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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, October 17, 2017

Another non-post post.

I feel like every level of my life is falling apart right now. I'm going home, and I don't know when/if I'll get more work done or have anything productive to say in the blog. Forgive me, dear readers, if I vanish for a bit. I'm just under the sofa.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Going for the World Cup in Procrastination

Well, my mouse plans have again gone agly: I marked I think three of the essays from the SF class and did not, after all, do any marking of discussion boards on Sunday. As I started to write this post, however, I thought, "Oh, for God's sake, Prof. P: do the discussion boards."

So I did that. And I did mark a few assignments in Advisement. But the enormous, teetering piles of stuff I have yet to address are growing every day--and so far, nothing much has been getting returned.

But this is what "tomorrow" is for, right? I spent most of my break (e.g., office hour) between classes talking with Paul about topics various and sundry--brushing only briefly against the amount of work I'm putting off doing--and now it's late enough that I want to get home. Which means, despite my desire to sleep endlessly, an early alarm tomorrow, so I can make a little proverbial hay before class--and hope that, despite the alarm, I have enough energy after class (and P&B) to crank through some more before collapsing for the day.

I did gain a teeny bit of time tomorrow: the Drama Queen student has yet another life crisis, so I'm encouraging her to withdraw. I actually feel a bit bad about calling her that: if she really is going through what she says she is, her life is truly hell, and I would hate to think she wasn't getting support and encouragement in a dreadful time. My communications have, in fact, been supportive--albeit somewhat chilly in the advice (no "you can do it" pep talks but "yes, it's time to quit" cold dose of reality). But I don't think she'll be showing up for her mentoring appointment--or if she does, it should only be long enough for me to sign the withdrawal form.

I grant you, that 30 minutes isn't a lot of time to put to any good use, but as long as I'll be in the office anyway, I'll try to make the best I can of it.

Now, however, I'm going home. I was saying to Paul earlier that I'm in practically complete and total "hide under the sofa" mode: I'll curl up here with the dust bunnies and hope everyone and everything just goes away and leaves me alone. If I could, I'd tender my resignation effective immediately, pack a U-Haul, and head for the (literal or metaphoric) hills. That not being a viable option for a bunch of reasons, I will at least concede defeat for today--and pull the Scarlett O'Hara number. (I wonder if Scarlett ever considered hiding under the sofa? It works for my cat...)

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Posting from home

I had an opportunity to get out of the office early today, and although I could conceivably have stayed and gotten more work done (or at least more sorting of work into stacks), I decided that it would be a lovely treat to get home while it's still light out.

So, here I am. The observation with the adjunct was ... interesting. I won't say more about it. But one of her students did want to talk with me after, to express some concerns--and, I think, just to feel he had a connection with someone in a position of at least a little authority.

But a much better student encounter was before class. I didn't see the student I thought I might see (and I don't think I missed him, even though I got to the office much later than I anticipated), but I saw a student from the earlier 101. His face reminds me a bit of one of my nephews, which is interesting, but he came in--obviously having sprinted across campus--to ask me how much trouble he'd be in because his upload to Turnitin was late. Apparently he tried to submit a number of times last night, unsuccessfully, but finally tried again once on campus and was successful. Under the circumstances, I told him, I wouldn't take the penalty. He was greatly relieved by that--and he told me that just finishing the essay felt like an enormous relief. He is also concerned about the low marks on his discussion board posts, so we talked about how he could improve those--and then we just started talking, about what other courses he's taking, about his ambitions. He wants to be a marine biologist, specifically to study sharks. Very cool. I did tell him he'd be doing a lot of writing as part of that--and that the next essay will use APA style, which is what he'll use most often in the sciences. But it was great just to chat with him for a bit.

I love those one-on-ones. I know I say that a lot, but it's true. They're great.

Today's class, talking about the beginning of Oryx and Crake, was great, too. The Budding Literary Critic was there but not as aggressive and borderline snotty as he can be; in fact, he was uncharacteristically quiet, but when he did contribute, what he had to say was very intelligent (as it usually is) and perceptive. Just about everyone was coming up with good points to share, interesting ideas--and they inspired me to riff a little more, go a little further, than I normally would, in terms of bringing in some of the wider contexts. Not quite theory--though they've had an introduction to that from the Budding Literary Critic and the (now withdrawn) Sometimes Snotty Student--but a sense of what some of the more common themes are in SF generally. We talked about post-apocalyptic narratives, about dystopias, utopias, and eutopias, about SF as social commentary...

When they get rolling, they really are great. I know whatever high I feel from being in class with them will be brought crashing down when I start grading their essays, but, well, I'm sort of used to that.

