Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Waxing Moon
Sunny and pleasant

I spent NINE HOURS correcting exercises yesterday. I had nothing left in the tank for my own work, which simply can’t happen. I have more than double (close to triple) the amount of students I expected. I’m glad people are so enthusiastic, but with so many of them and only one of me, and each one submitting 2-3 pages for an exercise, it’s a lot.

The frustration is partially my fault. I don’t like to have things hanging over me. I wanted to comment on the exercises so they could apply the comments moving forward and to give them as much time for the next exercise as possible. I can switch from creation mode to comment mode, but I can’t switch back. So, not only did I spent nine hours commenting, but I couldn’t get back to my own work.

Therefore, I’m restructuring my day. I’ll write myself out on my deadline work first, and then switch gears into comments. It takes a whole different side of the brain, in a way, but a lot of energy. And people do put work into this, so they deserve my full attention on the posted piece.

The other workshop I’m going to teach for them is moved from August to January, which is what I’d originally asked for, and it works much better for me. There’s some amazing work being submitted in the class, and I honor the work and creativity that those people put in. But I’m spending way too much time dealing with grammar and punctuation issues (not just here, but in all the workshops in general) that are taught in the third grade. A pre-requisite of the course is to have a solid foundation in grammar, spelling, and structure. It is part of a writer’s JOB to get up to speed in these areas, and there’s plenty of material out there to help one do that. Although, frankly, if one can’t pass third grade level English requirements, one shouldn’t have been allowed to get to fourth grade, much less graduate from high school. A few mistakes are fine, but sometimes the student hasn’t bothered to proofread, which also drives me nuts. When the grammar, punctuation, and spelling make it impossible for me to follow the scene, there’s a problem. And when I say, “Go back and work on this, clean it up, here are the resources/books/links that will help you” and the next exercise contains all the same mistakes and it’s obvious that my notes were ignored and the person hasn’t bothered to learn the basics, I’m irate. I’m seriously considering making it a requirement to pass a structure test before taking a workshop. Because really, I’m not here to teach grammar school. I may institute a policy where I send it back if I find more than five errors. I get really angry when sloppy work is submitted. I find it disrespectful. I don’t want to hear whines about a lack of time — the student committed to the class. The student’s time management skills or lack thereof are not up to me, they are up to the student.

I also may have to think about limiting class size. That’s the norm for in-person workshops, but rarely done when teaching online. Either I have to limit class size, or jack my fee way up, which automatically limits class size, but then you lose some of your best students, because often the best ones are the ones scraping together their pennies to take the class. They’ve had to sacrifice the most to take the class, they want it the most, and they’re the most dedicated. I don’t want to deny them the opportunity because of cost. Having faced economic discrimination so often over the years (especially during Republican-run regimes), I don’t want to practice it. My time and work are worth a fee, but that balance has to be hit between people feeling that, because they’ve paid they better take it seriously and keeping it in reach of people who are struggling financially, but also talented and dedicated.

There’s definitely a learning process involved, especially when it comes to online teaching. On site is much easier, because the safeguards are already in place.

I got up at 5:30 this morning to run. I doubled my circuit from Monday and still wound up doing the loop twice. It was nice to be out that early, although a little eerie first time around. Down one particular block, the streetlights winked out as I passed, even though it was still dark. I felt like something out of a HARRY POTTER movie before Something Really Bad happens.

Lara, I have lots of trouble with my knees, especially the left one, which was permanently injured while hauling heavy clothes up and down stairs backstage on Broadway over the years. It’s one of the reasons I was so hesitant to start running, and I’m keeping an eye on it. I can’t do any type of squat exercises because that knee gives out. It’s another reason why I’m trying to pace myself and not overdo, especially at the beginning.

Hit the desk a little before 7, got some work done on POWER OF WORDS. The fixes I made in the sections up until now muck up the next bit, so I have to untangle it. I also have to do some research on the legalities of a teenager who emancipates from inept parents. Hopefully, I’ll also get to the library to do the research for the short story, and I have to go grocery shopping at some point, because right now, the cats’ cupboard is the only one that’s full.

Strand Books found some research books for two of my projects and they arrived yesterday. They take such good care of me. I truly treasure my relationship with them.

I have A LOT of exercises still to comment on — it looks like even more students are pouring into the class.

But first, I need to get back to the page.


Published in: on March 24, 2010 at 7:48 am  Comments (11)  
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  1. Limiting your students seems like a good idea. You are a great mentor (as I know from experience!) and word gets around! 😉

    Knees are interesting things, aren’t they? And so temperamental. We need to baby them sometimes. I can imagine your former career was VERY hard on you, physically. You know yourself, and you know your limits. I think it’s awesome you’re running!


  2. That’s a good idea, turning it on its head. Teaching is draining and it’s why I gave it up. I always used to do that first, though, because it paid the bills. Maybe I should have tried it the other way around too.

    Limiting class numbers is probably the best way, because hiking up the fee will put some people off. At least then you can also build up a waiting list and that will indicate whether it’s worth putting on an extra series, so jacking up your earnings anyway without it costing the students’ any more.

    • I don’t know how that rogue apostrophe got in there …

  3. Interesting about the lack of grammar and punctuation skills. I’m seeing more and more of this, and general errors, in published writing, from local papers to books from the big houses. In one recent error, whenever the title of the book was mentioned on the inside book jacket, a wrong word was used. I can’t believe nobody picked up on this.

  4. Watch those knees! Running’s great exercise, but so hard on them. As a chronic knee pain sufferer, I can attest that it is not worth over-doing it! Do you have some exercises you do to strength them?

    Wishing you well with your workshop. It does sounds as though it’s gotten overwhelming and I think you’re wise to ponder some revisions to the system for the next go-round. It’s so frustrating to deal with people who don’t realize that writing goes hand in hand with editing. If you’re not willing to edit and proofread your *own* work, who is?

  5. Hi Devon .. sounds a little much – but good for you for sticking with it.

    I just wondered, if you’re going to do a simple checklist for the students .. you couldn’t unleash it here too? My knowledge of grammar is terrible .. at the time things were haywire at school, at home, and we were doing French and Latin, as well as English .. and I never ‘got it’! Something must have rubbed off – but it’d be great to have a few notes?!

    No worries .. if it’s not a bright idea .. congratulations on the running though .. I’m sure you’ll crack the work .. all the best Hilary

    • Your best resource is STRUNK AND WHITE’S ELEMENTS OF STYLE. It’s a quick read — it takes me about and hour and a half to read it cover to cover before every major novel revision.

      The pre-requisite for the class is a foundation in grammar, spelling, and structure — the check list simply tells them to cross-check with Strunk & White.

  6. And – I don’t know you at all, but think maybe you are a perfectionist which will only help your students. But that is a lot of work for you. My daughter teaches a class for a university and grading is the monster. I only do day technology trainings. Nothing for me to grade just handouts to create.

    Did I miss something? Are you teaching an online class?

    • Yes, I’m teaching my dialogue workshop for two weeks.

  7. With that many hours spent on critiquing the exercises, you have to ask yourself if it’s worth the pay you’re getting. Ugh. Lessons for me to take forward on my upcoming course.

    • The money is definitely disproportionate to the time and work this class requires. I have now learned a few things.

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