The Balancing Act: Handling 4 Writing Comps in One Semester

I was not thrilled when I saw my schedule for the Winter semester of 2017. I was stacked to the brim teaching two of my unfavorable courses. I had four sections of EN 121: Analytical Writing & Research, and two sections of LA 122: Fundamentals of Communication. In EN 121 students spend the semester working on a research paper in APA format. throughout the semester, students learn about the building blocks of an APA paper, as well as citation practices. At the end of the semester, students present their findings and research, almost as if they are defending a dissertation. It is also an opportunity to show fellow classmates what they have been working on all semester long.

My strategy to have a successful semester was to set up submissions for Turnitin through blackboard. This would remove any sort of doubt or questionably in regards to who submitted what when. Any professor similar with paper submissions knows the song and dance of a student who may or may not have submitted an assignment and the insinuation that it was the professor who lost it. I knew that if I were to teach 4 sections of a writing course with at least 30 students in each class, that paper submissions would be a huge disadvantage when it came to organization and keep track of each assignment.

In my LA 122 courses, I kept the outside homework to a minimum and had students complete most tasks in the classroom. It worked out quite well because the classwork was another way to fill up class time and in providing homework as classwork, I could have much more time to focus on the stacks of grading my composition courses gave me.

When it came to grading the assignments I assigned two classes a specific due date, and the other two would have another due date. This allowed me time to give my full attention to each class without feeling the need to rush through each assignment, and do so over 120 times in succession. I made it a point for myself to be on top of grading the incoming assignments no more than a week after submission. I have to say, this was quite the challenge I set up for myself. I managed through it, sometimes grading a class in two day sets, doing 15 a day.

It was definitely a tough semester which I felt in my fatigue day to day. I would still plaster a smile on my face and push forward. The common saying of “fake it til you make it” became my mantra as the semester headed to a close. It was a relief when the semester came to an end.

When evaluations were released, I was nervous for the first time in a long time about student feedback. I knew many did not enjoy the course and I was expecting to see that reflected in their commentary. I was definitely right about the complaints, but one thing I did not see coming was a comment which simply read, “Professor not encouraging”. I was perplexed by that comment. In what way was I “not encouraging”? I pulled students to the side who struggled and constantly encouraged them to push forward, especially those at the brink of failure. I had several one on one meetings throughout the semester to stay on top of the large class sizes. I offered office hours, which no one took advantage of and I was “not encouraging”? I had to chalk it to the fact that perhaps, this student did not like me as a professor or an individual. Or perhaps he/she really felt that way. I definitely do the best I can, so I had to just move past this student’s feedback.

Aside from the sole bit of criticism and the large amount of work I had to get done outside of the classroom, I survived one of the most busiest semesters I experienced. I look forward to never doing that again if I have my own way. With the new semester coming up for Fall 2017, I look forward to what is ahead.

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