And their essays (and reading notes that I've collected) were what I chose to bring home to work on this weekend. It might have made more sense to work on the essays for the 101s, as they will embark on their second essays before the SF students do, but the stack of stuff for the SF students was just not as unwieldy. When I collect final versions from the 101s, they come freighted with all the previous versions and various other bits, so they look a great deal more daunting than they are.

Oh, yeah: and I brought home the discussion board tracker, too. I've decided that Sunday afternoons will be my dedicated time to work on discussion boards (except in those weeks when I'm frantically turning around essays prior to conferences). I want to establish some habits for when I'm teaching entirely online--assuming I do teach Nature in Lit online in the spring. (Long story of SNAFUs there, which I won't get into now: it's too depressing, and I'm too tired.)

I think that's about all I've got for now. I will be leaving when my house-cleaner arrives, so the only question at the moment is whether to practice fiddle for a bit or just fiddle around. The former, I think, in the "get it done now and then you don't have to worry about it" plan.

And tomorrow, as we all know all too well, is another day.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Another non-post

Nothing to say tonight. I'm exhausted and not feeling well. I'm going home.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Not my best thing...

OK, I admit it. Those of you who know me personally already know this, but patience is not my best thing. I can, in some circumstances, be endlessly patient--to the point that I surprise the hell out of myself. But most of the time, garden variety circumstances, my patience tanks hold about a pint of patience, after which they run dry and what comes out instead is almost teeth-gritted annoyance.

In my own defense, however, I have to say that the situation that taxed my patience today would probably have been vexing even for someone with much bigger patience reservoirs than mine.

Student in the SF class. I don't know anything about his background, or what his situation is now, except that he's not seeking a degree here; he's just taking every literature class that catches his eye. I may have mentioned him before: he's a little older than the usual student; if he were a decade or two older I'd think of him as a cast-iron hippie--but I also wonder if he was ever in the military because his behavior has all the hallmarks of TBI: traumatic brain injury. I've had students with TBI before, and it's extremely difficult to deal with. Classic symptoms include difficulty concentrating or processing information, memory problems, and emotional disturbances or irritability. In the case of this student, the "emotional disturbances" are more along the lines of difficulty with impulse control and--ironically, in this circumstance--impatience. (He also is a heavy smoker, so he comes to class reeking of it, and it's a smell I have a very hard time with: gives me headaches.) But I've explained to him at least three times what he has to do to successfully upload his essay to Turnitin, and he cannot get it. He says he's "bad with computers"--and today I finally had to say that he won't be able to get along very well if he doesn't develop a better relationship with them than he has. I feel for him: I know his behaviors are not under his control in a lot of ways. But God, I find it frustrating in the extreme, and today, I very nearly snapped--in the "I am not going to do this for you; you have to get help from the kind of people whose job it is to help you with this stuff" kind of snap.

Sigh. Well, anyway.

Today, two students withdrew from the class. One had missed six classes (out of ten class meetings); the other was the smart but sometimes snotty young man. I will miss the smarts of the occasionally snotty student--but there's still enough intellectual wattage in the room to make the class work well enough, I think.

I hope so, at any rate. I've asked Scott to sub for me on the 26th, and he agreed, though he doesn't usually sub. We've had some interesting conversations about Oryx and Crake, which is what the students will be working on, so I'll be curious to see what he manages to get out of them on the day.

For now, however, I am astonished to relate that I think I'm actually ready to leave for the evening. It is dark, but that's more about the season of the year than about my being here late. I'm sure as I'm driving home, I'll think "Oh, I meant to say something about that in the blog." But so be it. I have not only run out of patience, I've effectively run out of operational intelligence for the evening. I get to go home and make horrible noises on a fiddle instead of fiddling around here any more tonight. And we will see what the morrow brings.

Monday, October 9, 2017

That sinking feeling/that better feeling

That sinking feeling when one realizes somehow one has not marked (or even seen printouts of) four essays for the class one is about to teach in an hour.

That better feeling when one manages--by severely truncating the amount of commenting--to get through somewhere between eight and ten essays marked in 75 minutes, so everything could be returned to students on time.

Another sinking feeling: when one begins to think one might be being snowed by a student one likes very much (one of the veterans: he's had just one too many things going on, so either his life is really an utter train wreck right now--which is possible--or he's putting one over).

A slightly different feeling--mild annoyance perhaps?--when one has frantically marked two student essays only to have the students decide to withdraw from the class. (Or the student didn't show up for class, in another case or two.)

Well, there it is: the sink and bob to the surface of life in the (apparently flooded, given the metaphor) trenches.

I kept meaning to post to the blog as I was trying--mostly unsuccessfully--to grind through marking essays this weekend. I did a very good stint yesterday, but Friday and Saturday, I ended up feeling almost woozy with fatigue and in desperate need of a nap. The napping was great, but it did cut into the grading time.

