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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Almost done

I'm on a little break between classes, office hour technically, though I'm not expecting anyone. I have one more library class to attend with the students, and then I want to pack my little bags and get away from here as fast as I can for a little decompression before the grind of the weekend to come.

In the library class that I just went to with the students, it was interesting to notice that Mr. Contempt was working diligently, doing research, taking copious notes on what he was finding. I think he's getting off on the possibility of finding information to prove that I'm full of shit. As long as he's engaged, that's OK by me. Parenthetical note: I didn't get any homework from him again today. I may end up re-doing the early warning for his section so I can let him know that not only is he missing reading journals (he's actually missing five of six, not four of five), his revised paper failed and he's missing most of his other homework, too. I have to say that I am hoping--probably against hope--that he'll withdraw prior to turning in his next paper. I do not relish the thought of reading whatever bilge he ends up writing. Ah well.

These library sessions are going well: the students get the overview that they need, but mostly, they then get the hands-on experience of doing the research and finding out what the snags are. In fact, by the end of each class, some of them feel they're already done with their research, that they've found exactly what they need for their papers. If that turns out to be true, I'm thrilled: it means that they won't be in a flat-out panic the night before, unable to find (or access) the sources they need.

I want to remember this and incorporate a library day into my 102s, and all future 101s. Part of the reason to use the library and librarians, rather than doing my own little dog-and-pony, which I used to do in the classroom, is that in the library, the students all have computers they can use, so it's not abstract; it's "active learning." But another important reason is that being in an alternative environment does something in their brains: they think and behave differently when they are in a different room.

Paul and I were talking about that in terms of conferencing. He does little five-minute conferences at one stage and then the longer 20-minute conferences at a later point. Because I get most of my best ideas from Paul, I'm now thinking that I'll do something similar, but in reverse: I'll do 20-minute conferences between versions of their first papers, as I do now, but then I will schedule a round of five-minute conferences between versions of their second papers. The individualized attention is one specific benefit to conferencing, but another is that meeting them outside the classroom provides some sort of shock to their systems, so they think more seriously and in greater depth, just because they are not in an environment in which they are accustomed to being able to slide, to let others pick up the slack. There is also merit to the privacy factor: conferencing in the classroom during class time, other students are around, and that can inhibit a student from fully expressing a concern or question. Just the student and me, it's easier.

Thinking, thinking, always thinking, always trying to find the perfect assignment, the perfect approach, so the veils of ignorance fall from their eyes and they can see cosmic truth and express it in elegant and precise ways.

Funny thing, as I sit here blogging--which I usually do at the end of the day, not when I still have one more class to teach--I feel the exhaustion factor kicking in. The last several weeks I've been developing various eye twitches: I used to get them in grad school, and my ex had the same problem (and was told by the doctor that completing the degree would be the cure). In addition, tomorrow the chiropractor will get to do another one of those neck adjustments on me that sounds like a string of firecrackers going off (my neck is better than last week but still not quite lined up properly). I am deeply tired, so I'm fighting the part of my psyche that says lots of greasy and/or chocolaty food would surely help. Once my next class ends, at 5:15, I intend to come back to the office just long enough to pack up everything I need to grade over the weekend (not forgetting the "bozo error" stamp), grab my bag and go. I don't expect to get any school work done tomorrow: that will be a day devoted to life maintenance (including a riding lesson, which I consider crucial to my sanity, not to mention useful for my physical health). Saturday, I hope to nail myself to the living-room table and begin cranking in earnest on the 101 revisions. And we'll see how that goes.

I know Ed will applaud this news: the call went out for placement readers, and although initially I said "no," under some pleading from the placement coordinator (Cathy, who is a friend), I changed my mind and agreed to take on some sessions. Then Cathy informed me that I would also have to attend not one but two norming sessions--and my system went into panic mode. I very pathetically asked her if she really, really needed me, told her I was feeling sick with the stress of the thought (true, but a naked plea for rescue), and she immediately said I shouldn't do it, should see if next semester feels more possible. So, I was off that hook, briefly on it, and am now off again. And it is remarkable how much better that feels, just to have gotten out of that one little thing.

Big, deep sigh.

I love Thursday afternoons, when I know I'm heading into my day of rest. I don't usually blog over the weekend, but if something interesting comes up in the paper marking, I'll fill you in, my lovely readers.

As I close, let me just share with you the earth-shattering thesis from a student in the short story class: "The short stories 'Heat' and 'Old Woman Magoun' are very different in a number of ways." Omigod, REALLY?? I can't believe that two stories are different! Do the authors know??

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