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Plans for Winter Break (#1115)

Topics/tags: Overcommitment

Grinnell’s Winter Break started at noon on Wednesday, 23 December 2020. There are two parts to Winter Break. The College is closed until the morning of Monday, 4 January 2021. Classes start on Monday, February 1. While the College is closed, most people can stay away from work, but not everyone. I assume Safety is still active. I assume that housing is still responsible for students. And I know that many faculty have grading to do. At least I have grading to do; I assume others do, too.

So, how am I planning to spend the break? As I noted, I have grading to do. So I’ll be doing some grading. Most of what I have to grade are redos of mini-projects, the weekly homework assignments students did. As part of the mastery grading approach, I expect students to demonstrate mastery not only on learning assessments but also on smaller projects in which they build something new (and extensible). And, as part of that approach, I allow them to redo each assignment once. They can also spend a token to redo an assignment a second time.

So now we’re at the point in which I need to grade those redos. I have fifty-some-odd to grade. Unfortunately, (a) I have not yet reached the stage in teaching in which I acknowledge that students don’t read comments after the semester [1], which means that (b) I spend too much time grading each project. Some are taking more than thirty minutes. That’s a lot of time. I’ll need to find a way to be more efficient. Maybe it’s just the MPs I’m doing, which have many smaller parts. MP5 has been slow, but I know I can grade MP4 much quicker [2].

What else am I doing during break? I had hoped to spend most of Closed Week [3] with my family. I’ve spent the first part with them, mostly watching TV, playing board games, and eating. I hope we have time for more board games. We’re also hoping that we’ll get to do the next installment in the Rebelsky Reading Group. Youngest Son chose Catch 22, which is a bit longer than we thought. And we do need to finish by the end of Closed Week since classes start again for some of the sons.

Once Closed Week is over, I’ll move on to grading for the students who took incompletes. And after that …?

I need to prepare the spring-one version of CSC-151. That means rearranging topics, cleaning up some text, and more. I have a few pages of planned changes I accumulated during the fall. The list also includes some new readings, some revisions to the software, more reference pages, and more. I hope that I can get it all done. I do worry that after I do all this, someone [4] will need to do even more revisions when we switch back to semesters.

I’m also teaching two courses in spring term two: Our course on HCI and the latest version of my course on thinking in C and Unix. I haven’t taught HCI before, so I have a lot of prep to do. Janet’s last course has disappeared from the Web, but I might still be able to find it. Of course, even if I do find it, it needs a lot of updating. And while I’ve taught the C and Unix course a few times, I do want to look through the materials again and see if there are new readings and assignments I want to use. And then there’s the whole issue of compressed terms. Also remote learning. Agh!

Dean Marzluff has arranged some weekly sessions to talk about teaching and learning and surviving online [5]. I plan to attend those. I also have a few appointments with Dean Marzluff, one with President Harris, and at least one with an Associate Dean.

As always, I have administrative work to do. Budgets are due soon. Our budget never grew enough to accommodate our growth in majors, and I’m supposed to cut 10%. That will be hard. Budgeting for an unknown fall [6] is even harder. I have a long response document to write. And I should probably draft our position requests; after all, I’ll be busy once the time to submit them comes around. I’m probably forgetting some other departmental duties.

Then there’s home, which really should be much earlier on my list. We cleaned out my home office into the family room about two months ago. It’s time to move everything back. Of course, my kids claim that it’s a physical impossibility to fit everything back in. And Michelle and I have some other organizing to do, such as the spices.

I’d also like to have some time to read for fun.

I almost forgot. I’m also going to try to muse at least three times a week. Will I succeed? I expect so.

Can I get all that done in about four weeks? I hope so. At least I can make reasonable progress on each thing. I just need to do some appropriate planning and not leave everything until the last week. I have made forward progress, such as the grading I did today, so I have some hope.

Wish me luck!

Postscript: I expect my initial priorities will be time with family, reading Catch 22, finishing grading, and short musings. We’ll see where I go from there.

[1] or term.

[2] MP is the shorthand for mini-project.

[3] Well, Closed Week-and-a-Half".

[4] Probably me.

[5] Or something like that.

[6] Will Grinnell be hybrid? If so, will courses have to be hybrid? Will we be allowed to bring in visitors? How many majors will we have? While I’m pretty sure we’ll be back to genuine fourteen-week semesters, a lot of other things are up in the air.

Version 1.0 of 2020-12-28.