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More bullets, if you can stand them

Even more random bullets of crap -- what a disgrace. Perhaps I should go ahead and tell you that what with my new administrative position, these may be the only kinds of posts I have time to write from now on.

  • My blog reading habits have changed a bit lately. I've especially been reading a lot of good DIY/money-saving/consumption-cutting blogs such as Lifehacker and the blogs on the LifeRemix network:


    Cranking Widgets Blog

    Dumb Little Man

    Freelance Switch

    Happiness Project

    Ikea Hacker



    No Impact Man

    Pick the Brain

    Success From the Nest

    Tim Ferriss' Four Hour Workweek Blog



    Zen Habits

  • I've learned a lot about placement in the last week, as 95% of my time has been devoted to analyzing various cases. We use a system which places students in writing courses (basic, intro, or honors) according to their test scores, but we also have teachers assign a diagnostic essay on the first day of class, which we use as triangulation to make adjustments to the placement decisions if appropriate. To be sure, I'm no embracer of high-stakes testing and teaching to the test; however, I haven't been able to help but notice that the quality of the writing samples has been consistent with ACT and SAT verbal scores in most cases I have reviewed. The exceptions are the cases in which the test scores are okay, but the writing reveals problems; I suppose these cases demonstrate the need for writing-to-learn approaches over drill-and-test approaches.
  • Next up on the administrative agenda: syllabus review. This check is going to be pretty basic; I and other members of the first-year writing committee are going to look for the following:

    1. Is there a breakdown of how the grade will be calculated?
    2. Is there a brief description of each assignment? (Note: something like, "Essay 1, personal narrative, 3-4 pages")
    3. Is the attendance policy clear and in accordance with university policy?
    4. Is the plagiarism policy clear and in accordance with university policy?
    5. Are the appropriate textbooks in the "required materials" section?
    6. Does the instructor provide contact information and office hours?
    7. Is there a course description?
    8. Are emergency evacuation procedures listed?
    9. Is the disability policy clear and in accordance with university policy?

  • After syllabus review comes faculty development workshop planning. We're already planning a diversity workshop, and there are other possibilities. Others have expressed interest in workshops on responding to student writing and on plagiarism, and of course I will take instructors' needs into consideration when deciding on topics for workshops, but those two topics have been done and done and done some more (though I have some good ideas for how to shake up a plagiarism workshop and make it new). One I'm interested in would be a workshop on monitoring students' mental health. After the tragedy at Virginia Tech, this is especially important, and I'm convinced that things are going to change for writing teachers because of it. At stake are students' privacy and freedom of speech, weighed against the safety of the student body. What should writing teachers do when they are disturbed by student writing or believe a student is mentally disturbed? Is a recommendation to talk to someone in student mental health services enough anymore?
  • Also: I HAVE TO work on research, sometime, somehow -- I'm devoting this weekend to it, actually. It's been so hard to set boundaries these first couple of weeks, when so many (very nice and collegial, mind you) people need to talk to me. Everyone in my department and on the WPA listserv has said that it gets better, that the beginning of the semester is the busiest time, and I hope they're right.
  • Oh yeah, and I'd like to exercise today. I'm thinking about going swimming in our apartment complex pool.
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