And Then I Killed Another Tree

The first thing you learn when you are teaching five classes in a single term is that the piles are eventually going to win.

Even in the electronic age, teaching involves a lot of paper.  You’d think it wouldn’t.  Universities tend to operate on the assumption that we’re moving towards a “paper-free” format.  A couple of years ago, my university’s English department stopped printing out course outlines on the understanding that students would easily be able to access the outlines online and, if necessary, print them out themselves.  The result has often been that students don’t even look at the course outlines and then complain when their profs say, “The answer to the question you just asked me is in the course outline.”  However, the issue of handouts is even more problematic.

Three of my classes are focussed on analytical essay writing.  Such classes tend to require a lot of handouts.  Theoretically, I should be able to post them online and let the students bring them to class.  Realistically, when students are asked to print something out, a large proportion of them don’t.  Many of my students don’t bring their weekly readings to class even though they know we’ll be discussing them.  I generally just print off the handouts myself.  The result is that I’m always carrying around mountains of paper.  A given weekday will see me lugging several class lists, two or three textbooks, six or seven lectures (some of them old ones I just haven’t removed from the pile yet), six to eight course readings (ditto), thirty to eighty assignments (either newly collected, newly ready to be marked, or newly ready to hand back), and about two hundred sheets of paper including assignment instructions and various bits of helpful advice.  As soon as I shed a portion of the pile, another vast sheaf of paper arrives to take its place.  My backpack is as appalling heavy as it is mostly because of all the paper.

I’m not sure there is a solution besides, of course, tears.  I suppose a tablet might help, but somehow, I doubt it; I would still have to print most things out.  Perhaps someday I’ll be able to dive into a room full of paper the same way Scrooge McDuck dives into a room full of money in the intro to Duck Tales (woo-ooh).    I doubt that would be particularly fun, but it would be better than carrying the stuff around.

8 thoughts on “And Then I Killed Another Tree

  1. Perhaps you could project the relevant passages from the readings? Or do you require too much leafing through the pages?

  2. THEY need to be able to identify the relevant passages. If I TELL them where the relevant passages are, they’ll just passively be taking in information, not actively learning. They need to be able to leaf through the articles and figure out what the authors are doing and why.

  3. This term, we are accepting essays and problem solutions in pdf only. Then I grade them on my tablet, and send back the grade and feedback as annotations on the original pdf file. Then again, this is the Informatics Institute and it took us YEARS to become paper-free. (That is, with respect to assignments. We still take attendance on paper 😦 )

    Now you can delete it 🙂

  4. I did the calculation once. One tree produces a helluva helluva lot of paper. You almost certainly haven’t killed an entire tree yet.

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