Managing paperwork for writing-intensive classes

This has been a semester of deadlines made ludicrous by longterm deadlines (tenure and promotion application) and rampant illness that is slowly working through the entire student body with a few side trips into facultyland. Usually I have one cold a year that lasts a day or two. This semester I have been flat-on-my-back sick for three weeks and a few weeks later, an insulting fourth week. Note to self: I should have caught the swine flu in 1974 or 1978 when everyone else caught it. Ah, well. At least I only missed one day of classes, but having so many people ill at once makes my normally reasonable late work policy laughable. This week though, I’ll finally be caught up with all the make-up exams and late papers and I’m grateful for that.

One thing I’ve found out through all this schedule-busting illness is that conferencing is an incredibly efficient use of time. A beginning-of-semester round of conferences ensures I know my students and their writing needs right from the start. Another conference past the semester’s midpoint makes sure all assignments are on track. I increased the number of conferences for all my classes this semester, and this more than anything kept me from getting too far past my personal grading time limit of two weeks. In conferences, I can give immediate feedback for drafts and also answers individual questions that don’t always get raised in class. I can also return work in a way that makes sure the assessment rationale is understood. Over all, conferencing can be a great way to manage paper-flow.

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Author of the poetry collection The Tethered Ground and Professor of English at Missouri State University. Contact me for readings or for workshops on writing/publishing and on teaching writing online.

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