A couple of students were no-shows for their conferences, a couple are trying to reschedule (which I'll do if I can without too much inconvenience)--so I found a little window to begin this blog entry right at a moment when I also desperately needed a brain break. I then got interrupted by my last two conferences, but now I'm done with students for the day. As I've experienced the waves of students through the door, in odd moments of quiet, I've been chipping away at more grading. I didn't quite get everything done before 10 a.m. for today, but it's done now, and no one had to wait around for an ungraded paper (except the two who got here before their scheduled pick-up time--but that's not my bad). I still have a pile to grade for 10 a.m. tomorrow, a few more for tomorrow afternoon, and one final--and wearyingly large--bolus for Thursday morning. I know the stack is going down, but I don't yet feel I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Yet.
So far, however, despite the despair I feel over the quality of the papers and despite a rather monumental lack of sleep (and at my advanced age, I no longer do well with multiple nights of less-than-optimal sleep), I have yet to lose my patience with anyone in conference. There is a chance I may have to work to keep my temper with a few of the students I'll be facing tomorrow (one in particular, who is a disdainful wise-ass), but still, I think I can handle even the sticky ones with aplomb. I came damned close today to losing my cool with one, who said she didn't want to have to answer any questions, think about the meaning of anything--essentially do any work. OK, I said, there are other routes to success than college. If you want to go through college, this is the way you need to think--but if it's not for you, then you can find something else to do that will make you happy and make you a good living. I didn't offer the suggestion in a snarky or angry way, simply as a matter of fact (and it is true--and I'm not just thinking about trades, either, but about entrepreneurship that does not require a college degree). At last she caved in and said OK, I guess let's talk about how to revise this paper. So we did.
By the way, following a tangent, but I just read an article from Businessweek.com (thank you, Edward) about Obama's support of community colleges. (Here's the link: http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-10-05/obama-calls-u-s-community-colleges-unsung-heroes-.html) I was reading along happily--until I read the bit that suggested (with a sledge-hammer) that the role of community colleges is to prepare students for industry. God dammit to hell: I work at a liberal arts institution, never mind the fact that it is a two-year rather than four-year program, and a liberal arts institution trains people to THINK, not just to be cogs in the business/industry machine. So, growf, rowr, bazz-fazz (for you Pogo fans out there).
But I digress.
I think (I hope) that the next few papers in the stack to be tackled are somewhat better than the last. That should help some. I was going to try to stay here in the office to grind through a few more, but I think I'll work more productively if I allow myself the much longer brain break of the drive home, feeding of cats and self, and then sitting on the sofa to get through as much as I can. No matter what, I'm facing another 5 a.m. alarm tomorrow, but dear heaven, it would be lovely to be in bed earlier than I was last night. That's still possible. But essentially I simply need to take a deep breath, hold my nose, dive back in. Ain't drowned yet.