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I welcome students readers to this blog. However, be aware that, although I do not use anyone's actual name, the descriptions of behaviors and conversations are not disguised. This is a space in which I may rant, vent, and otherwise express responses that I would do my best to mask or at least tone down in professional interactions with students. This is my personal, gloves off, no holds barred, direct from the gut expression of what it feels like to do my job. If you think you might be hurt or offended or upset by that, read no further. The person I'm ranting about could be you.


Hi! And you are...?

My readership has suddenly blossomed, which is a lovely development--but I don't know who is reading the blog, how you found it, and why you find it interesting. I'd love to hear from you! Please feel free to use the "comment" box at the end of any particular post to let me know what brought you to this page--and what keeps you coming back for more (if you do).

Not you, Barry. You already told me--and thanks!






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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Pulling the plug early

I have officially concluded my day here in the office, and although I "should" stay long enough to load up my wheelie pack for class tomorrow--and the part of my conscience that gets itchy way too easily is saying, "You know, Prof. P, you should probably do some work on all those discussion boards...," but I'm choosing to refuse to scratch that itch.

Being a bit slow on the uptake, especially when it comes to self-awareness, I have not realized until recently that the reason I used to have more time in the evenings to do things like, oh, exercise, is because I used to routinely take work home over the weekends. That's the calculus: I can have most of my weekends free of work if I stay in the office until past 8 p.m. every night, or I can get home early enough to practice the fiddle (which has replaced exercise in the equation of X number of waking hours in a day and Y number of things to do)--but if I get home early enough to practice, I have to work on the weekends. Pick your poison.

And, yes, I know there will be weeks when I end up doing both: staying in the office late and working at home on the weekend. But usually I'll be able to make the choice--and whenever possible, as long as I'm learning to play an instrument (a difficult instrument at that), I need that time in the evenings. That or routinely have dinner after 10 p.m., which also doesn't seem like a good way to crunch the numbers.

When I was talking to the barking-fit-inducing young woman in Advisement yesterday, I had to explain to her in all seriousness that being an adult means having to make decisions--and often the decision to do one thing means not doing something else. Or having one thing means going without something else. Decisions have consequences. Choices are that: a choice, and unlike on multiple-choice tests, rarely is the option "all of the above."

So. That's about this evening and my desire to drain the soapy water of the day.

Class was good. Small, but good. Today I was particularly happy that only one student sat silent during the class discussion. A few others who have been reticent to share their ideas prior to today suddenly found the courage and encouragement to speak up. One I had rather pegged as a lunk turns out to be OK: he had a pretty great idea in his group, and he shared it with the class. Even the resistant student seemed pretty open today, not snotty at all. The armchair psychologist in me suspects he has Mommy issues, but he seems to understand that I'm not an authority figure against whom he needs to defend himself but someone who is open to his ideas.

My only concern about that class right now is that it seems I may have already lost one of the students who looked set to be among the absolute brightest and best. He never submitted his first reading notes, though I could see they were extensive and his class contributions were excellent--but I haven't seen him in a week. I just sent him an email, letting him know I'm concerned about him and hope he will get in touch (and return to class). There's also a young man who has been chronically late--and significantly late. I spoke with him after class, and he just hasn't been allowing himself enough time for his commute. I suggested he plan to be on campus 30 minutes early, so he can do some studying. If he misses the study time, oh well; at least he'll be on time to class. He said he'd do that. We'll see.

P&B was a lot of the usual routine for fall: assigning mentors for people going up for sabbatical or for promotion, figuring out who would observe whom (which reminded me that I need to let an adjunct know I'll be observing her class: brief time out for that), that sort of business. However, Cathy did let us know that the admin, in their infinite wisdom, have decided to hide all classes for which there is as yet no classroom. That means 1. We can't tell what FT faculty schedules look like without comparing several disparate documents--and even then we may not have the latest information about any changes, and 2. Because we can't clearly tell how many sections we have of anything, and how many of those sections are already staffed, we can't make adjunct assignments. I might note here that because of the early start to the semester, Cathy and I will have a week in which to do all the scheduling of adjuncts--which usually takes at least two weeks--so they can sign their contracts in time before the start of classes. It is therefore especially important that we get a jump-start on assigning adjunct courses, which we can't do now because many of our courses are hidden. No rationale was given for this, by the way; it is mysterious to me how this decision could possibly benefit anyone at all, never mind the way it utterly stymies our ability to do our work. I said in P&B and repeated to Paul--and will continue to repeat--this may be an instance in which we just need to drop the football, or at least threaten to. My advice was to tell the admin that we simply cannot get the schedules all sorted in the two weeks between the start of January and the first day of classes, so if we can't see all our courses--room or no room--our faculty will be sitting in their offices (or at home, waiting for a contract, in the case of the adjuncts), not teaching anything, the first two weeks of the semester, until we can get all the schedules organized. And the students will either be wandering around campus lost or they simply will not be able to enroll because they don't see any open classes. (We're already suffering enrollment attrition--and some of it is because we can't offer enough sections of things because we have fewer and fewer FT faculty to teach them. Can you imagine if even more students can't find an open class in which to register?)

