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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.

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Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Just wrote to the student who submitted her final paper last week: B+ on the paper, A in the class. Technically, she earned a B+ (89.15), but I gave her the bump. Perhaps shouldn't have, as I may have--once again--been overly generous on the paper, but, ah hell. She worked hard, she learned a lot, she's got the chops to do well. Let her have the gift.

Also had an emergency P&B meeting, finishing up some business that was left dangling at the end of the spring semester. Done. Whew.

I am almost done with the assessment project, hooray. I think I can finish up tomorrow. Then I have a three placement readings (two next week, one on July 12) and then I am off to Washington and a long-awaited road trip around the northwest. Ah, god I can't wait.

And I find I'm having monster anxiety attacks about being ready for the fall semester. This always happens. I say that and the response is always, "Summer just got started!" but I know it will disappear faster than I can possibly believe--especially given my trip (during which I hope I don't think about school for even a nanosecond, though I almost certainly will, at least some). Yikes, yikes, yikes. Breathing, Payne, deep, even breathing.

But now, I'm not going to fuss and flurry: I'm going to spend a little of the money I've been making and get some new summer wardrobe items. No brain required--and if I get overwhelmed (as I usually do, shopping), then I will retreat to somewhere with good iced tea and some quiet so I can read and relax before dance class.

And yes, all this qualifies as "summer off."

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Cleaning up

Just got the final paper from one of the students who is finishing off an incomplete. She wants it back with comments. Sigh. I was going to try to chip away at it while I'm here in the office, killing time before my evening date with Sara, but nope, no can do, brains not working sufficiently. I will take it home with me--not expecting to work on it over the weekend, you understand (I'm beginning to know myself better than that), but because I can work on it on the train to an appointment in Manhattan on Monday morning, and finish it up on the train back out this way. Since I bailed on the assessment project on Tuesday (bad girl!), I need to make up the time, so I'll go in for a while on Monday, as long as I have to be out and about anyway.

That will mean I will spend part of three days next week in OAPR (the Office of Assessment and Program Review)--bleagh--but if I can get the project finished up, or close to it, that would be great. We just got contracts today for a few more hours, so we can do what needs to be done without having to rush and get half-assed about it. I don't remember what I've said, but I had to do about three reports before I started to get the hang of the thing, so if I can, I want to go back and re-do the first two I did--this time actually understanding as well as attempting to use the guidelines.

I'm doing a fair amount of placement reading, too. My favorite blooper from today: "Parents who have children need to teach them about the problems of the internet." Obviously, parents who do not have children are in the clear.

And now I'm going to haul a recycling bucket into the office and start tossing out tons of paper from old and no longer useful files. Since I'll be using a different style guide in the fall, all those assignments, which I've been hanging on to, can get dumped. It will be interesting to see what else can go. The bookshelves will have to wait for another day before I can tackle organizing them: that will require something approaching mental acumen, which I am decidedly lacking at this particular juncture.

But let the tossing begin!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Two down...

I'd say I'm proud of myself, but it's pretty ridiculously late for that. Let's say I'm relieved: I finally have marked those two papers for students who wanted the feedback. I was talking with Kristin about it earlier this week and realized I was completely within my rights to tell them no: I did specifically say that students needed to let me know when they submitted their papers if they wanted them back marked, and neither of these students did (they let me know a day--or several days--later). Still, I made this into a much bigger production than I needed to by letting it drag on so long. But it's done now, at long last.

I also must say, in re-reading one of the papers, I realize I was wildly generous in the grade. The ideas are good, but the paper is a mess: disorganized, lacking in connections, lacking in evidence. I guess in the end-of-semester flurry (and in comparison to some of the papers I got) it seemed better to me than a more sober examination supports. Ah well. I wrote a note to go with it, so when the student picks it up, she will be told that I'd have been harder on the paper if I'd gotten it earlier in the semester. She'd also have had a chance to revise it if I'd gotten it earlier; that lack of chance for her to go back and fix may have weighed into my generosity with the grade. Or I may just have not been paying very much attention: I was so frantic to be fucking done with it all....

The student who was supposed to drop off her final paper to fulfill an incomplete today didn't show (a health crisis with her daughter). I'm not unhappy. I wouldn't have been grading the thing over the weekend anyway. We'll see how next week shapes up.

One of the other students who got an incomplete did meet with me to discuss when she'll be getting missing assignments to me. I'm thinking I may draw up a little contract, so we both have it in writing: I want everything in enough time that I can get it all marked and out of my hair before the last week in August--and since I will not be marking anything while I'm away in July, well, she'll need to time things out accordingly.

The final "incomplete" is more worrying. I sent the student an e-mail and sent a letter to her home, asking her to let me know when she thought she'd finish up the missing assignments. I haven't heard from her. I did let her know that if she doesn't finish the incomplete by the end of next semester, it reverts to an F and there is nothing I can do about it. My fear is that she'll turn up in the fall, wanting to do it all then, when I will be dealing with a whole new bunch of classes and students and papers. The other possibility, of course, is that she will vanish and get the F. (That's happened frequently in the past, sadly enough.) I was thinking I'd call her, but on consideration, I think I won't. It's her grade: she needs to take responsibility for it.


