Tuesday, August 18, 2009

On Getting Oriented, Part 1 - The Numbers

by Emily May Anderson

So, after two days of orientation, I must say that I feel much more prepared to teach than I did last time I posted. I promise to come back and reflect more fully on the orientation process over the weekend (in other words, when the orientation process is complete), but for now, here is an overview of Penn State’s orientation for graduate instructors…

22 – MA/PhD track students in orientation
6 – MFA students in orientation
0 – difference in how we are treated

1 – section/course of freshman comp we will teach this first semester
24 – max number of students in the course we will be teaching

15 – hours spent in orientation over the first two days
22 – hours scheduled for orientation later this week
3 – books to be used in the class (a rhet comp text, a grammar manual, and a PSU-specific collection of student writing)
484 – pages in the instructor binder of helpful material
2 – types of syllabi provided to us (1 ready to give students, 1 fully annotated for instructors with suggestions for exercises, and references to the binder, etc.)

1 – full week of orientation
1 – credit hour class that will guide us through teaching this whole semester
4 – new students per “teaching mentor” (an upper level PhD student who’s been successful as a graduate instructor and will meet with us once every couple weeks and answer any questions we have)

Those are all the number I can come up with right now, but suffice it to say, that orientation is a LOT of information, but that the support/training we have as instructors is multi-layered and will be ongoing throughout the semester. It seems pretty comprehensive.

We got our keys, office assignments, and course schedules yesterday so I got to see where I’ll be teaching and where my office is. We grade our first sample papers tomorrow. Exciting stuff! Oh, and I'm teaching on MWF from 4:40-5:30pm, kind of an odd time frame, but we'll see how it goes, I guess.

Anyway, I’ll report back again after the week is over. My brain is a bit full right now. Hope everyone is having good luck with their preparations, moving, settling, orientations, classes, or wherever you are in the process!!!!


  1. Thanks for sharing your orientation experience! I've been dying to know how it's going for everyone. Penn State gives A LOT of info to grad instructors. That has to be a comfort. I can't wait to hear about your first class! Good luck with the sample essays!

  2. Wow! that is terrific. My one regret with doing a low-res MFA program was that I didn't receive as much hands on teaching experience, so just inventing that on my own now :)

    Break a leg!

  3. Hey Emily! I'm glad to hear that orientation has been a positive experience for you! I'm hoping mine is, too.

  4. Thanks, everyone! I just graded my sample papers. It took me a good two hours to grade four papers, but that also included me familiarizing myself with the grading criteria and the details of each individual assignment. Now I'm off to bake cookies!

    (And just to add to my record of orientation - today we spent the morning talking about PSU technologies, both as they relate to us as students and as instructors, lunch was provided by the library, then we got a presentation from them and a brief tour, then spent a couple hours going over grading philosophy, goals, etc and more teaching tips).

  5. Emily I am happy to hear about your experiences with orientation thus far. I am starting my orientation in two weeks or so, and I am eager to compare our program's different approaches.

  6. Tory - I also will be interested in comparing notes. And I can't wait to hear your perceptions of Columbus! I miss that town already - the one gay bar in State College helps, but it's not really the same ;)


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