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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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Monday, May 21, 2018

Well, I was on campus...

Turned out there were some alarm bells ringing about summer schedules for adjuncts (three grievances filed, all of which turned out to be baseless, I think)--so Cathy asked me to get in earlier than planned. I was there a smidge before 10, and the problems were solved pretty quickly. Probably the most important thing I did was give Cathy someone to vent to (and provide a little diplomatic soothing in dealing with a possibly problematic person (how's that for alliterative)). She said she felt bad about dragging me in, but I assured her I had plenty of work to do upstairs in my office.

And I did go up to my office--but I looked at what I had to do and went, "Nah. I have to be back soon enough to get stuff from one of the students who is fulfilling an incomplete," so I just loaded the office plants into the car, made a quick grocery run, and came home.

I do have to do some work though, sooner than later. I've already eliminated one of the potential anthologies for the Native American Lit class (assuming, as always, that it runs). The anthology in question was skewed too heavily toward nonfiction, selected for heavily didactic purposes, which may be important but I generally dislike teaching with a sledge-hammer. It also comes loaded with apparatus--points for discussion, writing tasks, already set up, so the teacher doesn't have to do much thinking--but my opinion of the apparatus is that it's far too simplistic, clunky, and too much in the "I can relate because it reminds me of the time when I..." vein. Which we all know I despise.

So, one down, two to go.

But not now. Maybe not even this week, though maybe I will chip away at it a bit. At very least, I want to choose some different "traditional" material, get some examples from eastern nations, not skew so heavily toward west of the Mississippi (though I have in the past at least selected some Puebloan as well as Plains stuff, and a few Inuit traditional chants/songs). Thanks to my sister, I have a book that may be helpful in that area.

But, again: not now. Now, I am going to work on that sea-cucumber impersonation that I practice every summer.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Stick a fork in me

I cannot believe I am actually finished, but I am. All grades calculated and completed and submitted and everything. I'm waiting for the screaming to commence--it surely will--but I may get a few "thank you for saving me" messages, too, from a few people who got mercy D's.

The 101 was a complete disaster. Apart from the student who is getting an incomplete, and who might be able to pull off a B, the high grade for the semester was a D+.

The Nature in Lit was the opposite extreme--and has me already considering how to reconstruct the point values: a few students got artificially inflated grades just because they managed to turn in all their discussion boards. One of them didn't even get "passing" marks on his--but they still bumped him up to a C for the class, which is way way way higher than he deserved. Another student squeezed out a B+, also not deserved, based on her essay writing. I had to add points to the reading notes scored for the SF class (my math didn't add up, and I didn't realize it until the end), but for the fall, I definitely have to revisit the math for Nature in Lit. And I realize I haven't taught Native American Lit since I switched over to the point system, so I need to very carefully construct the math for that one as well. I do want to build in a little extra credit, but not so much that a student can bump a grade too high.

Well, all that's a conundrum for another time.

The weather is keeping me from feeling the "now summer can commence" thing--or even the "now I get to do my sea-cucumber impressions" thing (as the idea of being in the tides feels a might bit chilly right now)--but I am going to enter the metaphoric decompression chamber (or hide under the sofa) starting very soon. I've been posting on Facebook about the flotsam that will continue to wash up on the shore for me to clean up (assignments from the students who are getting the incompletes, commencement, summer scheduling stuff), but mostly I get to wander around like a lost person for a while, then dive head first into fall semester prep. I'm going to make a trip to campus tomorrow just to collect the office plants, so they can live on the porch for the summer, but this semester is done gone. Yippee-Skippee, and looking forward to dinner with Herr Doctor Von Rosa tonight.

And I'll be back blogging soon, I'm sure.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

About half-way there...

Numbers are crunched for the SF class (no A's, one B+ and a couple of B's--and two mercy D's). I've started on the stuff for the 101 class--but I've run out of patience, so I'm giving it a rest until tomorrow. More work may still come in for the Nature in Lit; they have until midnight to get their revisions of essay 2 submitted. We'll see where those chips fall.

The past few days I've been very nicely uncranky, but that's wearing off: the cranky factor is increasing exponentially. I was just telling Paul that I want to teach a class that is just sentence skills: not even grammar (though that's what students think our grammar course is going to be), but stuff like where apostrophes go, what makes a sentence a sentence, where to place commas.... I find it just drives me nuts that so many of them cannot manage even the most rudimentary pieces of that--and I want to just drill them and drill them and drill them until they can get that little piddley shit right. I don't have time in any of my classes--though I think I may hold seminar hours specifically for that purpose in the fall: designate one of my times as "sentence skills drills" time for my students--in all my classes. Work with them in small groups. Something. I'm at my wit's end.

