Operation Overload and Losing Your Muchness


The standard teaching load at my institution is 4/4.  In other words we are contractually obligated to teach eight three-credit sections per academic year.  For various reasons, however, most of us end up teaching an overload.  Maybe the department needs to add a section to accommodate demand; maybe we couldn't hire an adjunct (or one quit at the last minute).  There are any number of reasons you go on overload.  Many of my colleagues just like the extra money.

Me, not so much.

Adding one more course means an additional 30 papers to grade twice a week.  It means that many more students to keep track of and worry about. And teaching overload nearly always sinks me.  It isn't that any one course is tough; it's just hard for me to teach well when (as the Red Queen said in Alice Through the Looking Glass) it takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place.

I spent nearly the entirety of last weekend grading student essays because my stack had ominously reached triple digits.  I have also sworn an oath to all my classes that I will always return assignments within seven days.  If that means I have to set the alarm for 4:00 am, so be it.  If that means grading every Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon, so be it. 

Good writing is good thinking and I assign a lot of it.  I am also committed to providing quality, individualized feedback on every thing students write for me.  I like to think I give good value.  Heck, they're paying to go to a small private college.  They ought to get something for their money.

I can usually keep my hamster wheel spinning, too, but add two or three credits of overload and something's got to give.  Unfortunately what usually gives is quality course prep.  I find myself winging it, planning course exercises and strategies on the fly. 

Yesterday it really caught up with me and I felt crummy about the three courses I taught.  My suckosity meter was pegged at high because I hadn't had time to review the material and I had not thought through how I wanted to approach it.

It's amazing to me how that one extra course drags everything down.  I keep saying to myself that I have to quit teaching overloads, but then somebody begs me to take a section or I allow myself to get talked into teaching a new course.  And then here I am in Sucksville once more.

Doing what you love poorly is always depressing.  It's just not who you want to be.   As the Mad Hatter says, “‎You're not the same as you were before...   You were much more... muchier... you've lost your muchness.”

Indeed.



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