This isn't just a SNAFU, it's FUBAR.

This chair stands in the hallway, a metaphoric comment on the state of the institution.


And on that gleeful note, I'm outta here.

Monday, September 18, 2017

So young, so earnest, so ... slow

It's been a day of keeping careful control of my patience while dealing with students who are very young, very needy--and extremely slow on the uptake. I am more able to keep my patience because they are so obviously freshly hatched and wobbly, but it is a challenge when every explanation is followed by, "Wut? I don't unnerstand...."

It started with a young woman in Advisement. She was the hardest, partly because she's not my student but more because she kept going around the same circles--and changing the parameters. "All I care about is what classes to take in the spring." "OK, so here's..." "But don't I need a master's degree to get into law school?" "No, you don't, because Law is a ..." "I want to get my undergrad in psychology." "Ok, well look into what the requirements..." "So I want to take classes that will get me the psychology degree." "Do you want your associate's degree first?" "Yes." "OK, so here's..." "But this is all stuff I took in high school." "I think there are some differences..." "Don't I need more science?" "Well, yes: you need a lab and a non-lab science..." "But will those help with my psych degree? Because what I really want to do is teach." "I thought you wanted to get a law degree." "After I get an MBA." "Why do you want the MBA?" "Because don't I need it to get into law school?"

If you want to run around barking, you can imagine how I felt. It went on for, I kid you not, at least 40 minutes. Forty. Four Zero. Round and round and round....

I don't remember if I saw any other students in Advisement. I may have, but she took the bulk of the time when I was seeing students and not working on my own stuff. Oh, and I didn't mention: she said she just wanted someone to pick for her; she didn't want to have to choose courses. I told her, "Welcome to being an adult." She thought I was kidding at first, until I essentially told her that she'd better grow up and fast.

But I didn't strangle her, even a little.

Both my 101s met in the Library today, for their "information literacy" sessions. The first one was more efficient and clear for the students, but at least five students were very late--one of them one of my favorite students in the class. (Oh, I remember now: I saw him in Advisement, too. That was actually fun.) One of the students couldn't remember his password to log on to the campus computers. He'd texted his mom, but she wasn't answering. He looked on the verge of tears, and said, "I know I'm going to get in trouble..." I asked him whether he could learn what he needed to by sitting next to someone and watching or whether he'd do better by himself. He thought he'd do better doing the driving, but he needed to call his mom (not just text), and he was afraid I'd be mad if he went out of the class to call her. I said, "Well, College Student 101: It's time to start remembering your own password. But go ahead and call your mom." "You won't be mad?" (Inside: not any madder than I am already.) "Not in this case, no. Don't make a habit of this, but right now, go ahead and call her."

When he finally got back and logged in, I had to walk him through about 14 steps to get to where the rest of the class was--and I know he won't remember any of them, because they went by too fast. He's just lost, poor little lamb, and I can't do much to save him: "Leave them alone, and they will come home," but I don't think there will be any wagging tails. I'll be relieved if he figures out how to get, well, anywhere.

And there was another lost lamb in the second class. That student also has a vision disability, so part of what was happening was that he couldn't see the computer he was sitting at and couldn't see the projected images from the computer the librarian was working on. I found that there was a computer that had a "zoom" function, and we fiddled around with the screen settings so he could see at least a little better, but he was not absorbing anything, and I mean anything, the librarian was saying. I grant you, the librarian was pretty confusing to just about everyone, but most of them could at least follow the keystrokes and "click here" things--and the issue wasn't entirely visual with this student. Even talking to him about things, it's clear that he computes slowly and not very well. And my stuff is complicated and I work fast. Not a match made in heaven, unfortunately, but I'll do what I can to help all the lost lambs.