And perhaps the most appalling part is that it starts to rub off on me. I find myself making mistakes I never would have made in the past--and not even immediately catching them--because I see things done wrong so often. It drives me mad, I tell you: mad.

In the "well, that's nice" department, however, contract signing for summer is now going to be on Monday, so I will definitely be on campus that day--but then I'll be done (except for those incompletes that will still be trailing in). Having to deal with those will be moderately annoying--but I'll take advantage of a reason to come to campus to sort out my files and start prepping for fall. Because ... I hate to admit it, but yes, I already feel anxious about fall, as if I am not going to have enough time to prepare. Usually that doesn't hit until July 4. I'm running early this year.

Paul and I also had a talk about enrollment and the usual tenterhooks about whether classes are going to run--and right now, all of my classes, even my 101s, look dicey as hell. Of course, it's very early days yet, and the bigger concern will be handling the summer classes that don't run because of low enrollment, but it does seem as if filling courses for full-time faculty is going to continue to be a challenge for the foreseeable future--unless enrollment picks up campus wide or we continue to lose faculty to retirement (and not have lines to get them replaced). I'm not so sure I like the look of what may be the wave of the future. I was saying to Paul, if I have to teach at 8:30 a.m. in order to have sections that run, will that be the thing that finally triggers retirement?

Who knows. Right now, I have no idea how I feel about anything having anything to do with my career. It's end of the semester and I'm completely fried. So, I'm taking my cranky self home. Fiddle practice, food, and noodling: that's the order of the day.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Why do I bother? (Oh. That's why.)

Not much time to post tonight, so, in brief:

The 101: no great surprise, rather a disaster. One student was there on time. A little later, the kid showed up who had "forgotten" to upload his essay to Turnitin. He was supposed to come to my office hour and didn't. He said, "I thought you meant before class." Yes, I did--and you got to class late, so in what sense is this "before" class?? Upshot: I'll give him partial credit for his final essay, and let the chips fall where they may. I lectured him a lot, and scared him at least a little. He may study to become a welder--but his father has persuaded him that he needs an associate's degree before going to trade school. Whatever. He'll either grow up or he won't. While I was talking with him, the young woman to whom I am granting an incomplete showed up. She's going to be OK--she's being proactive about her own success, despite some serious problems--so that part was fine. But ... that was it. No one else showed up.

Whatever.

I came back to the office feeling pretty grumpy--but then two students from the SF class showed up; one is the young man who has been attending the salon, the other one of the best and brightest from the class. They've become friends (not having known each other before). I don't have monikers for either one, but if they end up keeping in touch, I'll develop something.

So I've gotten a few revisions to look at (not many). And by end of day tomorrow, I'll get revisions from a few of the students in Nature in Lit. And from now, it's all about the grading.

The experience in the 101 made me wonder why the hell I even try to teach anything. Seeing the young men from the SF class made me realize why: because when it works, it's fucking golden. Those students--and their confreres in that class--make it all worth while. I've saved a couple of the self-evaluations, in a new file folder entitled "Feel Good File." Periodically, I'll pull those out and reread them, to remind myself that sometimes, what I have to offer lands on fertile ground and grows into something lovely.

In the "unexpected blessings" department, turns out our union says we only have to make up classes on Wednesday, nothing else, so I don't have to go to Advisement. And I've already seen the last of the students for the 101 class--or at least I hope none of them show up on Wednesday expecting to talk to me. So now, it's all just about the grading. I've got the various grade forms figured out (and discovered not only how to create grade reports for the Nature in Lit but how to turn those reports into calculated columns, which will save me some time totting up figures), and I've embarked on the crunching. I'll roll in tomorrow as early as I can make myself get here and just hammer away at it. Ditto Wednesday--at the end of which, I have the enjoyment of a dinner with Paul in the offing. By Thursday, it should all be over but the shouting. (Please let there be no shouting....)

And with that, I'm outta here for tonight.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Well, I sure resisted that long enough...

