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Attempting to understand my readers (#1056)

Topics/tags: Meta-musings, Registration

As I mentioned in a recent musing, sometime around prereg [1] period each semester, I muse about what I see in the registration numbers and how I think departments might deal with over-enrolled courses [2]. It appears that I have some fans of this genre, including among people whose writing and intellects I admire highly. Some even tell me that they look forward to those musings.

Now I’m trying to figure out why.

It’s definitely not the quality of writing. Those musings are perhaps the ones guided most by the ways in which my mind wanders. I would say they follow my train of thought, but that implies something relatively linear. They ramble, to put it politely. I jump from idea to idea, with little coherence other than alphabetical or numerical. I also tend to pay less attention to my sentence structure [3] and word choice [4]. Since they are so long, I rarely have the time or energy to do any substantial editing.

Are the data I present interesting [5]? They are, to me. But those data are easily available to all—at least to all on campus—and in a form unencumbered by my additional words. I don’t tend to organize them in any particularly clever way. Perhaps alphabetically, by department. Perhaps in terms of course size.

It may be that my readers like seeing their names [6]. I respect my colleagues highly and sometimes include compliments or chatter. I believe my colleagues know of my respect, but it’s still nice to see it grounded in text, even poorly written text [7].

It may be that they appreciate my vast experience and expertise at considering what happens to over-enrolled courses [8]. I know I like trying to figure out what will or might happen. I wish I know more about the practices of other departments; I have learned mostly from observation and a few casual comments. Since we can benefit from hearing the practices of others, it may be that they see that benefit in my musings, even if my comments consist mostly of hypotheses rather than conclusions.

One of my friends from outside Grinnell says that they appreciate how these musings show a commitment to the students, faculty, and staff at Grinnell. I’m not sure if that’s my commitment or the College’s commitment. Perhaps both. Both exist.

I like that these types of musings help me learn, or re-learn. It’s good to be reminded that it’s okay that, say, to kick twenty students out of CSC-301 this semester because I know there will be room for them in the spring [9]. It’s also good for me to reflect on whether that means we should swap the two-section semester from spring to fall.

I’m fairly explicit about what I learn or see. Maybe that’s fun. Or maybe it’s fun to jest at how little I know or realize. One never knows.

I’ll almost certainly keep writing these semesterly musings, if only for that small audience, for myself, and for what I learn. Still, I would like to know what reasons lead people to read and even to anticipate.

Postscript: Over the years, I’ve learned that people approach the schedule of courses very differently than I do. I tend to keep a watch on the schedule and enrollments to help my advisees and to look for potential trouble spots in our department (both low enrollments and high enrollments). I had thought everyone did that, but that appears not to be the case. I had also assumed that those folks who teach the incredibly popular classes pay attention so they can see just how popular they are [10]. That also appears not to be the case. I guess I need to accept that my approach to the world is, perhaps, atypical [11].

Postscript: Here are some of the comments I received in response to this musing.

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[1] Preliminary Registration. Students register for classes that we pretend have no limits. Then we impose limits.

[2] I muse about other things, too. Right now, I can’t remember what.

[3] Believe it or not, but I do pay some attention to my sentence structures. I pay more attention now that The Craft of Creative Nonfiction has given me tools and encouragement to do so.

[4] Ditto.

[5] I know, I should not use the word interesting. I give that advice to my students; I should follow it myself.

[6] I did, after all, say they are people I admire.

[7] Am I straying into humble brag territory or whatever they call it?

[8] How’s that as a recovery?

[9] That does not mean that we will kick 20 students out of CSC 301. Since the Dean has indicated that she will not support additional staffing, it’s one likely scenario. However, the scenario was likely even before I heard about the Dean’s plans.

[10] I’m currently in third. Will I move up to second or even first?

[11] No comment.

Version 1.0 of 2020-04-27.