Notice about Cookies (for European readers)

I have been informed that I need to say something about how this site uses Cookies and possibly get the permission of my European readers about the use of Cookies. I'll be honest: I have no idea how the cookies on this site work. My understanding is that Google has added a boilerplate explanation. That's the best I can do.

Student Readers: A Warning

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!






Follow by Email

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Rather like nature ...

... work abhors a vacuum. And I'm not talking about the condition of my carpets at home. What I mean is, the second I think "Oh, I've got a moment clear here," some flurry of work gets sucked into the hole. Today I was grinding, grinding away at grading papers--I finished the last three after the class in which I should have returned them (but the students were very gracious about coming by to pick them up later so they'll have my feedback prior to doing their revisions)--and even so, just when I thought, "I can take a minute to wolf down my lunch," the phone rang and I needed to go downstairs and tend to some P&B business. It didn't take long at all, but I lost those few precious seconds.

I am really, really, really rethinking my whole process for marking versions and revisions. I know I got thrown by being sick, but I didn't even have as many papers as I could have (given the number of students who have disappeared or simply didn't turn one in), and it still was just brutal getting through them all. Even with a whole new pairing of stories, so I'm not seeing the same problems I've seen for umpty-ump years, by the end I thought I was going to go screaming out of my mind.

But the Native American Lit class today was a wonderful respite. And I do think that going over the sample theses was a good idea. And the papers are all graded. I have other miscellaneous bits of detritus that's been building up over the past two weeks that I'll have to clear out of my hair in the next two weeks. But not now. Not now. I get to have a few days to turn my brain off entirely--gawd almighty, what bliss--and then try to remember how to be a scholar. That will be a very interesting journey. I was looking through my promotion folder from the last promotion yesterday, and I realized I'd actually done more scholarship than I remembered: conferences, even a few publications. I've been neglecting that for the past year or more, and I really want to get back into it. Time to start trolling those calls for papers again....

But not now. Not now. Now I'm just going to slowly pack myself up for the week to come and gently move myself homeward. Nice and easy, nice and slow.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

today's blooper

Forgot to post it:

He found her having sex with another man in the woods while he was hinting.

(Clearly he should have been more direct.)

Still yuck

This morning I got up before 5 (not on purpose, it just happened that way), so I was here on campus before 8--and I still got virtually nothing done before class. I did make the handouts I needed for today and tomorrow, but my body got in the way of paper grading. So this will be brief.

Even though I didn't get to really do this in-class work on revision process that I wanted to try (because of canceling classes), I think it's worth trying again, instead of conferencing. I'll give it a whirl in the fall. Today's class was moderately successful: mostly I'm happy that the students really were working on revising (as I saw when they showed me their triple-spaced versions of their papers). They wanted to keep the work they'd been doing so they could use it over the break: fair enough. I'll collect it all with their revised papers.

I got back from class and took a good brain break, reading Paul's promotion folder (which looks terrific). I was on the fence about whether to whether to head home, possibly to nap, grade, eat, grade, nap, grade, repeat ad infinitum until tomorrow comes or to stay here and try to crank through more papers. I know I'll be up horrifically early again tomorrow, no matter what. But since I haven't hit any walls just yet, I think I'll stay here a while longer, try to churn out a few more graded papers before heading home to that nap/grade/eat cycle. It's going to be a loooooong stretch between now and tomorrow at 6:30, no matter how I slice it. But after that? Release and relief until Feb. 28.

Sigh. Off I go.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Yuck

The last few weeks, students have been falling prey to a stomach bug, and on Friday I got it, in spades. I'm slowly on the mend but still not completely out of the woods--and the illness has meant that I was unable to grade papers this weekend: just could not summon the mental or physical energy. I finally got started today--canceled my classes and office hour to stay home and work--but I didn't make nearly the progress I'd hoped. I am perpetually astonished at how much energy it takes to actively think.

What I'm seeing so far is that some students took my advice about the Three Point Rule for their theses--and more did not. The papers are the usual mixed bag: some dreadful, a few good, most in that strange in-between place in which there is hope but a lot of ground to make up.

So far, one lovely blooper: "His excuse for the murder is that the young woman made fun of his gentiles." Well, an obvious case for justifiable homicide.

I do regret canceling the classes today because it meant I didn't get a chance to work with them on the in-class portion of beginning their revisions. Still, those who are engaged in the homework assignment will be cranking away--and most won't really see the problems in their work until they see the papers come back bloody with my red pen. Situation normal.