The best news of the day was that I did get everything marked to return to the 101 students. There is a fighting chance I can get the homework marked for the SF class tomorrow before class, too, which would be great. That would then free me up to grade discussion boards, on which I am woefully behind. But c'est la guerre.

Now, however, I need to make sure I have rounded up all the stuff that goes home with me (water bottles and the like) and I need to go make horrible noises on a stringed instrument. And I suddenly realize I am overwhelmed with gratitude that I have the time, money, and interest to put myself through the wonderful torment of learning to play the fiddle at my age. I'm rather proud of the way I live my life outside of work, quite honestly, and I am not unhappy with how I deal with the work component, either, despite all the bitching in this blog.

More tomorrow, good lord willin, and all that.


Friday, September 15, 2017

Surprise! Friday post!

I bailed on my riding lesson today, as my back is kicking up a fuss (and bouncing around on a horse is not great for my back even when it's being quiet)--and I very nearly bailed on getting any work done, as I was sucked into several vortices along the way: the vortex of life maintenance, the Facebook vortex (to my shame, but it is true), the vortex of other work calls ("Oh, shit; I forgot I agreed to review that manuscript...").

But I did get the Blackboard SNAFU cleared up (and it was a "my bad" moment, though the kind and patient woman at the help desk did, ultimately, agree that something weird was going on and was as mystified as I by how students could end up in the wrong place). And I did at least get the first of the required set of discussions read and evaluated. I only have six more to do... (Oh, Christ, why do I set myself up for this madness?)

As I was responding to students' posts, I realized that it's probably a good idea for me to read them all first and see if there's a comment that rightfully needs to be made to a majority of the students, then make such a comment in a discrete thread that I start, instead of finding myself repeating variations on the same comment in response to each individual student's post. That will take some discipline, but it's probably worth the effort, as I think it will save time in the long run.

I also realize that I cannot respond to every post. I just can't. Even as fast as I type--and as tossed off and casual as the responses may be--it's simply prohibitively time consuming. I made that overall comment on one of the forums (fora? boards? whatever). I'll have to remember to say something about it in class, too.

Circling back to the repeated comment: most students completely misread a sentence in the "quotation for consideration." They assumed the author was talking about routes to becoming a good citizen and missed that he was talking about the value of various kinds of education, specifically connecting education in critical thinking to the development of citizenship. But even that's better than the ones whose response was so vague and general, they could have been responding to a prompt that read "Write two inane sentences of cliche-ridden, grammatically incorrect comment on education."

Sigh. Well, the quotation does emphasize that teachers who insist on accuracy of thought inculcate that habit of mind in their students, so I pointed out that my insistence that they say something specific was simply doing what W. G. Sumner says a good educator does.

I did start reading the self-evaluations (before I hit the wall and turned to blogging instead), and the first one I read broke my heart. The student is from Nigeria, and relates that he has only spoken English at school, never at home. His written English is riddled with errors: I'm not sure at all how he ended up in my classroom when he clearly should be in an ESL-dedicated class--but if he didn't self-identify as a non-native speaker of the language, current testing might well have missed the clear pointers. I just sent an email to the ESL coordinator, asking for her guidance in what to do about the ESL issue, but what broke my heart is this:

"The whole situation [of English class in America] was different from what I was used to. I discovered we are all strange to one another; the whole class was calm like grave yard. Most of the student were busy fumbling with their phones. I look around to see may be I would see someone to chat with but nobody seemed care to realize that. I felt like a lost animal in a jungle."

He then goes on to say that he realized that because he knows "British English," and because American English is so different, he feels lost most of the time. I'm not sure what's so confusingly different--but the fact that he felt so lost and alone, and that he got so little response from his classmates, made me sad. However, I did notice that he glommed on to a young woman in the class, asking her for help and clarification--which she's been happy to provide (and she's a smart cookie, so he made a good choice there). Further, and even more heart-warming, another of his classmates responded to his post with great kindness, understanding, and the offer to be helpful. That student is also very smart--one of the best minds in the class--so I hope between all of us, the poor lost man feels less lost and alone.

