Coffee heat rising

OMG…Never rains but it pours

Just when you think you can loaf (make that “get caught up with all the survival chores you haven’t done”), in rolls another gigantic wave of work. The semester’s end brings three huge piles of student papers. Two of the piles comprise about twenty 2,500-word papers apiece! Those gems, 100,000 words of them, arrive on Monday; grades have to be in on Friday, May 14.

The 101s turned their pile in yesterday—portfolios plus a retrospective essay. Pedagogically correct but just another pointless mound of papers for me.

Meanwhile, one of my clients has been given a deadline of May 15 to submit his huge, arcane project. He wants me to read the entire darned thing. Now. And while I’m at it, format his tables to fit APA style. So, these student papers are going to have to be shoveled off my desk as fast as they come in.

So focused was I last night on finishing the 101 papers before bed-time that I worked without lifting my head until 9:30. About that time I looked at the clock and realized I’d missed choir practice!

Egregious. Especially since it’s my birthday and the choir probably bought a cake to celebrate. Damn it.

Today I’ve got to read the client’s copy. Since I haven’t had a chance to do the laundry in two weeks, the washing will have to be shoved in around that job. Given the time crunch, once again I’ll be working for six- to eight-hour stretches without looking up, stopping long enough to grab a meal, and then going back for another six to eight hours. God only knows how long it will take to read this copy: it’s arcane, complex, and turgid. Not as annoying as freshman copy, but extremely difficult.

I suppose it’s a time management thing. I need to figure out ways to balance this workload so it doesn’t all come pouring in at once.

Of course, I had no way of anticipating that the client would show up on my doorstep with a massive project just as the students disgorged a river of trash for me to read. Well…yes, I did: Murphy’s Law!

Time management lessons learned:

Always assume that when your workload is greatest, a mass of extra work will land on your head.

Whenever possible, arrange to do the largest part of a project’s labor near the beginning of the project. Thus when the mass of extra work comes crashing in, you’ll have some space before the project’s deadline.

Never procrastinate.

Delegate whenever possible.

Next time I teach 102, I think I’m going to assign the huge research paper at mid-term. It will interfere with the students’ mid-term exams, but tant pis. When it’s due at the end of the semester, it interferes with their finals. If the big research paper is out of the way, then the last set of papers will be relatively easy to dispense with.

And with the 101s, I think we’ll make all their four papers research-based. Delaying until they arrive at the two researched papers that the school’s policy requires means they don’t have enough time to ingest MLA style. About 80 percent of these folks are in community college because they’re not great students. Unless you have a passion for research and writing, which none of them do, you have a really tough time learning the basic principles of citation and documentation. Giving them an entire semester to learn what a style manual is and how to follow it should reduce some of the grading pain at the end of the term. I’m also going to have them buy the MLA manual. I can’t dispense with the textbook, which is largely a waste (it’s wanting in several ways), but I can add something they really will use.

Well, onward. It’s back to work!

2 thoughts on “OMG…Never rains but it pours”

  1. Off topic, but I watched Frontline’s investigative piece on corporate higher education (i.e., The University of Phoenix among others) last night and found it dismaying. Couldn’t help wondering how you felt about this burgeoning overlap of academia, corporate America and Wall Street. Since the previously cited example is right there under your nose and you have long experience in the academic arena, the subject seems a natural for you–someday, clearly you have other things to occupy you at the moment.

  2. I sort of know how you feel. Now that I have the full time job, my colleague is going on maternity leave for three months. So I’ve been asked if I want OT (same rate but I mainly just have to keep an eye on things and am rarely busy for the whole shift) so I said yes.

    Meanwhile, I was beginning to think that it might be a good thing if my other contract work did end in June. I’d miss the money but it would be easier because, if Tim gets a job and I can’t count on his help, I’ll be swamped.

    So what happens? The client suggests me to another person interested in my help. I decided it couldn’t hurt to find out what the project was. So I talked with him, then looked at the site and its details… I reported back about how I’d suggest approaching things, what efforts would work best etc. And now I’m supposed to let him know what kind of payment I’m thinking/when I could start.

    I’m considering subcontracting some of the work to Tim (as a contractor they really only get to delegate the finished product, not how it’s done) and just supervise. But I’d still have to be vaguely hands on.

    So, if I do put in a bid, I’m definitely going to be asking for good money! Then the worst that happens is he says I’m too pricey.

    Or is it that the worst would be he accepts my offer?

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