Thursday, November 19, 2009

What the Hell Am I?

Be nice when you answer

Today I did it – I wrapped up my course for Onondaga Community College. I backed up all of my files (so that should I ever teach this course again, I won’t have to create every test and presentation from scratch. That would be nice), tallied up all of my final averages, and posted them to the school’s online grade submission program. Tell me if this makes sense: all of my assignments were graded on a percentage out of 100. So my students received final cumulative averages such as 91% or the like. Now, of course, colleges usually register Grade Point Averages on a 4.0 scale (with 4.0 being the highest you can get in any class or for an average across all classes), so it makes sense that there’d need to be a conversion. However, the grades needed to be entered into the grade program as LETTER grades. Instead of a 91%, I needed to enter an A. Or is that an A-? And therein lies the problem – there doesn’t seem to be any consistent scoring scale at OCC to convert percentage scores into letter grades. So what ended up being an A in my class might have been an A- in some other teacher’s class. How can that be, you ask? I have no idea, but it’s among the dumber things I’ve run into.

And before you wonder, yes, I searched high and low on both the school’s own public-facing and internal websites as well as by doing a Google search against anything OCC-related and I came up mostly empty. I did find grading scales used by two different teachers in two different departments – modern languages and science – but their scales weren’t the same, so I gave up trying to be consistent and just did what I wanted. On the plus side, despite some students who massively failed to complete their work throughout the semester (including one student who just didn’t show up for the last several weeks of the semester), I ended up with only one F in my entire class. I’m not thrilled by that – this class was designed and intended to be a cake-walk for anybody who showed up, paid attention, and carefully followed directions. Some folks aren’t so good at those things, but given the high number of As in my class, I’m at least comfortable that the course itself was well-presented and that its objectives were achievable. It’s funny, though, to see students who are new to the college experience complain loudly and often about how hard a class is because they’re used to the rampant hand-holding of high school. I imagine my course was a bit of a rude awakening in that regard, but at least they’ll be better prepared when they run into a truly difficult class and/or a lousy teacher. Well, I can hope, anyway. Regardless, I really did enjoy teaching this semester and I hope I get to do it again in the future. I met some really great folks and was glad of the opportunity to help them master some key computer skills that are guaranteed to be of value in their studies and their careers.

So tomorrow, I write. Which raises the question: what do I call myself? You see, writers typically aren’t considered to be writers until they actually publish something. But I’d expect it will take me around 4 months just to write my first novel, a couple more months to edit and revise it (minimum) and who knows how long to find a publisher for it (assuming that I ever do). So during all that time, I’m doing nothing but writing for hour after hour every day, but according to the writing community, I’m not a writer. So what am I? Unemployed? I’m just going to say I’m a writer and anybody who doesn’t like it is welcome to complain and even hop up and down if it makes them feel better. It’s not likely to be a big deal, anyway. As long as I don’t hang out in places that other writers frequent, there won’t be anybody around who’ll care whether I call myself a writer or a bard or a street sweeper. Except maybe the street sweeper’s union. You know how unions can be about that sort of thing.

I met with my old friend Senthil for lunch today, and he was if anything more enthusiastic about the prospect that I’m going to write some novels than I am. I have to say that I really appreciate the confidence people who know me seem to have in my ability to craft an exciting and entertaining story. I’m anxious to get to work in the hopes that I can live up to their expectations. One thing’s for sure – I’M looking forward to reading my stories, whether or not I can find a publisher to bind them and stick them on some store shelves. That’s one of the great things about having a crappy memory – if I write a book and then set it aside for a bit, I can then pick it up some time later and it will be almost as fresh to me as if it were somebody else’s work that had showed up in an box. Granted, that may be a bit of a problem when I’m trying to write and edit for continuity, but at this point I don’t have any unrealistic expectations that it’s likely to change anytime soon. My memory stinks, and that’s how it is.

For those who are interested, I’ll be doing my writing on a Windows 7 computer running Microsoft Office 2010 BETA, which I installed just this evening. So far it’s very much like Office 2007, but the few changes I’ve seen I’ve liked. Once I’ve spent some time with it I’ll post a review. So eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow I write.

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