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Some things I write (other than these essays)

I spent all of today writing [1], but I spent none of today [3] writing essays. Yes, that’s right, as a faculty member, I have lots of other kinds of writing to do. So, what did I write?

As you might expect, I wrote a variety of email [4] messages. I wrote to colleagues about summer research. I wrote to the Dean about summer research. I wrote to the registrar about grades. I wrote to the Scheme Squad about issues pertaining to CSC 151. I replied to questions from students. I sent a general message to one of my classes. I wrote to a conference chair to report on my work for that conference. Pretty much normal stuff [5].

I wrote an examination today [6]. Writing good examinations, particularly good take-home examinations, is an interesting challenge. I need to figure out how much coverage each topic we’ve covered needs, and how much I can combine topics into individual problems, because dealing with multiple topics can challenge students. I need to find the right mix of difficulty so that every student can feel confident on some problems, but also so that students are also challenged on some problems. I consider how much I want problems to teach students [7]. I reflect on other issues that I want to teach, such as style and efficiency. I think today’s exam is reasonable, although there are certainly a few challenging problems [8]. I am, however, having both my colleague and my class mentors look at the exam.

While writing the examination, I also wrote a reasonable amount of Scheme code and documentation. Some of the Scheme code and documentation is for problems on the exam. For example, I almost always give a problem with badly formatted, badly named, and badly designed Scheme code and ask students to turn it into something reasonable. For this exam, I also wrote some sample solutions to a recent assignment, solutions that they will need to modify as part of solving problems on this examination. And, is the norm, I wrote some solutions to the examination, not only so that I could think about the difficulty of various problems, but also so that I could add some examples.

After spending about four or so hours writing the examination, I wrote a number of meta-reviews. What are meta-reviews, you may ask? In some of the conferences for which I review, we have six or so reviewers for each paper and then a discussion. The meta-review pulls together the reviews and discussion, and provides a final recommendation to the program chairs. I’m not sure why, but these meta-reviews felt like they took more time than normal. The program chairs also asked me to review reviewers, mostly to identify those who did a particularly nice job or a particularly poor job.

Before writing this essay, I finished a few recommendation letters that I needed to write. There was a point this semester in which I felt ahead on recommendation letters. Now I feel very far behind. It doesn’t help that I get email from students saying I realize that it’s the last minute, but can you write a letter by Tuesday [9]? One of the disadvantages of having so many majors and encouraging to pursue so many opportunities is that I get a lot of requests for recommendations.

Amazingly, I wrote neither memos nor research notes nor educational materials today. Okay, it’s not so amazing that I didn’t write research notes; research writing tends to get done during breaks. But I end up writing memos more often than you might expect. Oh well, I guess some of today’s email messages might be considered a less formal form of memo [10]. I also like to write educational materials, if even just my notes for a class. Oh, that’s right! I’m guest teaching a class tomorrow. I should probably write the notes for that class now, as well as the notes for the classes I normally teach. I should also write some Ruby/Rails code. We’ll see if I have time for that last bit of writing.

As Michelle says, It’s good that Sam types fast. It’s also good that I can compose competent text relatively quickly. I recommend that everyone develop those skills.

[1] I’m not sure why, but Grammarly says I should write I spent all of the today writing [2].

[2] The emphasis is mine.

[3] Well, none of today until now.

[4] Email is not a registered trademark of Shiva Ayyadurai.

[5] It’s normal in that I do a lot of administrative communication and communication with students.

[6] I know that in some countries I wrote an examination means I took an examination. In this case, I really did write the questions.

[7] Yes, that’s right. I think you learn by solving problems, particularly on take-home examinations.

[8] I know that they are challenging because they are variants of problems I have given previously.

[9] For those who are reading this at a time other than when I wrote this, it is currently about 8:30 in the evening on Sunday.

[10] Grammarly says that I should write I guess some of the today’s email messages might be considered a less formal form of a memo. I’ve added emphasis. I’m getting less and less sure about Grammarly.

Version 1.0 of 2017-02-26.