Monday, January 04, 2010

The toys of teaching

They don't have to be shiny, these toys. I'm talking about the little enjoyable preparatory steps that you mess around with when you're planning classes. Since there's no weight to them yet (grading, prepping class), they really are kind of fun.
  • Syllabus. I know--we have to do this, but if it's not also enjoyable, why am I taking so much time with it? What kinds of assignments? How many will there be? When will papers be coming in so I'm not snowed under by my own lack of planning?
  • Thinking about grading. Since I don't actually have to grade anything right now, I find myself thinking about things like essay commenting programs (like eMarking assistant, which Peter mentioned in the comments to the previous post, or Markin, or just the tried-and-true autotext), contemplating rubrics, and setting up Excel gradebooks for the semester.
  • New books. I ordered some different editions for this spring's classes, and while I'll probably regret it down the line, there's something energizing about marking up a new text for teaching.
  • New pens in different colors. New ink for fountain pens. New notebooks.
  • Folders that will soon be a sorry, dog-eared mess of ill-assorted papers but that right now sport neat labels that promise all kinds of order and efficiency.
  • Checking the rosters and seeing if any students have taken classes with me before.
Of course, this may say something about the academic world that these would be considered "fun," but given how busy it'll be once the semester starts, I'm going to take what fun I can get. Are there any toys like this that get you interested in the semester?


The Steel Magnolia said...

Ink pens! I get so excited about them, too! I was working on my syllabi today and you're right that it's exciting to imagine discussing an essay or what students will come up with for an assignment. I wish I could bottle that because I'll need it around March!

I'm also impressed by the wide range of "toys" you mention. I'll be checking into them since I've hardly even heard of some of them. Thanks for the word!

Sisyphus said...

I love playing with shiny new office supplies! I haven't tried any grading software before, though. Maybe this time I should?

Ink said...

I may have a bit of an office supply fetish, given how long I can happily wander the aisles at office stores...

What are your favorite pens?

Bardiac said...

I love playing with syllabus stuff! And office supplies. Mmmm, nice new pads of paper! Pens! Mechanical pencils.

I focus in unhealthy ways on having the specific sort of mechanical pencil that's "best" for my grading. I find one I like, buy five or six, and then wear them out/lose them, and five years later, I can't find them so I have to start all over. Grrrr.

undine said...

Steel Magnolia, me too! I hope that the excitement comes back in about March.

Sisyphus, the software (and now autotext, mostly) just saves me from writing things like "A comma splice blah blah blah" over and over again so I can concentrate on commenting on the content. (I know, I know--minimal marking is best, etc., but for the first paper at least they have NO IDEA what I'm talking about it I don't explain.) It also lets me feel as though I have some choice about grading papers: sometimes I grade them electronically, sometimes on paper, etc. Somehow I'm happier if I get to mix things up.

Ink, I think I share your fetish. Lately I've been using fountain pens (Lamy, Waterman), but I've also used Uniball and Pilots as well. It's the colors that keep me entertained. Who says we're not all 5 years old inside?

Bardiac, I know what you mean about buying a best kind of instrument for grading. They're no longer making the kind of Waterman pen that I like the best, so I'm guarding the one I have.

Christopher Vilmar said...

Agreed, especially on the (for me, at least) myth that folders will help me keep organized during the semester. Who am I trying to kid?

The Bittersweet Girl said...

I love a crispy-printed, clean and shiny new syllabus. It presents a vision of order that is so pleasing to me (who hates chaos). Of course, chaos always ensues, but there is a brief moment in time when you hand out the syllabus on the first day of class and give your students a vision of 15 weeks, all laid out in a clearly marked path ... Sigh.