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Teaching plans for next year

Topics/tags: Autobiographical, end-notable

I’m on sabbatical. It’s nice to be on sabbatical. I have more time to do things. I can sleep in. I can pretend that I’m getting more organized. But I also miss being in the classroom. After all, I teach because I like interacting with students and helping them learn. So, I’ve been thinking about what I’d like to teach next year.

I’ll admit that I don’t necessarily have complete control over what I teach. In Grinnell Department of Computer Science, we try to allow the younger faculty to choose their courses first, and we try to plan teaching assignments communally rather than by Chair’s fiat. This year, we also don’t yet know who our newest faculty member will be. Nonetheless, I’m going to try to pretend that I am able to plan.

The odds are that I’ll be Chair next year. Jerod is finishing his three-year stint this year [1]. He does not seem inclined to re-up. As far as I can tell, I’m the only other member of the department who is an appropriate candidate [2]. 2020-2021 is likely to be a busy year; we’ll have a new member of the department and multiple reviews. So I’m planning on taking one of my Chair’s course reductions. That leaves me with four course equivalents to teach.

I’d like to teach Tutorial again. It’s been a decade since I’ve taught it last. I’ve been expecting to teach Tutorial for the past six years or so, but we’ve never been able to slot it in. I’m still not sure we’ll be able to do so next year. But it makes me happier to tentatively plan for a Tutorial in Fall 2020 [3].

I’d like to teach at least one section of CSC 151. I’ve been working on a new version of the media computation 151, one that uses the built-in image tools in DrRacket, rather than the GIMP. But I should also teach another section of the Digital Humanities CSC 151 before I switch to another topic. If I’m teaching only one section of CSC 151 next year, I’ll teach the Digital Humanities version. If I’m teaching two sections, I’ll try to do one of each. Of course, it also depends on who else is teaching 151; if the teaching rotation includes a new faculty member, there’s an advantage to being in sync, so I’ll need to make plans with them.

I want to teach CSC 281, Learning from Alumni, and CSC 282, Thinking in C and Linux, again. I also should teach them again; it’s been too long since we’ve been able to offer them, and we will probably have to drop them from the books if we don’t offer them next year. Each is a one-credit course, so I still have room for other courses.

Speaking of courses that we haven’t offered in a while, we should probably offer a section of CSC 232, Human-Computer Interaction, a two-credit course. While we have an HCI and Languages course this spring, that’s not the same as a plain HCI course. I’m not sure who else would want to teach it, and I think it would be a nice challenge. It’s also a two-credit course, so it pairs nicely with the two one-credit courses. Of course, if I’m going to teach it, I should spend part of spring term this year planning the course.

What else? While the Technology Studies concentration is going away, there are plans to keep offering TEC 154. I know that no one else is available next year, so I seem to be the primary option if we want it offered. I’m not sure why, but I’d like to teach it again, if the department can spare me.

I think that’s it. At first glance, my preferred schedule would be Tutorial, CSC 151, CSC 281, CSC 282, CSC 232, and TEC 154. That has half of my courses outside the department. That’s a lot. If I can only teach one non-CS course, I’d rather teach Tutorial than TEC 154. That choice would likely give me a schedule of Tutorial, CSC 151, and CSC 281 in the fall, and CSC 151, CSC 232, and CSC 282 in the spring.

Of course, those are only tentative plans. As I said, we plan courses as a department, and we give priority to the younger faculty. Someone else may want to teach CSC 232. I may have to teach CSC 324 [4] because we need to offer three sections annually and one of the two faculty members who currently teach it may be on leave next year. Or maybe someone else will want to pick it up. We’ll see. If I do have to teach CSC 324, it would likely replace the spring CSC 151 and CSC 232 in the schedule, unless there’s no one else to teach CSC 232, in which case I’d likely teach a 4.5 load.

What will my plan look like in a month or two? I’ll likely have the same preferences. We’re supposed to get the list of Tutorial faculty to the Dean by January 24, so I guess I’ll know before then. When do classes start? January 21. I expect we’ll have to make some decisions about who teaches what during the week before classes start. Of course, we don’t vote on the Chair until sometime in the middle of the spring semester [5]. Still, I think it’s safe to work under the assumption that I’ll be Chair, and I hope that helps things fall into place.

Postscript: If you read through to the end of the end notes, you’ll see that I spent a lot of time looking at policies in the Faculty Handbook and elsewhere. Is there something wrong with me that I care about these details?

[1] It’s hard to believe that those three years passed so quickly.

[2] The Faculty Handbook says Department chairs ordinarily should be elected or appointed from among the Regular faculty of the department who hold the rank of associate professor or professor and who have not acquired Senior Faculty Status. Jerod and I are the only members of the department that that sentence currently describes.

[3] I’ll muse about topics for that Tutorial separately.

[4] I hope not.

[5] I should be able to find that information in the Faculty Handbook. I thought it was in the schedule of elections, which is on pages 4 and 5 in the Handbook. Yes, it is. The order is (i) Chair of the Faculty, (ii) Division Chairs, (iii) Divisional representatives to the Faculty Personnel Committee and Curriculum Committee, (iv) a Member-at-Large of the Executive Council, (v) a Member-at-Large of the Faculty Personnel Committee, (vi) Department Chairs, and (vii) the Chair-elect [6] of the Faculty Organization Committee. There are more that follow, but my concern was Department Chair.

When do those various elections happen? Conveniently, the timing is in the Handbook, too, immediately following the schedule of elections. The Chair of the Faculty is elected in a week-long process that starts at the first regular faculty meeting in February. All of the Divisional positions are elected the following week in Division meetings. The two Members-at-Large are elected at the following faculty meeting [8]. The Chair-elect of FOC is elected at the first faculty meeting after break [9]. That means that the broad time frame for electing the Department Chair this coming spring is after February 21st (the conclusion of at-large elections) and before April 6th (the first meeting after spring break).

I expect that Jerod will hear a more precise request from the Dean’s office [10].

Since the schedule of courses for the spring is also due on February 21, it’s clear that we’ll need to make tentative plans even before we elect a Chair [12].

[6] Why is it Chair-elect rather than Chair-Elect given that we use Member-at-Large rather than Member-at-large? I don’t know [7].

[7] Insert standard statement about hobgoblins’ minds, or some such.

[8] Strictly speaking, they are not elected at the faculty meeting. Rather, they are nominated at the faculty meeting and then elected by ballot during the following week. That holds for the Chair of the Faculty, too. In contrast, we do the full elections at Division Meetings.

[9] Why don’t we do the FOC Chair-elect election at the third meeting of spring semester, rather than the one that falls after break? I’m not sure.

[10] Or perhaps not. I can’t recall if notify the Dean of the results of the Department Chair election is one of those things we’re reminded about. It’s not in the list of Faculty Dates to Remember [11], and I’m too lazy to look at notes from past years.

[11] Of course, neither is Submit the list of Tutorial Faculty to the Dean’s Office.

[12] Didn’t we try to set up the timing of elections so that all of the ones that involved course reductions would be completed before the schedule of courses was due? I guess not. At least there’s time to make changes before the final version of the schedule goes out on the first day after break.

Version 1.0 of 2019-12-12.