Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Day 04 (Round IV) "In the trenches": TR edition

Our method, staffing, assignments, and weekly schedules have evolved a lot, 'round here, over the nine years I've had the gig.

When Dharmonia and I arrived in Fall 2000, I was replacing the senior Music History faculty member, and division chair. At that time, the person I was replacing was teaching the 2-semester undergraduate music history sequence, which was required in the sophomore semester, following-up (more or less) on the 2-semester freshman "Introduction to Music" course. It was a pretty darned redundant system, made more so by the facilities limitations that meant the sophomore class had to be taught in two sections, one meeting MWF 11-11:50am and the other meeting MWF 1-1:50pm--they didn't, at that time, have room in their schedule to permit Music History to teach all 100 freshmen or 100 sophomores in one larger lecture section--which you would think would be more efficient, wouldn't you?

So I took over the teaching of that undergraduate sophomore course, with two daily sessions MWF, plus a single grad course per semester: it was still a lighter load (3 courses, but only 2 preps) than many of my newly-minted colleagues elsewhere.

Over the course of the next few years, we made all manner of changes, and it's a matter of continuing appreciation for this man's class, grace, perspective, and support that so many of them were encompassed so readily and receptively. We got the undergraduate history requirements revamped so that the 4 freshman and sophomore semesters were chunked-out 1 (introductory) + 3 (Music History I: The Common-Practice Period, Music History II: The Early Period; Music History III: The Modern Period); we got the two 11am and 1pm sections collapsed into a single large-lecture section, more efficient for lecture purposes; we got the weekly schedule worked out for a MW lecture and F discussion section, so that the kiddos got the benefit of both lectures with the professor (and the professors got the challenge of ramping-up their approach to encompass those larger numbers), and the musicology grad students could get some instructor-of-record-in-the-classroom experience; we significantly ramped-up the academic standards and the skill-set we demanded of the undergrads; we improved communication and convergence with colleagues and content in Music Theory and on the studio side; we vastly expanded the digital and multi-media delivery, including especially the Web 2.0 methods that the kiddos know and respond to; hell, we even got the department renamed, and were transformed from "-orians" to "-ologists"--which was long overdue.

Now, with the other senior colleague's well-deserved retirement, and a new hire, we have a crew of 4 musicologists, each equipped to teach 1 semester in the undergrad sequence on the topic area of her/his specialization, thereby parsing-out the load of teaching 100 kids and grading 100 multi-stage research projects so that each of us only has to do it once a year. In turn, this means that each of us can teach two upper-level courses one semester and one upper-level course in the second. This means we get more diversity for the kiddos, more topic choices to maintain individual faculty members' interest and research. It means that we're moving toward an expanded interest in, and recruitment for, our Musicology graduate program.

Finally, it means, for the first time in almost ten years, that I myself actually don't have to teach on those MWF days. I'm in the "two grad seminars" semester of my rotation (will teach 1 grad and the "Modern Period" semester of the undergrad sequence in the spring), and both of those seminars meet on the TR rotation.

I have never experienced this: where I can alternate service & business days versus teaching days. Be it said: it doesn't mean any less work--I'm still there five days a week, and I still work a hell of a lot at night and on the weekends--but it does mean that the days can be laid out in much bigger chunks of discrete, uninterrupted time. If I want to, I can say "Friday is the day for my own research"--which wouldn't be a bad idea, as I have a lot of away-weekends this year, and so a travel-Friday which sacrificed my own research is better than missing and having to make-up a bunch of student meetings--and be reasonably confident that I don't even have to be on campus that day.

I have never experienced this.

It also means that, because free at least for a semester of the daily 2 to 2 1/2 hours of busy-work that the undergrad courses demand, I can give another whole day, 9am-4:30pm in the "Satellite Office" of the campus coffee shop, to getting a hell of a lot more service work done, and do it better.

And can finally teach the semester's graduate seminars (as least one of which I've taught four times before) with the range and depth I've known they deserved.

Can sit down with the administrative assistant whose grant-funding we managed to secure last spring, and, in an hour, give her a laundry list of 16 or 17 Vernacular Music Center development initiatives I've had in mind for years, and then stop thinking about them.

There is so much more still ahead of us to be accomplished. Which, for the first time, we can now just begin to act upon, with the hours, effort, focus, imagination that 9 years of revision, revamping, and re-conceiving our role have finally made possible.

This is just the beginning.

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