pteromys: Wishing fluffies (fluffies)
Pteromys ([personal profile] pteromys) wrote2010-07-23 07:07 am
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Sophomore and Junior Years in Review II: Delve

Sophomore year, I co-taught AP music theory for ESP's Delve program. I owe a lot to a much more competent coteacher and just-in-time formal instruction for anything I managed to achieve there.

That said, I had some problems. I struggled to get our two students to engage with the material (while one engaged his fingernail painfully with a folding desk). My more competent coteacher was in senior year and thus perpetually tired. My own energy felt like it was draining every Saturday when my parents brought my sister to Boston for NEC youth orchestra and I had to say, no, I wasn't going home because I had Delve the next day. By around February, I'd decided that I wouldn't teach again for Delve the next year.

At the end of April, when the next year's Delve directors were being nominated, at first it looked like there would be only one candidate. Having taught for the program, I voiced my concern:

  • me: Delve is a long program, and I think it'd be really hard to do it alone. Do you have a co-director in mind?
  • candidate: Not at the moment...
  • ESP chair: Hey, Andrew, I nominate you for Delve.
  • me: ...

Well, I got some encouragement from my friends. I rationalized that my sister would be coming here for college next year, so I'd feel less guilty about not going home on the weekends. Oh, and the original candidate had already been proven to be a much more competent director than I expected I could be, so I had backup.

A week later, ESP elected two directors: myself and a surprise candidate—another one of that year's teachers—who nominated himself on the day of the election. So when my junior year began, I found myself again occupied on Sundays. At least this time the music theory class was led by a much better teacher than me. (Since he just graduated, we're flailing in the dark for music theory teachers once again.)

Since my co-director was teaching and I wasn't, I was in charge by default once the year started. Alas, I was apparently bad at delegating, so he gradually fell out of the loop, leaving just me. Then the program suffered my neglect whenever my classes happened to be more demanding than usual. This way an embarrassing amount of information (and possibly boxes, textbooks, and worse) just vanished, never to be seen again, when I failed to be ready to handle it.

As it turns out, directing isn't any less stressful than teaching, especially when payment for AP exams is needed Thursday, SAO says (three weeks after you ask) that they'll authorize a check by Friday, the check doesn't arrive 'til Monday, and on Monday afternoon you're giving a team presentation on a 1/3 semester of a course's work. When I went to deliver said check in person, I called my teammates to warn them I might be late. After some discussion, the other team presenting that day graciously agreed to go first, and I'm quite happy they did—I made it to the classroom just as they were finishing.

(This story repeated itself when it came time to proctor AP exams. After hurrying back to campus from the test center, I arrived at the only other presentation I was giving all semester just in time to see the person before me finish.)

Often I look back and suspect the original candidate would have done a better job than I could... but I guess it's irrelevant now. All's well that ends, and so I've been trying close the book on Delve 2009-2010, to keep next year's directors from having to handle my year's unfinished business. The experience has been good for me in the sense that it's taught me much; but for ESP's sake and my own sanity, I don't think I'll direct another program.

So was it "really hard to do it alone"? You bet. I told me so.

[identity profile] got-ch3cooh.livejournal.com 2010-07-29 08:46 am (UTC)(link)
hmm... well, the last time I replied to one of your posts, I effectively wound up accidentally asking if you were gay and, at the same time, accidentally representing myself as an atheist. One who is not Andrew reading this comment might naively wonder how such a feat could have possibly been accomplished - for my part, I blame only myself and the great English tradition of ambiguous allegories.

But, I guess I'll risk it again... :

I actually wish that I had at least taught for Delve last year. I didn't teach much at all last year, which is unfortunate in the retrospect of how crappy parts of the year felt. Since, in addition to being a good experience most times I do it, teaching seems to be something that actually really grounds me and stabilizes my sense that I'm being productive.

I've also been spending a fair amount of time in the past couple weeks (having come back to not-entirely happy runs of Junction and HSSP) thinking about what makes directors feel good (or bad) about what they are doing and learning in the process of directing for ESP. Splash is a bit of a unicorn to me - a huge mess of organization, like a giant ship with hundreds of crew and thousands of parts and if you can even just get it to go straight without falling apart - that's what's expected/awesome success. But I can see how directing would appeal as a challenge to some types of people.

However, I like the smaller programs, where it feels, to me, like the directors can make choices and experiment with things that completely reshape the program. I also prefer sunfish and lightnings to almost any other boat I've ever sailed. (note: this metaphor contains ONLY references to directing ESP programs and sailing boats, I don't mean ANYTHING else)

In terms of these smaller programs (not too small, 100-400 students attend some of them) I usually encourage directors to teach - so that they interact with the students enjoying the program they've put together. And I think it's a lot better if the directors have gotten to teach for or at least see the program once before directing, so that they have an image in mind for how it should run, particularly, what they want to do better :). And then... well, most people I know are made happy by doing something very well, and are made fairly unhappy when they choose or are forced to do too many thing only mostly-ok instead. So, personally, when directing, I don't put anything else first - which lost me a UROP, a class or two... and possibly a double major in physics... but, in complete honesty, I think the trade was more than worth it.

Anyway, I've been trying to figure out how to reduce the number of directors who step away from a program saying that they never want to direct again... and, well, no easy answers, but, so far I've thought that maybe requiring teams of directors to sign up together - it would take coordinatation, to make sure the frosh get included properly in groupings, but I think the director-voting-in process for non-splash programs has failed too many times to be the right way to do things. It puts too much pressure on people. It's too last-minute. Meh - I'm just ranting, I'll think more on it and then possibly bring it up with ESP. :)

[identity profile] pteromys.livejournal.com 2010-08-04 03:03 pm (UTC)(link)
Hee. As awesome as the tradition is, I didn't intend any allegories this time; the story is sufficiently jumbled that I had enough difficulty telling it as-is. As for your previous comment, well... I eventually understood you, and the generic reader need not assume that responses to allegories are meant allegorically.

For me, classes ended up taking priority most of the time; so your perspective is particularly interesting, and I wonder if I'd have been able to convince myself to do it your way. Teaching at the same time might've helped too, though I suspected from the outset that I wouldn't be able to make enough time for both teaching and directing simultaneously.

I'm not sure that directors saying they never want to direct again is necessarily a bad thing itself. It might be a symptom of something we don't like—that is, of directors not coming out of a program feeling good about it—but I think it's fine if at the end of the day people decide they'd rather help in other ways and give the froshlings a chance to call the shots.