I'm going to have to cancel tomorrow's classes, and blow off at least one committee meeting. I'm going to try to get myself in for P&B at least: there's an important issue being decided and I want to be in on the deliberations. But apart from that, I'll be here, cranking away at the papers. Having broken the initial resistance to the task helps some, but I just have to be resigned to the fact that this is a portion of my job that I will never relish but find too important to slight. I am still considering possibilities for how I can lighten the load for myself and still feel I am providing the guidance I want to provide. How many times have my faithful readers heard me say this? The conundrum I perpetually find myself in is how to balance the differential between what I want to provide for the students (because I actually, truly do care, deeply, about the quality of their education) and the stress that I put myself under as a consequence. I've been teaching at NCC for nine years, and I still don't have that worked out.

Well, one continues to learn, yes, and to experiment, try out new approaches, test limits and theories, experiment with different conceptualizations and consequent priorities. A bit like life, actually.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Le bon weekend

It won't be completely "bon," since I have papers to grade--and a few more appointments (and consequent early morning alarms) than I'd ideally like--but it's still a weekend, and I'll take it.

Not much to report today: class, meeting, office hour, class, class, all went fine. I got everything from 229 marked and back to the students today (and collected some more, but not much). We seem to be settling into 10 students for now. I know I won't end the semester with that many, but at the moment, the dynamics seem to be working fine. The 102s were similar to yesterday's: the students worked the entire period, actively engaged in helping each other prepare first versions to submit to me. Cool.

Next week, when we start working on the in-class revision process, I want to have some sample intros (maybe conclusions, too) from their papers to show. The idea is, after going over what an intro/thesis should look like, to present the examples anonymously and have them evaluate what works and what doesn't. I'm not sure how many examples to have (not too many or that takes up the whole period, but more than two, I think)--but the main thing is for them to first evaluate those anonymous examples, then to evaluate their own intro/thesis paragraphs and work to fix them. In any event, it was interesting to go through the papers just reading introductory paragraphs, looking for examples, good and bad, and in the process, to start to get a sense of who gets it and who patently does not. A few surprises there, but not many.

I realized, too, there are a few more "thou shalt nots" that I didn't include in my little lecture. (Thou shalt not state thy intentions [as in, "In this essay I will..."]. Thou shalt not make references to the class or the assignment. Thou shalt not use a quotation from some other random source that seems pertinent to the point you want to make. [They can learn to do that later: it can be quite valuable to make connections of that sort, but right now, they're having a hard enough time coming up with a point of view of their own based on what they've read for the class.]) Well, I'll go over all that next week.

One interesting student moment in the 102 section I just taught. A young woman (who has already gotten in attendance trouble--but that's another issue) was in class today, on time, with her paper, ready to go. Until today, I've thought of her as a shy, retiring, somewhat timid little thing: she's physically petite, has a sweet little moon face, and hasn't had a whole lot to say. But today, ye gods, I needed a whip and a chair. She was in a corner with four young men (maybe that was the issue), but I kept hearing them getting wildly off topic--and it was all at her instigation. (I don't know her ethnicity--if I had to guess, I'd say Pakistani--and she was sitting near a young man who I believe is also from South Asia, so a lot of the off-topic conversation was them bonding over that shared experience and background. But still.) She was getting more and more boisterous--and didn't completely quit even when I told her to pipe down. I didn't get angry, nor did I use my "I'm truly fucking serious" voice, so apparently she didn't realize that I actually was serious. I have a feeling that the time may come when I actually have to get coldly authoritarian with her in order to keep her in check.

On the other hand, I'm thrilled to bits that they're relaxing enough to start teasing each other and carrying on. As I've said, repeatedly, I'd rather pull them out of the rafters than try to fork-lift them off the floor. This group is decidedly heading in the direction of the chandeliers.

I'd have sworn I had some other wonderfully scintillating anecdote to share, but nope. That's it. Call it a week. Next week you will no doubt hear the usual bitching about paper grading (you can simply press "play" to hear the old familiar refrain)--but a week from right now, I'll be heading into a lovely break from teaching. In many ways I hate the Presidents' Week break, as it interrupts the flow of the semester just when things are starting to get rolling, but I find I'm also generally relieved when it comes. This time, I'll actually be doing some scholarship, writing the paper for a conference publication to accompany the conference I'm going to in Lisbon, Portugal, in June. About Le Guin, fortunately, so I don't have to reinvent the wheel, but still, it will be interesting--and no doubt somewhat of a challenge at first--to reactivate that portion of my brains. Rusty as hell, but nice to get that brain segment polished off, oiled up, and moving again. (Did I hear someone say "oil can"?)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The student as teacher