I very nearly didn't do that little bit of grading to leave on the office door tomorrow. I told myself the students probably won't pick it up anyway (which is true), so I could risk having time to do it in Advisement tomorrow--but finally I made myself do it anyway. It didn't take too long, and it wasn't painful. In fact, part of it was very sweet: reading the end-of-semester self-evaluations from the students in the SF class touched me. It is manna to the soul to feel appreciated and understood as a professor. I'm trying to soak their words in as deeply as I can; if I can garner enough of this positive feeling, I can keep teaching longer, not feel so driven to retire. I know classes like that one are precious few, however, so I'm storing up a little fuel to get me through a lot of challenging times ahead, I know. But still: it's lovely. I may even copy some of the self-evaluations to keep, so I can pull them out when I feel despair about my effectiveness or why I do what I do.

Interesting to note that, although the semester has not ended yet--I still have the bulk of the grading to do, plus more scheduling stuff with Cathy, plus commencement--I'm already feeling the tug of the end-of-semester post-partum blues. I get them even when it's been a crap semester--classes of recalcitrant students and lessons that never seem to gel--so even more so when I've had at least one class that I truly loved and that worked on just about every level. Case in point: I could go out for a walk (despite the grey, grungy, chilly weather) but ... nah. I'm going to noodle around on the computer for a while, then have an early dinner and watch something mindless on DVD. (Yes, I still do movies on DVD. I am not a dinosaur, but woolly mammoth, perhaps.)

And that's enough for today. Over and out.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Making some progress...

I think I'm (at least mostly) caught up on the Nature in Lit grading. I haven't graded a few assignments that were submitted early; I could, of course, but somehow it feels less confusing to do them all in one go. And I feel a little bad about some of the feedback I left for one student, as the feedback is public--and harsh. But his posts are 99.9% idiotic parroting of the author's words, and I'm sick to damned death of it. I tell myself that neither he nor anyone else is likely to look at what I wrote there at this point anyway.

I probably "should" do some grading of stuff for my face-to-face classes--especially whatever things I have promised to have ready on Monday--but ... well, there's always tomorrow. It's late enough now (and I'm just tired and headachy enough) that I think attempting anything more today would be an exercise in futility.

On a completely different front--looking ahead--I just collected from the post office three (count 'em: three!) anthologies of Native American literature, which I want to look over and consider as replacements for the one I've used in the past. I hadn't realized before how insanely expensive that book is, and all three of the alternative options are priced much lower. Of course, if they have crap offerings (or if I just don't like the way they're organized), I'll stick with the one I know--largely because doing so would entail a hell of a lot less work on my part. If I choose a new anthology (as I think I've whined before), I have to redo the entire assignment schedule and all the essay assignments, which would be ... well, a lot of work. I'm only taking on that work if I deem the switch worth it. One of the anthologies I'm evaluating has discussion questions and writing topics. I'm never entirely sure how I feel about those. They may be beneficial, but sometimes I sneer at that kind of "apparatus" as being too simplistic or providing too much of the thinking for the students. On the other hand, if they help me with that part of redoing essay assignments--and if they help the students structure meaningful notes in response to the reading, that could be a good thing, save on the frustration factor.

Well, we'll see.

Switching back to the work of today, I have discovered to my infinite relief that it is completely easy to have Blackboard generate a report of the discussion board points I've assigned, so I can tally them up for the idiotic paper rosters I still have to do. I can, in fact, have Blackboard generate a report of any specific subset of grades, the better to tally with, my dear. Eventually, the final grading always comes down to just adding up the marks for each student--and fiddling where necessary to generate an outcome that I deem warranted when the numbers don't get there. (I don't downgrade; if someone has "earned" a D and I think the student should really fail, the D prevails. But--apart from the occasional "mercy D"--sometimes a student hasn't numerically achieved a mark I think he or she deserves, and in that case, I'll fudge things in an upward direction.)

And switching back again to a forward view (back and forth), I suspect I'll be posting to the blog a fair amount over the summer. I'm going to be doing a reasonable amount of fixing and fiddling on the Nature in Lit (adding some explanatory videos--which I finally see as beneficial--and changing some of the readings, swapping out, or even entirely ditching, some ill-considered choices), and, as intimated above, I'll likely be doing a fair amount of work on the Native American Lit. And as I'm doing that work on both classes, of course, I'll be hoping madly that they run--not just so the work pays off but also because I'm getting spoiled and really do not want to teach two comp classes, which is what will happen if either lit elective doesn't run. Nature in Lit is more likely to run, as the cap is lower and online classes almost always fill. I also sent an email to the SF students (taking bets with myself about how many students will actually get it and respond), telling them that I really wasn't kidding about wanting them to sign up for it--even if they have no intention of actually taking the class. (I also gave them some reading suggestions, reiterated my encouragement that they see me for mentoring in the fall, and offered a little extra credit if they get and respond to the email in time.)

