Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Part VI.5, Seeking advice

Dear Family and Friends:

This is not a complete post but rather a health concern.  Shortly after arrival, I developed itchy welts.  They were especially bad in the morning so I first eliminated spiders and bedbugs.  I cleaned as only I know how, lots of bleach, cleaning soap, and multiple times.  Things have only gotten worse.  I have been to the on-campus doctor 3 times, am taking anti-allergy meds, all to no avail.  I keep my apartment windows shut all the time because of the wind and dust.

I have since discovered that others have had trouble in this apartment too, with different consequences, but their complaints about the situation have gone unheeded.  Later today I will have more lab tests and none too soon, it seems.  I awoke this morning at 3:30 in such discomfort I got up thinking, "What if it's laundry soap or new softener?"  I have used Persil and this softener before but...well, who knows?  And that's a serious question.  If anyone has an idea, I'd love to hear it.  In addition to the discomfort, I see my eyes swelling shut this morning, a sure sign that whatever it is, is not going away on it's own. 

I have just completed the newest post on teaching, Part VI, below.

Hugs to all!


Part VI, The Academic Year Begins, (sort of)

Hello Everyone!

These are interesting times--new systems, new rules, new MOs and, at this point, not all of them make sense.  I expect to come to an understanding of why things are done in certain ways in the fullness of time.  Patience, in great, huge bucket loads is what I need now!  One thing is certain--of all the frustrations, the things broken, dysfunctional, and needing attention, none is more important than making absolutely sure that my teaching year is successful.  At the moment, I do not feel as though I have complete control over whether or not that will happen.  I have three writing classes, all 3 of which have ballooned to 3 more than the 15-optimal class-size goal.  The methodology here is not one I have used or experienced before so I am waiting to see what happens and how much leeway I might have to individualize my sections.  As you've guessed, these are multi-section courses in the general ed requirements for students.  The difference here is that there is a course coordinator who provides the syllabus for everyone else.  I am having a hard time with that on several levels but I will wait and see.

This week, today actually, classes started but, since attendance doesn't count this week, students can hardly be blamed for staying away.  Nonetheless, I began with a brief introduction and a short writing exercise for the several who did come.  As I was telling one of my colleagues, if I plan something for 4, it is important enough to include the whole class.  There is something askew here but it seems that registration is usually messy and complicated and that firm class lists do not come out for another 2 weeks.  UGH.  I hate listening to the sound of my voice as it takes on a tired tone after multiple repetitions of details I find boring in the first telling.  

The first classroom was absolutely filthy and for those of you who know me, should know that is not picky-Geri talking.  I'm not the only one wondering what the cleaning crew did (not do!) during the break.  Further, I'm going to write a polite little note on the bottom of the board: Please clean the board before leaving the classroom.  Never mind that I did not want to use the board, the many equations and scribblings were distracting and only added to the sense of untidiness and disarray.  Anyway, how could I have written anything?  There were no whiteboard markers in or on my desk and certainly none in the classroom.  The second classroom was at the other end of the campus, partway up the steepest part of the mountain in what used to the a Girl's Dorm.  (Yes, uni-dorms are still important here.) When I arrived, the converted dorm room was stuffed with 11 student desk/chairs and only by blocking a 3-foot square in the middle of the room could another be added.  4 showed up but there will be 18.  Clearly this will have to be changed even though this room was relatively clean, breezy, and pleasant, with 4 + me, that is.  In addition, I had told the chair that after those classes, W/F, I would continue up the mountain to my apartment rather than walk all the way back down to my office.  She saw the sense in that.  (Later:  Those classes have been moved to an unfinished Medical Sciences building, right next door to my office.  That is good.  However, there is cement dust everywhere and I'm beginning to wonder if that is the source of the severe allergy attack I am enduring because the cement factories on the coast keep cement dust in the air most of the time.)

The schedule itself is not bad a long as I reconcile myself to the Communications course that runs everyday at 9:30 am:  Mondays I finish at 10:30 and every other day at 12:30 except for meetings and a few office hours.  My office mate and I are working out who will see students and when.  We sit a mere 2 feet from each other.  Thank goodness for her sense of humor.  She has been here for several years and therefore has mostly consumed the available shelf, cabinet space, leaving me 2 shelves at my elbow.  She told me that if I don't put my own things on those 2 shelves, she'll take those over as well!) It is cramped, the blinds are broken and dirty, and the windows...oh my, the windows--have seen neither soap nor squeegee in all 20 years since they were hung.  As a matter of fact, the building needs basic upkeep and maintenance.  I get the sense that the building projects--huge new medical school, new library, new hospital, are sapping all the available resources.  The good thing is that when the medical building is complete (Jan. 2011, they say), we will have more office and classroom space.  So, perhaps some of this is temporary.  I have heard that the school keeps growing, quickly, and that while they attempt to keep up with hiring faculty, support services, admin, staff of all kinds, have not kept pace with the need.  Enrollment is over 4000 now. They need to update their website.

On the other hand, the saving grace of the Middle Eastern experience are it's people.  The students are polite, gracious, and friendly as well as charming.  They smile easily and are cooperative, just as students did in Nebraska, Jordan, Bahrain, and Lithuania.  I knew I would feel much better as soon as I could meet some students.  I do.  (That probably answers the question I asked in a previous blog--about losing one's identity as a teacher without students around.   I'm supposed to be a teacher but it's impossible to believe that without students.)  The problem with "polite" is that each student feels it is necessary to knock (on the open door) and say, "Good Morning" as they enter, even when I'm in mid-sentence and they are late.  After grinding my teeth on that I finally announced, "Please, do your best to sneak into class, especially when you're late.  Do as little as possible to be noticed."  Of course, mid-sentence a student announced her arrival, provoking class laughter.

I am going to continue with today's date and a Part VI.5, above.