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Note #121: Summer session ends (2018.7.30)

Last Friday, my students took their final exam, and with that—after what somehow seemed like both a very long time and a very short time—the summer class on the modern Korean short story was over. Today I marked their final exams and calculated the final grades, which means I am officially done.

I have mixed feelings about the class, though most of those feelings are positive. The twelve students I ended up with were a good group, and despite their very intensive schedule (on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, most of them had three hours of class in the morning followed by my three hour class in the afternoon, and one even had a further two hours of class after that) they were enthusiastic. It was a struggle at times when they were particularly tired, but we managed to battle through those times.

I was also fortunate enough to have a very capable TA for the class. I have one graduate student under my supervision at the moment, and she agreed to TA for me. In addition to doing the usual TA duties, she also pitched in during class and was a valuable teaching partner. Her role reminded me a bit of the TFs (teaching fellows) I witnessed at Harvard last year, who took a much more active teaching role than I am used to seeing with TAs, especially in Korea. At any rate, there’s no doubt in my mind that the class wouldn’t have been nearly as successful had it not been for my student.

My negative thoughts about the class are relatively few, and boil down to two things. Firstly, I should have made the class slightly less labor-intensive—the students had quite a bit to do for my class, which was only part of their very busy schedule. I had conceived of this class as a semester in miniature (as it did have the same amount of hours as a normal semester), but I did not take into account the effect of compressing a semester into a third of the usual time. If I do this again, I will definitely retool the class to require less work of the students.

The other negative thought is not really about the class itself, but simply regret that July is now over and I was able to get absolutely zero research done. Summer is a very important time when it comes to research, and having missed out on an entire month hurts. You might think that I still have the entirety of August remaining, and that is true, but even though the semester begins the first week of September, things start gearing up around the middle of the August. I will still have time to do research, but I will have much less than I normally would have. I knew this was going to be the case, of course, but it still hurts, especially considering how much I need to get done.

Still, all told, for as taxing as it might have been during this brutal summer, the class comes out as a net positive. The students also expressed their appreciation; some of them thanked in person when handing in their final exams, and I came into my office this morning to find a nice email from one student from Singapore, telling me that she really enjoyed the class and ended up learning more than she thought she would. That’s always nice to hear.

I’m writing this relatively brief note because HJ and I are leaving on a family trip tomorrow (with her sister and family) and will be gone for three days—this will likely be our only “vacation” this summer—and I wanted to get it out before then. I do have another entry in the works, but it has proven a bit tricky and I didn’t want to rush it. I only mention this because... well, I have been known to put a lot of work into an entry and then abandon it when I decide it is not worth posting. I have been tempted to abandon this one more than once, but for once I would like to see it through. So I’m putting this out there as a way to hold myself accountable.

In the meantime, I will try to recharge over the next few days (which may be a little difficult with two very young nieces around, but one can always hope) and then come back ready to get things done before September crashes the party. See you on the other side.

Send me your thoughts.

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