Now, however, I'm going to take care of logging my mentoring/conference appointments and call it a day, at least as far as work is concerned, and head into the gloomy, cloudy, chilly evening, reminding myself that it's almost all over, almost all over, almost all over....

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Sweet--and sad

It truly was hard saying goodbye to the SF students today. We ended up sitting in the snack area instead of in our classroom, while the students ate their pizza--and as usual, they did as much talking with each other (and a fair amount of friendly ribbing) as they did talking to/with me. A couple of them really wanted to read my dissertation, too; I had to nudge them to continue to pass it around. A number of them said they want to sign up for Native American Lit--but I've had the experience a few too many times of students saying that and then, after a little time away from the magic of my presence, realizing that in fact they really don't want to do that kind of hard work again. I don't really expect any of them to sign up for it. If any of them do, I'll be thrilled. (I'll be especially thrilled if three or four of the best and brightest sign up, as they're likely to raise all the boats, as it were.)

I think it's more likely that I'll end up seeing a smattering of them for mentoring appointments in the fall, which would be equally dandy.

They genuinely had a hard time leaving and saying goodbye; I believe that the majority of them were completely sincere in saying what they appreciated about the class. They were very willing to deflect all the praise onto me, but I kept telling them that a lot of it was about them: the miracle and mystery of class chemistry. And I was quite sincere in telling them that this was one of three real miracle classes in my career: one section of Nature in Lit (and I'm still in touch with a few students from that class, two of whom went on to become teachers), the first Fiction Writing class I taught, and this one. Experiences for the books. They were truly a delight.

Speaking of that first Fiction Writing class, I forgot to mention that on Monday I ran into Rose in Bloom from that class. She's off to start her master's degree in the fall, but right now she's taking a course or two at NCC, just to keep her hand in, and working just down the block. It was delightful to see her, and she looked and sounded very confident. Apparently she and another student from that class--I think I called him the Real Writer--ended up in the same B.A. program and ran into each other at a party. I love those strange confluences.

Shifting gears--and not in an entirely happy direction, I'm sorry to say--but I spent some time today scanning and posting critical articles that may, maybe, be helpful for the Nature in Lit students as they try to scale the heights of their final essays. One of them has been smart enough to be in touch with me about hers (and she's really struggling), but I just sent an announcement to them all to let them know that the material is there--even though I encourage them to do their own research as originally mandated--and letting them know I am available to help as much as possible by email between now and Sunday, when the essays are due. I've also told them that I will respond to specific posts that I haven't commented on if they ask me to--but otherwise (I didn't tell them but am telling you--and myself, more to the point) I'll just be slapping grades on things so I'm all but done with that class.

I'll be getting some revisions of the second essay from students in the SF class on Monday, revisions from Nature in Lit students on Tuesday, and there are two students who will be fulfilling incompletes, all of which will drag out the end of semester much further than I'd ideally like, but I'm willing to give the students the chances to succeed.

The student I was so mad at yesterday, about not submitting to Turnitin, swears that she did--and I know there has been an occasional glitch with Turnitin, so that's not altogether impossible. Ultimately, I just put the fear of god into her, telling her that I was disinclined to give her the passing grade, but she gave me a long story about how she's making up the rest of the course work this summer, getting a waiver for one credit, her parents barely scraped together the money for her summer tuition and only did that so she could walk in the ceremony on the 20th. Oh, fine. Fuck it. Whatever. I'll give her the D--and I told her to pay it forward. I hope she does. Eventually, if she's this remiss about fulfilling her responsibilities--either in college or in other areas of her life--the world will not be so kind. I don't have to be the one to teach her the lesson.

As for now, I have my little bag of things to do this weekend all packed. I may not get to any of them, but at the very least I'll have the bag ready to schlep to Advisement with me. I've been going back and forth about whether to keep my fiddle lesson this weekend; we had to miss two weeks in a row, had one lesson, and now will miss again, but ... I haven't done much practicing, am unlikely to do any tonight, as late as I'll get home, and honestly, could really use the time on Saturday either to do grading or to, oh, I don't know, maybe sleep? If I end up working, I'll probably post. Otherwise, I will be back here nattering on Monday.