Saturday, May 09, 2020


Got a call from my mother last night where she expressed some concern.  The concern wasn't about anyone's health, but that I hadn't done much blogging lately. That's true, but with a reason- haven't had time to work on much art of late.  That's because of teaching. Yesterday was my last scheduled class meeting of the semester, and the deadline for receiving any work for the semester.  The college switched us to an online distance learning system back in March, which turned out to be more tiring than actually getting up before the sun, commuting to North Jersey in rush hour traffic, and teaching in a classroom for 6 hours. But it's a job and they are paying me, so I do what is needed.  There or at home, the last day is always going to be hectic. Since we can't be in the same place, everything arrives by email. I hear from students that way every day, but on this last deadline day, it was out of control. Started at 9:00 am, and I was still answering emails after 11:00 pm.  Some were just questions, but most came with attached images, or papers, or other things that needed attention.

Didn't get an accurate count, but it seemed like at least 75 or 80 of them. At one point in the afternoon I had to stop, because things weren't working.  I think it was overwhelmed.  I don't know if it was the email program or my computer, or both, but things weren't loading or opening, so I just shut it down for a few hours. When I came back later, everything was back to normal. I haven't actually seen any of my students in person since this all went down in March, but I've been posting things for them to see a few times per week, sending out mass email weekly with updates, and answering questions and grading artwork for any of them that contacted me.  Some I had never heard from, and had to include their names on the list requested by our dean.  Had nothing to do with their grades, for which I am sticking to what was listed on the syllabus.

But on the last day, of course all would show up. Maybe they were keeping up all along, or maybe they just made it up at the last minute, but a lot of work came in yesterday. Graded artwork was taken care of on the spot (as soon as I could get to it), papers will be done over a period of a few days- they take a little longer. But if I received it, it's on time.

Unfortunately, it's not over yet. Now I've got to figure out all the grades.  It's not an arbitrary system where I just look at a student's name and make up something, but there is a specified formula, established numbers, etc.  It's the only way to be fair.  Plus if they complain later, I can show them the numbers and that usually ends the argument.

For each student there are 6 different categories, worth different percentages, and that can be doubled,  as I figure things out both on a 100 point scale and a college 4.0 scale.  Ideally, both should end up in the same place, but if not, I give them which ever one is higher.  This time around I don't have to worry about late or absence penalties, which were were told to ignore this semester. That will save a few minutes.

And when that's done, I get to do the assessments.  This has nothing to do with grades, but it's still required. All students are evaluated in about 10 different categories, or at least that's what it was.  New forms this year but I haven't had time to look at them yet. In the past this was all about writing skills, which might make more sense if I was a writing teacher, but I was hired to teach art. Seems to be the university's solution to the problem that most of the students are functionally illiterate, and this may be easier than hiring people to teach them how to read and write. 

So classes are done, but I'll be busy for the next few weeks.  After that, maybe I get to be an artist again.  If anything happens, you'll get to see it here.


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