There are too many numbers here.


Or, GCSU vs. NAU orientation/teaching

Friday, August 14th, 2009 by Rachel

GCSU’s teaching orientation was much different than NAUs. For one thing, when I arrived at NAU, there were 40 Eng. 105 instructors. Here—13. Just the size of the programs alone leads to different handling of a lot of the administrative kind of stuff. I don’t even have a copy limit (not that I ever ran out of copies anyway), and I was simply asked to use copies in moderation.


Some of you remember the crazy two weeks of NAU orientation. Here, orientation was squeezed into three days, two of which were half days.


I’m glad that I already have two years of teaching under my belt. Eng. 105 was a four hour course with a ridiculous workload for students (and me to grade!), but I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to teach such a variety of essays during my time at NAU, as the requirements here at GCSU are much less strict and I have a LOT of freedom. I’ve basically developed my syllabus on my own, minus a skeleton/recommended readings/etc. We aren’t even all using the same textbook. After the first year, teaching fellows can choose whatever they want! Super weird.


Just to give you an idea of a 105 semester, last fall and spring I taught the following writing projects to my students:

  • 1 3-5 page rhetorical analysis essay
  • 1 3-5 page informative essay
  • 1 3-5 page analytical paper
  • 1 3-5 page short argument paper
  • 1 prospectus and annotated bibliography
  • 1 8-10 page extended argument paper
  • 1 4-6 page reflective letter/essay
  • PLUS: I had to review everyone’s complete portfolio at the end of the semester.


I was responsible for essentially eight writing projects per 105 semester at NAU. (And my grading load got a little funkier in the semesters when I taught 205 & Intro to Poetry).


Here, I am “downsizing” to teaching two 3 hour sections of Eng. 1101, and each class will be writing 4 essays (plus I’m tossing in a prospectus/annotated bib to help build up to the research paper unit). This is going to be a piece of cake! I’m got so much free time to work a couple “fun days” into the curriculum. I plan on having at least one rhetorical triangle/rhetorical appeals day examining advertisements in the first few weeks. I’m even going to squeeze in some “scary” reading assignments for Halloween week!


The only required essays are a personal narrative and a research paper. The other two are up to us. I was placed in a “grade inflation” group to choose one essay, and we picked comparison/contrast (which brings back memories of teaching synthesis in fall 07/spring 08! My favorite unit that year!). I think I want the other essay to maybe be persuasive? I’m not positive on that, so I’ll figure it out tomorrow.


Orientation at NAU was sort of depressing to me. And I don’t mean this as an insult to either orientation or the people who were there. That was a really stressful two weeks outside of orientation. I had family staying with me (5 people in a 2 bedroom apartment is a tight squeeze!), Derrick had a job interview that week, still adjusting to being in a new town, etc. Inside orientation scared me too when I was confronted by the fact that I might be dealing with Navajo/Hopi writing issues, in addition to the other ESL dimension added by the large amount of Chinese students. And, of course, I’d never heard of the rhetorical triangle/appeals, and I couldn’t believe that I was teaching something so unfamiliar for the first unit! Of course, I got the hang of all of this within the first few weeks/months, but I haven’t had these pre-teaching jitters the way I did then… We’ll see if I still feel the same way 8:30 on Monday morning. :)


When I was walking to NAU campus one day, Sacha pulled over and gave me a ride to campus. I remember that being one of the only nice things that people did to try to make me feel welcome. Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think Derrick and I hung out with anyone or attended a party in Flagstaff that first year until Neesha & Alex’s Halloween bash. It was a tough first few months.


Already here, we attended a Wine & Cheese mixer on Wednesday. We were invited to a Game Night and wonton party/dinner/whatever tonight. (We’re not going to make it to either gathering, as D’s feeling a bit funky so we’re just going to turn in early). But I REALLY REALLY appreciate how friendly/supportive/happy all around people have been the past few days. I’m definitely in the right place.


  1. Interesting just how different the two approaches are. I have my orientation next week, so I can’t give my perspective yet, but it is 5 full days (9-5 every day except Friday. on Friday we end at 4:00 and then go to a party at the instructor’s home).

  2. Just went through 6 day orientation at Utah State University for 1010 teaching (starting the MA), and it was pretty intense. I feel like I got about a semester’s worth of knowledge out of it.

    I’ve never seen what happens on a college campus before 9:00 AM, and honestly, I missed about 30% of the two 9:00 classes I took throughout my entire undergrad. I’m teaching tomorrow morning, Monday, at 7:30 AM. This mean, I’ve realized with horror, that I necessarily have to wake at some time before 7:30 AM.

    Then I’m teaching at 9:30 AM, which is considerably less frightening.

    I’m thinking, though, that the early start time might lighten my work load. Fail 5 students and grade a lot fewer essays.

    The workload is structured for us, and it is highly recommended to us that we don’t alter any of the assignments our first semester, but I’ve been pleased by the little bit of a leash they do give us, as it translates to a sort of, “If things don’t work out, timing gets messed up, whatever, don’t sweat it.”

    The director of the writing program at USU is great, very chill, but really creative and helpful. He starts his classes with music (mostly 60′s 70′s era stuff) and developed a first assignment for the freshmen in which they create a CD or playlist of 6-8 songs and write essentially a personal essay explaining the songs. My model, the one I’m writing, just sort of goes chronologically and touches on my relationship to my father through music. It’s a really fun way to get these kids seeing that they dont have to hate writing, and I’m excited to teach it. It’s also nice because almost all the instructors end up starting their class with music, which might help kids relax and recognize that they DO appreciate good writing, in some form.

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