Monday Miscellania

I meant to write a review of Catherine O’Flynn’s novel What Was Lost today, but it will have to wait for another time when I feel more up to it.  I have already spent an awful lot of time online today, so this will be relatively quick.  I’m preparing to teach my first online course beginning at the end of June, and all that online time went toward getting started on that work.

The problem was that once I got going it was hard to stop.  It’s work I get absorbed in easily, and then questions came up that didn’t have easy answers and I couldn’t let them go, even though I have weeks to solve them.  The hardest part of setting up this course has been organizing everything, figuring out how much work to give students, when to make things due, how to set up the due dates so that they aren’t confusing or overwhelming, how to set up all the pages and subpages and arrange all the information so it’s clear.  It feels like I’m giving students a lot of work, but I have to remember (and they should too!) that we have no class time whatsoever, so asking them to do a lot of work really isn’t asking too much.  I’m thinking now that all I can ask for is that the first time through this not be a disaster and then maybe I’ll learn enough to do it better next time.  Anybody out there who has taken an online course who has ideas about what works and what doesn’t?

So, yesterday was my first race after last Tuesday’s crash, and this time around it was crash-free, although barely so.  On the last lap there was some bumping and jostling right in front of me that made me nervous enough to hit my brakes hard, but everybody stayed upright and everything turned out okay.  I was the 12th person across the line (out of 18), although officially I got 11th place because the officials relegated the woman who was doing the bumping to last place.  I was a little nervous riding with the pack, but only a little; Thursday’s long group ride helped me get back to normal.  I’m still a little afraid of crashing, but I’ve always been a little afraid of crashing, so that’s okay.

And now on to book news.  First, I’m participating in Kate’s group read of Anne of Green Gables (how could I resist this!?), which so far has been tremendous fun.  I’m maybe 50 pages into the book, and I’m loving every minute of it.  And remembering practically every detail of the book too — I read it so many times as a kid that I practically had it memorized. Check out the group blog here — there are some interesting posts up already.

I also began Amanda Vickery’s book The Gentleman’s Daughter: Women’s Lives in Georgian England, which is a fascinating read; it’s very much academic in nature, so she spends a good bit of time arguing with what other historians have claimed about the time, but it’s very clearly written with an engaging style, and it has lots of great information on what women from the ranks of the lower gentry experienced and believed.  More on this later.

I have bought and mooched a few books too, including the latest selection for my mystery book club, Charlotte Jay’s Beat Not the Bones. The novel was published in 1952, and it takes place on New Guinea, describing a young woman who is trying to find out why her husband committed suicide.  Sounds interesting, doesn’t it?  I also ordered Sei Shonagon’s The Pillow Book; Shonagon is a woman from 10th century Japan, and the book contains her thoughts about her life and the world around her.  I read an excerpt of the book in Phillip Lopate’s The Art of the Personal Essay as part of my essay project (see sidebar) and was intrigued.

Also, Edith Wharton’s The Glimpses of the Moon for the next Slaves of Golconda read at the end of June (plenty of time to join us if you like!).  And from Bookmooch, Janet Malcolm’s The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, because I’ve been wanting to read Janet Malcolm forever and this book is bound to be interesting, and James Woodforde’s Diary of a Country Parson, because Woodforde is from the 18C and I love reading about that time period.

Okay, now I’m off to do some reading!

6 Comments

Filed under Books, Cycling, Life, Reading, Teaching

6 responses to “Monday Miscellania

  1. Congrats on a successful, crash-free race. I hope that really helps. And happy reading — you’ve got a really interesting list!

  2. I had never thought about everything that would need to go into the preparation of online classes. That must be really tricky! I’m sure you’ll do a marvelous job, Dorothy. And lovely reading ahead. I ordered the Edith Wharton ages ago and still no sign of it :( I do hope it arrives in time for me to read along.

  3. Glad the race was crash free and finishing right in the middle seems pretty good to me.

    From the student side of online classes, I like to have the entire quarter’s assignments ahead of time so I can plan out my time and even read ahead if I get the chance. All of my online classes have Sunday midnight due dates for the week’s discussion and for any assignments. I think you want to be sure to require discussion participation otherwise there will students you never hear from. It’s also nice to have students introduce themselves the first week since they aren’t all sitting in a classroom together. And don’t worry about all the work you are requiring especially if you would give students you would see in a classroom the same workload. The way I see it, an online class should have the same work and expectations as an in-person class; same work, different format. I’m sure your class will be a great success.

  4. What class are you teaching online? I like the idea of online learning and for a motivated student I think it would work well. It’s also nice for students that are distance learners so they can have the same options as students on campus. Good luck with it–you’ll have to let us know how it goes! Glad to hear there were no crashes (it’s bad enough just wiping out, but you guys are riding so fast–the impact would be scary, so I don’t blame you for being afraid!). I’ve never read any of the Anne of Green Gables books–that’s pretty sad! My niece’s friend (and our neighbor) who is 10 has been reading them and enjoying them (maybe I should borrow one of her books :) ). I’ve also pulled out my Wharton book and plan on starting it in the next couple of days! Enjoy the rest of your books! The Vickery sounds great and I hope you’ll post more on it!

  5. Zoesmom — it does help — and I had another crash-free race last night, so all is well!

    Litlove — I hope your book arrives soon! Teaching online does involve a lot of work, although much of this only needs to be done the first time through the course — afterwards I’m expecting it to get significantly easier.

    Stefanie — thanks so much for your thoughts; they are very helpful. I am giving students the schedule of readings all at once, so they can get ahead that way, and I hope to have all the other assignments set up well ahead of time too. I’m not sure I want to make everything (in addition to the readings) available at once, as that might be overwhelming, but I will make them available well ahead of time. I’m having pretty frequent due dates, mostly because the course is only 4 1/2 weeks, and so I need to make things due more often than once a week (plus it’s a writing course, and they need to be writing regularly). I just hope the students don’t find that confusing. I’ve made discussion board participation a requirement and will grade them on it. I like the idea of having students introduce themselves — I think I need to set up an informal discussion board for that purpose, as well as for more general questions about the course. Thanks!

    Danielle — it’s Literature and Composition, an introductory literature course with a lot of writing. It’s one I’ve taught many times in the classroom, which is making this process much easier — thank God! I think you’re right about motivated students — let’s hope those are the students I have! If you do decide to read Anne of Green Gables, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it — the books are really wonderful. Oh, and I’m sure I’ll be posting more on the Vickery book.

  6. Only 4 1/2 weeks? Wow that’s a fast class. You’ll have lots of student work to read. Please to keep us up to date on how it goes!

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