Well, USPS has neither returned nor delivered the package I mailed off two weeks ago, so I’m assuming that it’s lost. My friend – bless her – went to her post office and asked about the box; they told her that it was somewhere in the system and that she might get it soon. I’m of the mind that won’t happen, so guess who’s got to go downtown now and demand reimbursement?
That’s right: This guy.
It’s sad, but I’ve actually run out of things to do while on my summer break. I’ve been to all of the area museums on their free days, and mulled around in the gift shops of those that don’t have free days. I’ve gone to every hobby store that I normally frequent, I’ve actually purchased, assembled, and painted over two dozen model kits (I’m not kidding here), I’ve seen one-quarter of the latest season of House of Cards, and I’ve watched every episode of Judge Judy left on the DVR.
My summer is pretty much over, and it’s only been three weeks. The only thing left for me to do is to take a day trip somewhere, but that’s not possible until the Little Woman’s schedule syncs with mine. She’s actually doing work or hanging out with her girlfriends (a good thing), so it’s going to be a while before the two of us are able to toss our junk in the back seat of the Furious-mobile and hit the road.
Actually, I could go wash the Furious-mobile and clean it out. This occurred to me after I learned that a bag of winter salt that I keep in the trunk – for winter emergencies – had ripped open and hundreds of salt pellet were now bouncing around all over the place.
With that all said, I’ve begun to work on next semester’s workload. My biggest problem, however, isn’t with what I’ll do in September; no, that’s pretty much done – tightening up some lecture notes here or there, but for the most part, I’m ready. My real problem is with January, as I’ll be venturing into some semi-virgin territory.
I’m starting a brand-new, never taught before class, so I’ve already started writing those lectures. Better now than later, especially since I’ve pretty much gone through my List-O-Fun. My rule is if I can have half of a class finished before it actually begins, then I can scurry around and finish the second half by the midterm. It’s faulty logic, I know, but it’s gotten me through a couple of rough semesters when I just didn’t have time to knock out forty lectures* at one time.
(* Yep. A standard college semester is about 45 hours of class time, so if one were to deduct exam days, that leaves you with about 40 hours of lectures. Wild, isn’t it?)
Writing lecture notes is easy. Selecting class text books, however, is not.
Here’s some news: Students don’t like to read.
I should say that a good number of students don’t like to read; they want the abridged text – in two or three sentences, if possible. I’ve had students who’ve read every page in a book, while others have to be prodded to finish reading the title. It’s a strange thing for me because I’ve always been a reader – I love it – and while I get people resenting having to read a few hundred pages in a short window of time, I don’t get the resistance to reading as a whole.
Each year, I use one particular novel in class – I won’t name it – wherein students protest, whine, and pout over having to read. I don’t know if it’s the cover, the title, or the general subject, but something about that book brings out a lot of student hatred. I promote it, I summarize it, I cajole, and I threaten.
Then they read it, and virtually everyone does a 180° turn.
“I loved it,” they’ll say. “Are there more? Where can I find them?”
Three weeks ago, they were ready to burn me in effigy for requiring the book, but now I’m a hero of sorts.
I don’t get it.
Throughout my academic career, I’ve prided myself on finding good titles on the cheap. That way, my students still had quality materials without going further into debt. At one point, I calculated that a student taking all four of my classes would shell out less than $200 total for books. Given how a single chemistry book can run nearly $250, I figured that my classes were the better bargain. I’ve used more expensive texts on occasion, and have almost always regretted doing so. Once I learned too late that a book I’d assigned was $125, a price that wouldn’t have bothered me if we’d actually used the book (long story there, but yeah – I still feel like crap for having had them spend that much). After that, I said, “Never again.”
It’s not that I get smaller books – I just find cheaper editions. I mean, a $6 edition of Fielding’s Tom Jones is still the same book as the $63 “scholarly edition;” only a handful of students will bother to read the critical analysis, whether I assign it or not. And a used 4th edition of Western Civilization and Its People at $49 pretty much has the same information as the brand-new 5th edition at $135, so why not go cheap?
Worse, finding good – but cheap – texts, is not easy, either. I once wanted to use a particular Shakespearean play. That’s easy enough, but I wanted an edition that was student-friendly. Say what you will about “dumbing down,” but if you’ve had minimal (or no) experience with William Shakespeare, then you’re likely going to need a version of his plays that helps you understand 17th century English. There are editions that have the original text alongside a modern version, and they’re very helpful – if you can find them.
School costs a lot already; no reason that the books can’t be a little reasonable.
With that said, I still can’t get my students to actually read the damn things.