But I got 'em done. I still have a smallish mountain of stuff to whack through and get back to students ASAP--and I'm going to collect the first essay from the SF students tomorrow (o frabjous day!), so as is typical for this time of semester, the work is pretty much constant high waves interspersed with the occasional tsunami.

I also spent some time this weekend completely redoing the assignment schedule for the 101s. I realized that I'd only allowed two weeks between the final version of the first essay and the first version of the second essay, which is insane, not only for the students but for me. I grant, it did give us a nice amount of time to do a ton of reading for the final essay, but I decided I should even things out a little.

The added bonus cherry on top is that in doing so, I also managed to avoid having to grade a mountain of essays over my birthday weekend. Who's just so smart?

And I figured out a much easier way to explain the correct use of apostrophes in possessives than the lesson I used to give. I recognize that language and rules of punctuation change over time, but it was interesting that the students said, "I've never seen that before. I mean, I've seen it used, but no one ever taught it before." Yeah, well, now you know: singular possessive = 's; plural possessive--if the possessive is formed by adding an -s (or -es, or changing y to -ies) ending = s'; plural possessive when the word itself changes (thanks to the holdovers from old English) = 's. Who knew? (I did. And most of my colleagues. But I may be the only one who's bugged enough by it to teach it.)

And I'm kinda too tired to say much more tonight. I have to be in Advisement at 9:30 tomorrow morning, making up time that I gave up to conferences. So, I'd better stagger off home--and leave the office to the workers who are coming in to fix the alarm system...

Thursday, October 5, 2017

"I have a question: If you have an appointment with a professor who has a Ph.D., is it a conference or is it a doctor's appointment?"

I laughed out loud. That was where one of my best students ended his conference with me. He's ultra-super bright (can't write very well, but the rest is wonderful) and he's yet another military veteran with an actual adult life. It was great to end my week on that note.

The two veterans I have as students this semester--one in each class--have very similar affect: sense of humor, confidence, dedication to their work. Interestingly enough, they're both also fire fighters. Maybe that contributes as well (and come to think of it, they both have qualities that are somewhat like one of my nephews, who is also a fire fighter though not a military vet).

I'm happy to report that having the good student at the end of the day managed to remove the twitchy anger I felt after meeting with the Media Mogul. I asked how I could help--with his revision of his essay--and he made a snarky comment about all the articles he has to write for the student paper. He didn't really listen to or give a half of a shit about any of my feedback. He gives a lot of "gotcha, gotcha" head nodding and it's utterly obvious that everything is just bouncing off the surface. I hate to say it, but part of me is actively looking for the infraction I can use to boot him from the class. He gets on my nerves. That overweening confidence is guaranteed to raise my hackles. I try to maintain a calm and professional demeanor around him, but all I want to say is "Get the fuck out of my face, you obnoxious little shit."

And then a young man walks in who is worth 50 of the Media Mogul, infinitely more intelligent and articulate--and he not only is prepared with specific things he wants me to explain, he is very humble about his abilities.

At the end of class today, I talked with a couple of students about the essay topics, formatting, submitting to Turnitin--and one stayed even longer after class because he's been slaving over his reading notes and getting marks that are below passing. He spent 10-1/2 hours on one set--but it was all, all, summary. He said, almost wailing, "But I'm including more quotations!" Yes, but you don't do anything with them except summarize. I asked him how much benefit he would gain for his forthcoming essay from reviewing his notes. He conceded that he wouldn't get any. Ah: there you go then. So I've suggested that he make an appointment with me so we can sit down and talk in detail about notes--and I've made an agreement with him that if his notes improve, I'll give the same marks to his earlier summaries that I give to the notes that actually do what they're supposed to do.

He was one of two students to be upset about getting low marks on notes no matter how long they were--and both were summarizing. I know what I'm asking isn't easy. That's part of why I'm asking it.

In the "more good news" department (or perhaps the "be grateful for small favors" department), I did have just enough time between appointments to mark all the homework I'd collected from the SF class (prior to today's), so I could return that (whew), and to get all the various assignments from the 101s organized into "need immediate attention" and "can wait" stacks. I still need to make sure I have the handout I need for Monday already placed my wheelie pack, and I have a tsunami of work to try to paddle through over the weekend, but it's organized, which feels much better than having things strewn all over the map.

I just took a minute, too, to complete my record keeping of all the appointments. That feels good to have done. And now, I'm going to water the plants, put the needed handouts in my pack for Monday, and head off--while it's still light outside. My "evening supervisor" hours have been truncated (as I'm getting paid for fewer of them: this is the second time my hours have been reduced); I am sorry not to get the extra money, but getting to leave earlier is some compensation.