Five O'Clock Somewhere

Welcome to Five O'Clock Somewhere, where it doesn't matter what time zone you're in; it's five o'clock somewhere. We'll look at rural life, especially as it happens in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, cats, sailing (particularly Etchells racing yachts), and bits of grammar and Victorian poetry.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The First Day of School

Out in the country, far from town …

While I have been teaching at TVI for more than eight years now, this is the first term I have taught at the South Valley campus. It’s an interesting place, in part because it is so small. Its location is also interesting.

The South Valley is a lower-income area, and much of the rest of Albuquerque dismisses it as a wasteland full of teenage gangs. It’s not. The further south one goes, the more rural the surroundings; TVI’s South Valley campus is on a winding country road lined with ancient cottonwood trees and small farms. One of the security guards’ duties is to shoo stray chickens out of the parking lot.

Because the campus is so small, there is one faculty lounge that serves as lounge, workroom, and office space for faculty from several departments. There aren’t even any cubicles. There is a row of computers along one wall, which, unfortunately, gets the brunt of the late-afternoon sun, I discovered yesterday. So today I brought the laptop, with the idea that I could set it up on the shady side of the room, hook into TVI’s wireless network, and get to work.

I turned the computer on, and immediately got a low-battery warning. Not good. I had just taken it out of its docking station a half-hour before, at which point it supposedly had a full battery. Oh, well, time to look for an electrical outlet. Yes, there were electrical outlets, but, sigh, they’re all along the sunny wall. So much for the idea of working in the shade.

Now to hook into the network. I’d tried the week before without success, but I changed some settings, tried two different browsers, fiddled a bunch of stuff. I could get the computer and the network to communicate briefly, and then the computer would freeze up. The computer also seemed to be having trouble whenever TVI went to a secure screen to ask for a password; it wouldn’t read the Java correctly. So much for that.

So I put the laptop away and checked my email on a computer at the shady end of the row.

I’m teaching two classes at South Valley, a section of Practical Writing (ENG 099) from 5:30 to 7:20, and a section of Essay Writing (ENG 100) from 7:30 to 9:20. For both classes, I presented and explained the syllabus, and then I had the students write a diagnostic essay, which serves as an assessment of their skills and which I can also use to recommend that a student move up or down a level. When I looked at the essays from the 99 class, I was struck with how good many of them were. I could step most of them up to 100, and whatever instructor they got wouldn’t think I’d been too easy on them … and then I realized, I knew what instructor they would get. There are only two sections of 100 at South Valley, and the other one is in the middle of the day, when night students can’t attend. I’d just be stepping the students up to myself.

Of course, there’s another slight hitch – if I step too many students up out of 99, that class doesn’t have enough students for TVI to keep it and I end up stepping myself out of a job. But then, that’s the only section of 99 at South Valley, and surely the powers that be would be wise enough not to cancel it … OK, so I shouldn’t kid myself. Well, I thought, maybe the 100 class would have enough students who should be stepped down to make up for some of the step-ups. When those essays came in, I found I had no such luck. I have a lot of talent to work with this term.

So I’ll step a few 99ers up to 100 and keep my fingers crossed that the 99 will still make. I’ll have a talented 100 class and a 99 class that will be very small and therefore get lots of individual attention from the instructor. Works for me.

Tomorrow, I’ll meet the other class I have this term, a 100 that meets for four straight hours on Wednesdays at Main Campus. It may take some endurance, but, hey, it allows me to have a four-day weekend every week.


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