So that's the state of things. When I sent the email to the ESL coordinator, I saw that I have a number of emails from students with various minor questions, so I'll answer those (and otherwise clear out my work email inbox), then I will put my professor brain into hibernate mode and get on with Friday evening.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Practicing a little gratitude...

Class today took place in a sauna. Well, actually, simply in a classroom with no AC on what turned out to be a relatively hot and very humid day. It was miserable--but as I left, wanting to bitch about it, I remembered to be grateful that 1) there is a classroom in which I meet my students, and it's the same classroom both days when class meets; 2) said classroom has enough desks for the students; 3) said classroom has a white board and a chalk board, as well as a desk and chair for me. On the first day of the semester, not all of my colleagues could say the same--and many still can't say that their classes meet in the same room for both class meetings. This is because the administration, in their infinite wisdom, rented one of the buildings in which we frequently held classes and closed another for "renovations"--which haven't even started yet (and which, mysteriously, despite there being plenty of money in the budget for it, won't include replacing the windows--because they're "new," having been installed in the 1960s). The registrar assured all the department chairs whose classes would be affected that 1) in most institutions, the registrar "owns the real estate," so no department has certain rooms in which that department's classes meet (unlike what has been the case here since the institution was created), and 2) that there were plenty of rooms. It's the reverse of the Mad Hatter's tea party: "Plenty of room! Plenty of room!" "But ... there isn't any room."

Ah, well. Signs of the times.

I will say that at first I thought--through the combination of class chemistry (which seemed to be lacking) and heat (which truly was excessive)--the class would be one of those when I need a hydraulic jack to get the students up of the intellectual floor. I will say only one of the groups was overflowing with things to talk about--but they were sort of the A team, based on what I'd seen in their notes or heard from them in previous classes. The A team, by the way, included the young man I was so peeved about on Tuesday--and his demeanor was at least mostly different today. He was a bit snotty about the "statement of self-defined goal" assignment (a preliminary writing assignment that asks the students to set for themselves something specific they want to get out of the semester)--he hadn't done it because he could only come up with two sentences, he reported. But once the group got talking, he was animated and engaged. And despite the lack of energy in the other groups, the discussion actually was quite good and got into some pretty high-falutin' territory: Frankenstein's creature as his shadow (we didn't use the word doppelganger), or as a metaphor for his loneliness (a contribution by the sometimes snotty student); Frankenstein's youth contributing to his ego and his lack of willingness to take responsibility for his creation and its (his) actions.... and so on. Fun. Felt like being a real teacher for a little while.

No, I do my 101s a disservice. I feel like a real teacher there, too; we're just working on a different kind of material and at a different level. I do notice, however, as I am marking their discussion board posts, that they haven't really read the directions about discussion boards--not surprisingly, I suppose, as the directions are much longer than the students' attention spans. But I do need to go over the parameters again. (Just "I agree" isn't much of a response, either to the reading or to classmates' posts--and before you can agree or disagree, you'd better be sure you actually understand what the other person meant.) And I've discovered some kind of glitch in Blackboard, or in how I set things up. Too technical to get into here. If you use Blackboard and are interested, post a comment, and I'll explain--especially once I have a chance to contact the SUNY help desk and get the problem solved.

But the fact that I do need to get the problem solved means that I have to take some class paperwork home with me. And tomorrow, I need to read and score more of the discussion boards, as more deadlines will have passed. So, I figured, what the hell and put all the homework I've collected in a tote bag to tote home with me. I hope to put in a good stint at it tomorrow, and possibly more over the weekend--at least enough to tell what I can reasonably expect to get done on Monday before my classes.

And wham: just like that: I hit the wall. Just now. Hit the "enter" key, and entered a state of "stick a fork in me" doneness. Even though I'll be working (some) tomorrow, I probably won't post; I'll work right up until I have to leave to continue trying to learn how to ride a horse (a usefully humbling experience in all sorts of ways). Maybe I'll post on Sunday. More likely not. So, I wish you all bon weekend.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

History has been made today!

Scene: 2:00 section of ENG101.

Most students present (though a few were tardy).

Careful explanation of several handouts ("This one is required: for all required readings, you must annotate, produce expanded notes, and write a discussion board post." "This one is extra credit. Do not do annotations or expanded notes. Simply write a discussion board post if you would like." And so on.)

