Thursday, January 21, 2010

Spring Semester Begins...

Yes, it's that time again. A new semester is off and running.  Usually, the first week of class is rather wild and unsettled.  For the first two weeks, I feel, at times, as though I have an entirely new class every time I show up.  Students add and drop for about two weeks.  They shop classes.  If the class seems to require too much work, students will drop it and search for one that doesn't seem so involved.

I don't have a problem with that, but I do have a problem with dropped students lingering on my Moodle courses.  Even after I delete them, they show up again until the administrator runs a purge against the registration records.  I checked some of my classes today, and they showed I had many, many more students in my classes than the Compass roster showed.  I get so confused!

Normally, the first week has a few glitches to it, but those are easily solved.  Today, though, was busy.  I had a student in my office almost as soon as I arrived on campus; then I taught two classes; then a former student stopped by to see me, a colleague needed help with a blog, and I helped with an equipment inventory.  I didn't stop until I left for the day.  I like busy days, but a busy day this early in the semester is unusual.  I survived it! 

Right now, I just want to veg out with a book, but I probably should check my email, etc.  But, no.  I think I need to stop for a few minutes and catch my breath, clear my mind. 

My classes and students are promising this semester.  So far, the students seem enthusiastic and willing to listen/work.  Later in the semester, we'll all start to drag!  But we'll deal with that when we need to.  Right now, I'm excited about the newness of everything.  I'll hold on to that feeling as long as I can!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Dear Governor Jindal...

[Note: This is sarcasm, just in case you can't tell!]

Since you are hell-bent on destroying higher education and healthcare in Louisiana, let me offer some suggestions to quicken their demise.

1. Allow only on-line classes at the state's universities, community colleges, and technical schools, which will result in huge savings. Sure, welding classes might suffer, but having only on-line instruction will allow the shutdown of most or all of the physical plants. Just think--no air conditioning, no heat, no lights, except in, perhaps, the one building that will house the computer server and various necessary humans to push the necessary paper for financial aid, etc. Those professors teaching the classes will provide their own offices, computers, Internet, etc. We won't need physical plants to house them or classes for students, and, thus, we won't need support personnel except to maintain one building on campus (see item 2). We can also eliminate the bookstore by having students order their books on line. Departments can have faculty meetings via Yahoo Messenger or Skype, and they'll be using their own resources instead of college phones and facilities. And the state can sell all of the desks, chairs, etc., that we use in on-campus classes, because we won't need them anymore.

2. In the administration of college services:

a. Have only one person in each department to handle all the work for that department--one financial aid person, one PR person, one dean to handle overrides and course problems. You get the idea. Oh, and only one secretary for all of them. Pare the staff down to the most basic and elemental personnel. This shouldn't be a problem, if you implement item b.

b. Raise tuition exorbitantly, making it impossible for most students to afford it or obtain enough financial aid to cover it. Fewer students will apply to college or attend, thereby making item 2a feasible.

3. Keep chipping away at higher education in Louisiana so that more people will leave and fewer businesses will locate here. That will help with healthcare, too, because, if fewer people live here, fewer people will need doctors or hospitals.

I might be willing to have furloughs, etc., if you and the legislature would do likewise. Governor, how about you giving up 5% of your yearly salary and refraining from work on those days? Many of us would appreciate it if you wouldn't work so hard. And I'm sure that wouldn't be a stretch for most legislators, since they don't seem to do much anyway, except tell the rest of us that we have to tighten our belts. How about cutting all the pork out of the budget? How about tapping into the rainy day fund to ensure that our future workforce gets the education it needs to help Louisiana succeed long after you're out of here? How about looking for better ways to attract more revenue? How about some future-thinking, or is that not a priority for you because, in two years, you don't plan to be here to deal with the mess you've left us?

P. S. In the case of science labs, we could consolidate our classes with the LSUHSC here in town. All of our students could go there to dissect animals. This would be win-win; our students would pay to get the hands-on experience science labs require, and the Med School would get unpaid workers to help with research. In the case of anatomy classes, the students could assist with autopsies, which would provide them with first-hand knowledge of the workings of the human body.

Monday, January 11, 2010

What I did on my winter break...

Well, aside from spending most of December in Austin...

And just a side note on that--the battery in my car died at my son's bank.  As soon as I raised the hood, though, some knight in a clunky old truck pulled up next to us and jump started the car so we could go buy a new battery.  I mean it was that fast.  We weren't stranded at all...but the new battery put a dent in my finances.  At least I didn't have to call a tow truck!

I spent most of the break reading and updating my Moodle courses.  I began my reading odyssey with An Instance of the Fingerpost by Ian Pears.  I've had this book forever, and, when I went looking for something absorbing, I rediscovered it.  Not an awful book.  It tells the same story from four points of view.  I'd classify it as an historical mystery.

Then my son and I indulged in a Terry Pratchett marathon.  I read Wyrd Sisters, Witches Abroad, Hogfather, The Color of Magic, The Light Fantastic...I don't think I've left anything out.  I can't tell you everything he read, but we kept swapping books.  My son clued me in to Pratchett, so I'm doing my best to catch up.  I've read Good Omens, the book he wrote with Neil Gaiman, and passed that on to my son.  So we had fun with that.

When I came home, I started reading The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon.  I have three more of his books ordered, so I'll work my way through those during the semester.  I won't have much time to read as the semester progresses, but I'll have some time during our Easter get-together at Toledo Bend. 

I love to read and lament that, while I'm teaching, I don't have time to read much of anything except what I assign for my courses.  Still, I amass these huge piles of books for later...later usually comes during the summer or over Christmas.  Sigh...And pile on top of that my writing, and most of my "free" time is not so free!

But I'm not complaining!  As long as my eyes work, I'll read!


The one puzzlement from the Christmas break:  I was gone from home for about 16 days.  When I came home on Jan. 2, the only mail I received was the "hold mail" card I left with the local post office, two pieces of junk mail, and my water and mortgage bills.  Conspicuously missing were my phone, car, and gas bills.  I stopped into the post office today to enquire--I kept hoping the PO would deliver the errant mail--and the guy behind the counter couldn't explain it, and he couldn't find any mail for me.  He says he'll talk to the carrier, but I wonder if I should just contact the Post Master General and file a complaint--I'm waiting until I hear back from the local PO. I get more than two pieces of junk mail a week, and my creditors ALWAYS send bills.  So to receive four pieces of mail for 16 days is odd (or suspicious).  More on this as the situation unfolds...

I hope everyone had a great break.  I did, except for the mail thing!