The sun is almost down--but metaphorically, the sun came out for me at about 1:00 this afternoon and is still shining bright. All the essays got graded; all the conferences have taken place; I've tidied up the worst of the mess on my desk--God's in its heaven and all's right with the world.
I also didn't realize until I talked with Ed last night that, the grind of grading aside, I actually had a very good week: I had some truly lovely interactions with students. It is a magnificent feeling when a student comes in, bewildered and miserable over the horrific grade on the first paper, and through the conference, the light goes on in the student's eyes, that exciting "ah hah!" experience for them. I've also seen more of their personalities in these conferences than I have all semester (one of the reasons I love doing this: many of them can open up with me here in the office in a way they don't feel comfortable doing in class). We've been able to laugh, to joke around, to enjoy looking at the ideas.
There was the student who came in resistant and angry (evidenced by body language; he was civil but very shut down and tight lipped): as I talked to him about his frustration with reading, I saw that what had been anger turned into the shut down of refusing to cry. His anger had been met with understanding and compassion; I'm not sure he knew what to do with that, but I hope he can take the advice I gave him to heart. Then there were the two students who hadn't turned in their papers but who turned up for their conferences anyway, being adults about the fact that they had screwed up but also wanting to do their damnedest to continue in the class. And there was the student from the short story class who made an appointment to see me: he told me he had very nearly dropped the class but liked it too much to give up on it. He loves the stories, loves the class discussions, but is struggling with writing papers. I am impressed by his bravery, facing that difficulty, finding ways to do a reasonable job on papers despite the fact that writing is painfully hard for him.
I also have to say, I am very proud of the fact that I remembered to say to almost every student that this is what the writing process is. Not just for them, for any writer. We all write the version that doesn't work, and then we have to tear it apart and move things around and rephrase and find different support and say more (and say less).... The only difference is that right now, I'm jumping into their process and slamming a grade on it so they can see how much further their writing has to go--and so that, by listening to the questions I ask, noticing the problems I point out, they can begin to learn to ask the questions and notice the problems on their own. But, I told them, that too will take time: they will still make mistakes on the next essay, and the next one, and the next one. And yet they will get better.
At the moment, I don't even feel resistant to the idea of grading the mini-papers for the short story class (though I won't embark on that until later this weekend). A lot of those papers will probably still be relatively bad, but right now, I can remember that the students are in the process of learning. It's all a process.
Oh, this feels so much better. What a wonderful, heavenly relief.
And what a wonderful, heavenly relief to know that I have three mornings in a row in which I do not have to set the alarm for 5 a.m.--or even 6, or 7. I can sleeeeeeeeep. The mere thought is bliss. Happy weekend!