Student information index cards filled out and collected.

Then, the professor asks the dreaded question, "Is there anyone here who does not have the articles with annotations and expanded notes for today's discussion?" A little clarification ensues: yes, I'm trying to determine whether everyone in the room does, in fact have the homework.

And--here's the historic moment--everyone did. Not a single student was in the room without the homework. In the entire history of my career, I don't think that has ever happened--especially not in a beginning comp class in the first full week of the term. I told them that they had just made history (and that the class would feature prominently in tonight's blog post). I was thrilled. Of course, the homework produced by some of the students will be problematic in various ways, but ... my god. Everyone had the homework. I was positively gob-smacked.

But wait: it gets better.

It happened again. Well, OK, in the 5:00 class, a few of the students had neglected the expanded notes part, or only had them for one of the two articles--but everyone had at least done the reading and came to class with annotations, ready to talk.

I don't want to get too cocky and think that this has anything to do with anything I actually did; I think it was just one of those miraculous alignments of heavenly bodies and feng shui and sheer, dazzling coincidence, but man, that felt good. And the best part was that their preparation showed. I put them in groups and the conversation took off--in both classes, even the 5:00 section. The students in the 5:00 class are still less likely to laugh at my jokes (so I am correspondingly less jocular with them), but they were every bit as animated and involved in discussion, and I was delighted that some students who seemed a bit on the reticent side were not only talking but leading the conversation. Of course, the military veteran--the Firefighter, I'll call him, as that's what he does and wants to do--led a lot of the conversation, with intelligence and verve and knowledge from Hard Knocks University, but the level of involvement was wonderful, in both sections.

I am a happy woman at the moment--and as I don't want to damage the moment, I'm actually going to leave very soon here, despite the fact that there are about 50 things I could probably profitably do before going that would facilitate tomorrow's experience. However, I'm going to trust that between my arrival in the morning and class, and then again after class until I can close up the main office at about 7, I will have time to work and organize and get myself situated well enough.

So, I will make my farewell for this evening, and leave with a trail of glory--and gratitude to the Educational Gods--drifting in my wake. Life, my friends, is good.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

"I have chosen the words 'spelunking,' 'fungible,' and 'spork'..."

So said the wonderful Scott, in prefacing his report at our department meeting, saying that he would respond in the theme of the meeting. He is a wonderful and rare example of an academic who can be simultaneously genuinely funny, cogent, and concise. Nice to have a few laughs in the meeting, before it devolved into a food fight over observations and the need to adhere to specific requirements for syllabi. (I left early. I saw that the usual suspects were about to get exercised in ways that would piss me off and decided retreat would not only be a good diplomatic move but would prevent an increase--even temporary--in my perceived stress levels.)

Shifting gears to the experience with students: Of the three young men whose first day in class was Thursday, only one remains; the one who showed signs of initiative and intelligence. I'm a bit disappointed to lose the one who was taking careful, step-by-step notes on what to do, but given the fact that he was concerned about becoming overwhelmed, I suspect he made a wise choice. One student who impressed me on Thursday by suddenly having interesting and insightful things to say showed a very different side today: he said he didn't own a pen (my response: "College Student 101: always have pens"), didn't have his homework (me (trying to sound friendly) "After today, this will be 'thanks for coming and see you next class'"; him (snotty tone of voice) "I'm aware of that."); spent the entire time in his group doodling, contributing absolutely nothing. But other students seemed to have more going on than I anticipated, and the major players are making their presence known.

Not to my surprise but somewhat to my discouragement, I could see that the first set of notes from most students was woefully inadequate, despite all I'd done to try to set up for them what they need to do--both in terms of the concepts and in terms of the process. I talked about it again. I will no doubt need to talk about it again. And again. And again. The words "detailed" and "specific" seem to be the verbal equivalent of "blah blah" to many of them.

This happens every semester. Every semester. I am completely, utterly, out of ideas for how to convey what's needed. I've tried everything I can think of--short of working with each student individually, which obviously I can't do.

Sigh. Well, moving on.

P&B was interesting, too. We have two brand-new members--and a lot to work out in regard to the aforementioned foo-raw over observations and syllabi. Fun and frolic, y'all.

