every day when i go to the mailbox, there are three or four more bubble pak or padded envelopes with my name and address sharpied on the front. i open them up, take out the slightly scuffed or worn books, and place them on a shelf, in the air-conditioned front bedroom i once shared with a sister, in alphabetical order by author, so that i will be able to double-check that i received all of them.
i had ordered them earlier this month from half dot com or amazon used books after getting the list from the binghamton university bookstore website. now i see that the list is also on the BU blackboard website, under each class that i am taking. to buy all of them, new, would require at least $700. i have kept it under $350, but there are still a few supplemental texts i'd like to own. i may wait until classes start at the end of august, though. i'm feeling a bit overwhelmed.
overwhelmed, indeed, especially since i logged on to the blackboard site and read the syllabus posted by each professor.
have i made a mistake?
will i be able to keep up with the reading? will i be able to navigate the volume of research? will i be able to write scholarly papers and responses on a regular basis? have i given myself enough time by taking a leave of absence from my middle school ELA classroom?
the discussion/seminar format of the classes does not worry me; i have enjoyed the process of making meaning in collaboration with other thinkers when asked to operate that way during the writing project summer institute. indeed, i wish all my coursework, way back in the seventies, had been conducted that way. some of it probably was, but i hadn't been ready for it yet. too bad. my loss.
even as i read these doctoral level syllabi, i'm preparing a syllabus for my own freshman writing class, thinking about how to make it work as a discussion-based writing workshop, when i know that not every student will have read assigned essays. according to the new staff orientation i went to thursday afternoon, not every student will be purchasing the text immediately. financial aid checks to cover textbooks will not have been issued to every student who needs them by the first day of classes. another adjustment, another allowance i will have to make. and come up with a way to accommodate those students and include them in class discussions until they have the money to join fully.
i don't expect my professors to make such allowances. they do not expect me to enroll in these courses without buying the books and making the commitment of time and effort. each one requires me to write an article (25 to 30 pages) that would be of interest to the academicians in each field: history of education, educational planning and policy, and educational research. i know there are topics in each of those fields that i myself am interested in. i will have to choose topics carefully. no one will want me to spend this kind of time unless it is a question i need to learn about.
i hope i can translate this attitude, this approach, into my expectations of my writing students. i want to help them write for college level courses, so it should be about topics they are interested in and studying, if not this fall then next spring. their writing should come from questions they have. their writing should come from what they find out when they investigate their questions of interest. they will need help, as i do, with their research and reading. they will need help summarizing or paraphrasing. they will need help with attributing thoughts to their sources; that is, where did they learn this or that fact? how did that source contribute to their own thinking about the topic? how can they best show that relationship when they present their ideas in writing?