Saturday, June 11, 2011

Most of my adjunct responsibilities involve teaching, but part is administrative. I advise new and nondegree students, and I am the keeper of enrollment. Some courses are required in all programs and are much in demand, so they are by permission of instructor. In a time of shrinking resources when extra sections can't easily be added (and it would impact quality to allow a graduate class to be huge), I have to watch and manage enrollments carefully. Elective courses may be in jeopardy of cancellation while students are clamoring for one of the requireds, even though they have several semesters to take all of them and they need to take electives too. I try to guarantee priority students get into what they need, and to prevent cancellations from happening.

I like planning, process and policy, and you might say I am comfortable with some aspects of bureaucracy (gasp), so being the gatekeeper is an easy role. It's defensible and fair, and that appeals to me. For the past couple of years I've been relying more and more on electronic tools for the tedious paperwork and other details of my system, and it has greatly improved and become more efficient.

Recently I have been releasing the permission numbers to students for fall. I have lists of numbers printed on paper from the records system. This year, I issued a bunch of numbers to students for the first class I was releasing. Almost immediately, I received an email from one of them, reporting trouble registering. That isn't uncommon, students often make mistakes when entering the number, or have holds on their records, or I could have sent them a number with a typo. I looked into it, compared my email to my list, didn't see anything wrong on my end. The problem persisted, however. Eventually I realized my error. The course number was "673" and I had issued the number from the list for "623," and not just for this one student, but for every student on the list.

That was a long preface for my point, which isn't about advisement or enrollment or adjuncting or stupid lists of numbers, because really -- who cares? The mistake isn't a big deal, except that the reason I made it was because I really did believe the 2 was a 7. I'd been struggling with not just the class number, but with every permission number on the sheet. I was bound to make many more errors, even when it is the list for the correct class number, because those numbers are so tiny!

Two years ago I went to the optometrist and got glasses after a couple of years of noticing I needed them. I had bought a few cheap pairs of reading glasses in the drugstore maybe a year before going in to get prescription ones. I was told by the doctor that I have a slight case of age-related astigmatism, and also that I needed reading glasses, but could get by with the over the counter lowest level strength pairs I'd been using if I preferred.

I decided to get two pairs of prescription glasses: bifocals and separate reading glasses. I also have five pairs of reading glasses from the drugstore (as I mentioned). This way I don't have to hunt for them. I knew I would probably not want to wear the bifocals all the time, if ever. (And that has been true, I don't like the bifocals and use them mostly for reading menus in restaurants.) I have glasses everywhere - in every room of the Castleton house, in Samsonville, on campus, and in my pocketbook (the latter is where I keep the bifocals).

So the trouble with the permission lists isn't because I am not using my glasses! I have a pair, 1.0 strength, right here, near the computer. What I need now is a 1.25 pair. Luckily I also have access to the records system, so I have figured out a work-around that is actually more efficient! I copy/paste the number right from the system to my response email. Now there can never be a mistake, whether due to poor vision or not.

I think having to wear reading glasses is the most irritating thing about getting older. Sure, there are other physical changes that can be no fun either, but reading glasses are taking away some of my pleasure in reading books. I was thinking about this last night, when I was reading Mark Twain's autobiography. The typeface is so small in that book! I know it isn't just me. But back in my 20/20 days, I would have consumed that book voraciously, tiny font size or not. I've had it since January - it would have been finished before spring classes started. I am not quite half-done, and even though it is a page turner, beautifully written, a pleasure content-wise...I am finding it a struggle.

Bob had been doing some traveling for work (which always means a blessed television-free spell submerged with a good book for me) and when he got home late last night, I looked up from Mr. Twain and whined "why would the editor decide to use a typeface this small? I know the book is very long and there already will be multiple volumes, but I would buy even more volumes if only the font was larger!" He replied, "maybe they are trying to incentivize getting a Kindle? Then you could make it any size you want."

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