I realize I have almost entirely already clocked my brain out for the evening. Fortunately, I think I'm pretty well packed up for tomorrow already; I think I have a general sense of what I want/need to do throughout the day. Usually, I'd be holding a seminar hour right now, but we haven't officially started holding them yet, so I'm going to send one more email (which I forgot about until I wrote the words "seminar hour"), then shut everything down and toddle off for the evening. And more to report tomorrow, I'm sure.

Monday, September 11, 2017

I need better shoes...

As I'm schlepping my wheelie-pack all over campus and up and down stairs, my body is beginning to protest (ouchy back in particular). I am not a woman who is wild about shoes, but I have tended to opt for style over comfort. No longer. I draw the line at wearing running shoes with my skirts (or anything that's too clunky: a modicum of elegance is still important to me), but I really do have to go on a quest for shoes that are more congenial to the demands on my bones and cartilage.

That aside.

Both classes today went pretty well. I was a trifle annoyed that a number of students did not have the homework ready for today--many because they couldn't get the book (this despite my having said and written on the syllabus and all but tattooed on their foreheads that the book is available in the library). I gave them a one-time-only offer of submitting the homework late. I'm going to be pretty fierce about that from here on, however: if anyone comes to class without the homework on Wednesday, it will be "Thank you for coming in, and I'll see you next class; that's one of your allowed absences for the semester." (Freaking out and wild-eyed panic ensue.) But the ones who had done the homework were ready to talk about what they'd read with intelligence, even in the 5:00 class, which seemed more inert the first day.

I also got through exactly everything I had planned to do today. That isn't always a foregone conclusion, and there was a lot on the slate today, so having gotten it all done was a good thing.

However (and there seems to always be a "however"), a number of students are utterly, completely confused about the fact that some assignments are submitted in class and some happen online--and a number don't understand where and how to locate discussion boards despite 1. Written directions in a handout (OK, that's hopeless: they can't read complex instructions. After two sentences, they stop paying attention) and 2. A live demonstration in class today. Yes, it's a little complicated. It's also spelled out very carefully in the assignment schedule. I also went over it slowly, clearly, step by step, in class today. It's also in handouts. If there are any other bases I need to cover, I'd be grateful if someone would show me where they are and demonstrate how to cover them.

Clearly I will need to go over assignments very carefully for a while (repetition, repetition, repetition)--but I also need to continue to remind them that they need to be detail oriented, and read. And be detail oriented. And read. (Repeat ad infinitum.)

But circling back to the homework thing: I am again confronted with the downside of actually using written work as an evaluative measure of how students are doing in the class--because once I assign it, I have to mark it. I grant you, what I collected today was pretty teensy in the comparison to the deluges of work I'll be dealing with further down the line, but still: I collected assignments. Now I have to read them and at very least assign a point value. Bugger bugger bugger.

A couple of students were new to class today. One will make it. The others, probably not. This is a crash course in letting go of the high school mentality. And I haven't even shown them the "backward brain bicycle" video yet (something I take great delight in doing).

Yes, ladies and gents, I'm going to mess with your heads--on purpose, but not because I'm a sadist. I'm going to do it because you need to be shaken up like a snow globe.

One student in the 2:00 class is terrific in terms of making sure she has what she needs to do the work she has to do. She's keeping careful track of what I have handed out and what I have not--and I think it was reassuring to her to see that she can locate handouts on  Blackboard, if I haven't given her something she wants to get rolling on. I know her name (though I haven't come up with a blog moniker for her yet). I'm starting to learn names, at least of the ones who are contributing to class. It will take me about another week or so to learn everyone: thank god for photo rosters. We'll see who turns out to be of enough interest to become a blog character as well as a student in class.

And now it's a hell of a lot later than I wanted to be here tonight--but I'm not entirely unhappy about it, as Paul and I actually got to have a bit of a talk. I will see William less frequently: he's gone 50% online, so his days on campus are reduced, as are the number of hours in any given day that he's around when he is on campus. We'll have to make the best of the moments when all three of us are here together. Tomorrow may provide brief opportunity for that: we have a department meeting, and Cathy made a point of reminding us that attendance is mandatory, contractual.

I'm sure there are other things I could say and do before leaving, but I want to get home and put in at least a little time doing my own homework of fiddle practice. It's appropriately humbling--and uses parts of my brain that otherwise don't get much exercise. So, off I go.