Friday, November 23, 2012

The ever hopeful break

All grad students know that breaks from school are expected to be productive.  Thanksgiving is no different.  Faculty members always expect something - both because we usually teach and have grading and because we have profs that expect a draft on what I call "hell week" which is really the 3 weeks post-Thanksgiving leading up to finals.  However, the best laid plans often fall through.

This year has been the heaviest teaching load of my life.  I am teaching 2 sections of a intro methods course which requires a lot of quantitative work for undergrads.  You can't continue on as a political scientist in our department without this course.  To make matters worse, I have to teach the first two sections and am often the "guinea pig" for following sections.  I spend no less than 2 hours of prep a week on class and far more time grading papers.  I have 2 sets of exams to grade and 6 rounds of papers.  I have to grade a draft with many comments for each of my 30 students and then they return me a final draft (hopefully with revisions) in a week.  I have always been a comment writer so I tried to get everything on that paper.  However, when you spend 15-20 minutes per paper, you are in trouble.

Another rude awakening came about this semester.  Office hours are no longer for me getting things done.  Instead, I spend them in a jam-packed office with 14 other grad students and a line of students out the door. The 3 other TA's for this class are also sharing this office and they also have a similar number of students.  At the end of the semester, my students even just assumed I lived in my office and since I do hang around there before/after meetings and classes I *would* sometimes be there.  Suddenly, they started to show up unannounced or super early.  I finally put my foot down and told them "no more".  They finally are listening, I think.

Well, due to these marathon grading sessions, I am stuck grading 30 statistical analyses over break.  I have spent many hours toiling away over these papers over break.  I am surprised that I've actually been this productive.  Usually, I say I will do things but I don't.  At home, I am distracted by family, food, TV, and a multitude of other things.  I am back in suburban sprawl.  I could catch the train into the city or drive up to Michigan for a wine tour like I'm doing tomorrow.

Still, I've graded all my papers - ALL of them.  We have grade norming to do every Monday, so I will do that, but I am pleased to at least be done with this much.  And I began the work on two other papers. Maybe it is because this is my last year before comps and I am used to doing everything at once but I really do believe that my teaching load is responsible for these abilities to multitask.

The fact that I have maintained sanity, am having a normal relationship with someone, and am still doing well in classes is just testing what I am made of.  Now if I can just survive the next three weeks of hell.


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