The office is still an ungodly wreck and probably will remain in that state for some time--unless I get a very unexpected burst of energy on one of the days when I'm in doing work on the assessment project. (Hah.) Ah well. I'll get it sorted out before the first day of fall semester--maybe just before, but before.

Or not.

Gack. I can't think about this any more: I need to let my brain go out to pasture for a while. I'll take a quick look through what's on my desk to see if there is anything there that is personal that I want to take home, and then I am out of here... until Tuesday.

Friday, June 11, 2010

It ain't over...

Dear blog followers, sorry about the long silence on this end. Many of you may have given up, not anticipating more until fall--and I do suspect that postings will be relatively few and far between until things start to ramp up again in late August. But here's the state of things as of now:

I'm still not completely finished with the semester, though I submitted final grades on May 20. Two students belatedly asked to get their papers back marked, and I have been carrying them around with me since. I spent some time saying, "I should have it done early next week." I've given up trying to project when I'll have them marked and ready for pick up. I am always happy to provide yet another teaching moment to any student who wants it, so I don't feel any resentment about having to mark the papers, but I do feel a ferocious resistance. I just don't want to haul my brain back into that place: the battery has not begun to recharge yet; I'm still scraping off the burned bits (in a toast metaphor); I just am feeling petulant and whiny about it. However, next week I am supposed to get at least one paper that finishes up a student's incomplete, so I'll have to get my brain back into the right posture for that in any event: maybe that will create the impetus to get the other two marked.

I'm also meeting with another of the students who received an incomplete on Monday: she's coming over to the house, as she will also be cat-sitting for me, so we'll do a combination of professor-student interacting and changing the footing as she becomes an ex-student. I'll be meeting next week with another former student (from the dream Nature in Lit of spring 2009); very much looking forward to that--and thinking of her makes me think of the young man from that class with whom I exchanged a flurry of e-mails over the spring, trying to set up a time to meet, never with any success. I reckon I'll float him a message and see what his summer looks like.

But back to this just-finished semester, one task I put off for a long while and finally finished off last week was contacting the students who had e-mailed about grade "problems." One young woman corrected some pretty shabby record-keeping on my part, so I did submit a grade change for her. The outcome was still not great: she was capable of getting a B, had she turned in all the work and turned it in on time. Instead, unfortunately, she got a D+. If she wants to transfer, she'll have to take the course over, but it's not as big a hit to her GPA as the F I originally--and incorrectly--gave her. Another student tried to persuade me that his D+ was really a C (NCC doesn't give minus grades, which drives me bats: if we can give a plus, we need to be able to give a minus as well--or neither). He simply needed to check the math: I didn't make any mistakes on that one. A third had written shocked to have received an F, but he will have since received a letter from me in the mail, explaining that having been warned about plagiarism in his proposal, when he continued to plagiarize in his final paper ... blah blah blah. Yet one more had been very unhappy about her final grade in the class and especially about her final grade on the in-class presentation. I sent her the detail of why she got the grade she did, explained again why she got the grade she did on the presentation, and told her that even if she'd gotten a better grade on that, her other grades would have kept her from getting the B she wanted. And the final e-mailing student was understandably distraught that he did not get the grade he needed in order to avoid being disenrolled for having failed the conditions of his academic probation. I empathized, reminded him that my class alone was not the reason he was in trouble, showed him why he got the grade he did, and suggested he petition to be re-enrolled. I've known students to do that successfully in the past--including one student who shouldn't have been allowed to, as he is sweet as pie but simply not (or not yet) college material--so I think this young man has a pretty good chance of a successful petition. If not, there are other schools that will surely be willing to take a chance on him.

But all traffic on those fronts seems to have ceased (touch wood: one never knows when something will belatedly boomerang). Funny thing: Ed was with me in the office as I was finishing up the grading and saw one student come in, be told she'd gotten a D, and become so happy that she had to give me a hug. She'd been petrified she'd fail, so the fact that she hadn't was manna and roses to her. He was charmed by her reaction, and it was indeed pretty sweet.

So, now I'm trying to keep my time on campus focused to two or thee days only. I've been hired to read annual departmental assessment reports and to provide feedback: it's very interesting work, but requires a kind of deep, careful attention. I usually also do placement readings on the same days I'm in the assessment office, and if I am meeting with students, I try to coordinate that as well. Eventually the assessment work will be complete, and then I'll use some of the days when I'm in for placement readings to clean out files, organize my bookshelves (which apparently were arranged by tornado), and start reading/prepping for fall. Yep, already. Since I'm teaching a whole new course and using a whole new style guide, I need to have read things enough in advance that when it's time to start constructing syllabi, I know what the heck I want to assign.

And some of the "Oh, yes, and I'm a scholar, too" stuff can finally be tended to. I was tapped to do another book review for Green Theory and Praxis, a very cool online journal (check it out at, so I'm chipping away at reading the book, which sat on my shelves for months. And, in the "wow, super cool" category, I wrote to Ursula Le Guin about an idea for a publication and heard back from her, expressing interest in and support for the project, so now I get to start moving forward with that (forthcoming sabbatical application? you betcha).

Now, what was all that about teachers having the summer "off"? I grant you, however, that it is complete and utter bliss, and genuinely enviable, and something to be deeply grateful for, that I have many days now in which I don't have to follow any schedule at all but can get up in the morning and wonder what to do with myself for the day. Deep, contented sigh.