We're entering final exam week for the spring semester now. Some of the features and feelings of this time of year are easily understood by anyone who's ever been in school. There's pressure to respond quickly to student work, to get everything graded. Exams have to be created, proctored, and graded in short order. (Since I give assignments for collaborative final projects in lieu of individual tests given at a specific final exam period, I end up doing a lot more preparation and structuring ahead of time and monitoring of student progress during the two weeks or so that they are working, and much less reading through stacks of essays after the students have emptied the dorms.) There are commencements and banquets and deadlines for turning in final grades.
But here's what I'm up to that people who've never been on this side of the desk might not expect:
- Awards. Many departments give awards for outstanding student, or hold competitions for the best student work in a given area. My college gives special recognition to the senior theses that meet exacting criteria -- we can give as many awards as we like, or none at all. This year there are thirteen theses nominated by their advisers. The entire faculty reads the nominated theses, and the vote has to be unanimous for a thesis to win the award. One of the theses this year is a 200-page novel.
- Commencement x 3. Each faculty member is supposed to attend one of the 90-minute ceremonies held next Saturday. But as longtime readers of this blog will recall, the administration (including deans and associate deans) attend all three.
- Summer research. Every year I begin the summer break with plans to finish papers, submit proposals, and get an administrative handle on my various external duties with boards, encyclopediae, etc. And every year my year-round administrative position winds up actually taking twelve months instead of nine, and the stuff that gets me promoted but for which I am not paid takes a back seat. I've got high hopes for July, despite previous experience.