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    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

Long Distance Mom: Grades Due
May 11, 2011 - 7:32pm

I considered not writing a column today because I have to finish my grading. (Let me repeat — I HAVE TO FINISH MY GRADING) Then I read Dana’s Mama, Phd column, which inspired me to at least write something about my situation.

Let me start with a quick list:

In the past week, I’ve participated in conference calls for an important job search. I’ve MC’d an end of the year event for graduating seniors. I've completed proposals for new programs. I’ve threatened students with not being able to graduate because they barely completed the required work. I’ve (almost) graded 34 multi-media projects, 12 short films, 3 research papers and 2 internship journals. I’ve flown from Chicago to Tampa and back again. I’ve checked to see how much money is in my bank account just to make sure that I’ll make it until I teach summer school in July.

There is not much more to say about the end of semester pain that students and faculty all feel. We just have to get through it. Staying up all night at the end of the semester is a necessary rite of passage for earning a college degree, if not for granting them. (The more I age, though, the more painful it seems to be…)

I recognize in my students some of my own delay-the-pain strategies. Why did I put off this much grading for so long? Why can’t I organize my time better so I don’t do this every semester? Am I really an associate professor who is considering going up for full soon? Aren’t full professors supposed to be better at this grading thing?

In the back of my mind I’m contemplating the fact that I offered to increase the class size of my introductory course from 35 to 50 students in the fall. My university — like many others — is encouraging faculty to pay attention to class size categories for the U.S. News & World Report student/faculty ratios, which means a reduction of some class sizes and an increase in others. While I agree with the reduction of writing intensive class sizes, I wonder if faculty simply throw up their hands after 35 students and assume that the class might as well have 50 in it. We aren’t going to learn most student names anyway.

Unfortunately, there are studies that demonstrate that increasing class size results in a decrease in student satisfaction, instructor assessment, and overall course rating. But with our sour economy and pressure to lower tuition costs across the board, I only see class sizes going up and faculty evaluations going down.

Maybe I’ll reduce that final research paper assignment from 12-15 pages to 8-10?

Ah, the pain…

 

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