how to proceed–and I am happy to be once again in a position to face it, to do again what I have long done and even longer trained to do.

Initial Comments for the November 2018 Session at DeVry University in San Antonio

I have been offered two classes for the November 2018 session, ENGL 112: Composition and ENGL 135: Advanced Composition. I’ve taught the latter before–during the current September 2018 session, in fact–but, while I’ve taught first-semester composition any number of times at other institutions (as noted here, among other places), I’ve not yet done so at DeVry. It is the only class in the main writing sequence at that school I’ve not yet taught, so it will be good to get that course under my belt and get a full view of what DeVry asks its students to write.

This would be a nice classroom to have.
Image from University Business.

It will have been noted, I hope, that I have resumed generating examples for my students to follow. I do not think I will do so for ENGL 135 quite yet again; I’m presently in a cycle of doing so, anyway. But I will doubtlessly do so for ENGL 112, partly for the reasons I’ve tended to do so in the past, and partly to help me get a feel for the course cycle expected of my students. (Too, I feel compelled to put materials into this webspace, and doing so for my students helps with that.) I also mean to continue my practice of posting class reports, although the timing on them will shift to reflect the fact that I have an actual class meeting schedule this time around.

To wit, the ENGL 112 class will meet on Wednesday evenings at the San Antonio campus; the ENGL 135 is another all-online section. Both classes begin on 28 October 2018 and run through 22 December 2018. I am happy to have the opportunity to teach once again and put the skills I have theoretically developed through more than a decade of teaching and more than a decade of study to use one more time.

Initial Comments for the September 2018 Session at DeVry University in San Antonio

I have been offered a section of ENGL 135: Advanced Composition for the September 2018 session at DeVry University in San Antonio–and I’ve signed my contract for it. The course will run from 2 September through 27 October 2018, and it will meet wholly online. I admit to preferring hybrid or on-site courses to fully online work, but I also admit to preferring having income to not, so I was pleased to accept the course.

Ah, to see such a thing…
The image comes from DeVry University. It seems to fit, given the topic here.

I note, also, that there have been some adjustments to the assignment sequence in the course. As such, I’ll need to adjust my teaching materials somewhat from those I’ve been using for the past couple of years. It’s not a bad thing; updates need to happen as more research is done into what best practices are (even if that research tends to focus on traditional undergraduates, who are not the students DeVry tends to teach), and there were things in the previous assignment sequences that flatly did not work well.

Whether or not I assign a topic for consideration is still undetermined. I did not have great success with it the last time I did so, as I believe I noted. My concerns about it remain in place–the more so with a wholly online class, where students are typically even more pressured to cleave to assignments as prescribed and less inclined to range out from their expectations. (It’s not my first wholly online course, and my own mother completed a wholly online degree. I’ll admit my experience is limited, but it is still what I have to work with.) If I do, I do not think I will restrict myself to the previously assigned topic; again, few of the students I taught felt as if they could meaningfully address it. (I wonder if it derives from their having been underserved by their previous academic experiences.) Perhaps if I prescribe a topic, I will work with humor once again–although the circumstances of the class are not such as admit of jocularity easily.

In any event, I have it to do one more time, at least. Even if I do confine myself to the “standard” offerings this time around–and I might, that I might better negotiate the changes to the course sequence since the last time I taught it–I will be glad to have the opportunity to work with students yet again, hopefully to help them move beyond the idea of research as compiling and reporting information only and into the notion of research being the revelation or creation of new knowledge. Students in first-year writing classes do not necessarily often make such breakthroughs, but when they do, it is quite a joy to see; every time I am able to help it happen, I am pleased with myself.

Every time it happens, whether I am responsible for it or not, the world is that much better off than it was before. And more of that needs to happen.