Step 47: Bargain with Constraints

I don’t know if I have expressed this explicitly before, but I love my job. I want to see my students try new things, to find that they enjoy a new discipline they previously know nothing about, then take enough pride in what they are learning to spend time on the assignments (…potentially to the detriment of their other classes). I see my students wanting to continue learning computer science, and I want to create courses to serve those needs.

Which is why it’s frustrating to hit constraints sometimes. Constraints such as class size, constraints such as how many courses I can teach in a year, constraints such as needing approval for new courses.

I mean, I get it. I know why these checks are in place. New courses needs to be approved so that they meet the standards for the rest of the curriculum. At Oxy, this approval comes from the Academic Planning Committee, which oversees all changes to curriculum and major/minor requirements, as well as pre- and co-requisite data. Even with the small size of Oxy, this committee is often swamped with work, and so approval often comes much later.

I also get the constraint on the number of courses I can teach, or probably more relevantly, the amount of time I should be spending on teaching, as opposed to research or service. I was recently approached by a senior colleague suggesting that I am trying to do too much – who was then promptly approached by a senior colleague of theirs and told the same. It’s amusing only in that we all want to hire people who throw themselves into their work, but we are then concerned that they will burn out or simply become overwhelmed.

And class size is the one I get the most. My course in the fall is again over-registered, and incoming freshmen have not even had a chance to do so. This one I do feel slightly guilty about, since even with my labs this semester, I felt I didn’t quite have time to spend with individual students and teams. If I had thought ahead or had more experience with registration, I would have reserved seats for incoming freshmen. As it is, since I do have a little wiggle room, I might expand the class just a little to get some freshmen in.

So I understand why the system is structured this way, and I even agree with the reasons. I just wish I or Oxy has more offer for students who want to continue with computer science, but are then hit by these constraints.

Step 47: Bargain with Constraints

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