I've just returned to the office after facilitating my students' peer review of each other's papers. I paired one of the smarter, more capable students with Mr. Smart--whom I am going to henceforth call The Flounder, because that approximates his mental acumen and personality as well as being a valid description of how he's doing in my class. In any event, the Flounder was late for class (qu'elle surprise) but said he had a paper to turn in. The bright young man read his paper and then very carefully, patiently, compassionately pointed out what had gone wrong. It was a thing of beauty--and I'm not being in the least snarky about it. In fact, next time I see the Bright Young Man, I need to pull him aside and compliment him on how he handled the situation. He was very clear, explained well, was gentle--and the Flounder either stared numbly into space, stared numbly at his paper, or flounced with annoyance at having to actually do something. "Your works cited page should be on a separate page," Bright points out, and the Flounder flounces. "Your paper is actually shorter than it needs to be": flounce. But other than those two galvanic responses, the numb stare predominated. And Bright didn't lose his composure or his patience. He also was absolutely wonderful about continually pointing out that the information needed can easily be found in the style guide. Overall, I'd say he did better than I could have done.

In terms of the Flounder, I'm completely out of patience. I'm just waiting until he's failed enough assignments that I can tell him he cannot pass--and get him the hell out of there. He shows no signs of being ready for or interested in getting an education, and unless he does, I see no reason why I should go one iota out of my way to help him. Triage: we work like hell to save the ones who have a chance, but we can tell the ones who don't stand a chance, the metaphoric DOAs. He's exemplary of the latter.

But shifting gears back to a more positive note: generally, I love peer review days--and not merely because they do the heavy lifting, not me. This class was remarkably good about engaging in the process with each other, working hard--and, unusually, working the entire period (typically they think they're "finished" well before the 75 minutes are over). But to see them helping each other, asking each other questions, proposing solutions--and checking in with me, sharing what they learn with each other--working things out together: that's just brilliant. I love it. I think any educator will say that the coolest part of our profession is being able to actually watch thinking and learning taking place. It is palpable in these peer review sessions, and it's a joy. I don't even worry too much right now about the effectiveness in terms of the actual changes to their papers: I'm just thrilled to see them working.

And they've been given instructions on how to begin their revisions, even before they get feedback from me. I'm very curious to see how well this process works.

I also have been marking mini-papers for the 229 class, and so far they're pretty disastrous--to the point where I've decided I'm not even going to put a grade on them. Anyone who does a reasonable job will get a grade, but the ones who have not paid any attention to formatting, or who have an approach that is utterly incorrect, will simply get the paper back with some comments--and the grade will be "revise and resubmit." If I let myself, I can get pretty seriously enraged about what's been going on in their education in all the years prior to walking in the door of my classroom, that they've gotten to a sophomore-level English class and still have absolutely no fucking clue how to write a paper that is appropriate for college. But every time I start to get hot under the collar about that, I remember some of the students I've passed in previous semesters, and I squirm: I've been guilty of passing along the unfit, too, dammit. And I know, I know, I know it does the student no favors.

But they are, as Dad would have said, highly "ego involved" in this process: their grades can make them feel wonderful about themselves as human beings or can do genuine damage to their sense of self. Their "self-esteem" has been so coddled and tended to and carefully wrapped in layers of approval that they are exquisitely sensitive and thin-skinned when it comes to bearing up under critique or difficulty. Tough as I am (or as I like to believe I am), I am not unaware of, nor insensitive to, the genuine pain they experience. I try not to let that affect my grading, but I know it does sometimes. (Not when it comes to someone like the Flounder, however: I admit that when faced with a certain level of stupidity coupled with truculent whining, I just want the person out of my hair: if underneath that utterly maddening behavior he is actually a sweet and frightened kid, I don't see enough evidence of it to feel anything like compassion. I just want the excuse to let the axe fall and get it over with.)

I think of the seminar I went to last semester, when the presenter had us do a whole "This is me; this is my idea" exercise, to show students the differentiation between themselves and their ideas, the point being to help remove some of that ego-involvement from situations in which their ideas (or the manner of presentation) are challenged. Makes me think I might need to give them a little talk about that when I return their papers....

I can tell I'm procrastinating a bit here. I need to get back to marking stuff for 229, but what I've seen so far is so awful I'm resisting. Still, the only way out is through, so, excelsior, I guess.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Plus ca change...

I can't put the little goomflage under the "c" there to make it a soft one, but you know it's there. I kept thinking that this morning, thinking about how my plan for yesterday changed between when I blogged and when I got home--and how that seems to happen more often than not. I ended up not marking anything, didn't nap, instead got to bed early-ish and got up a little earlier than I originally intended this morning. But the main thing is, I got everything marked for today's 102--and without having to bail on my committee meeting. Hooray.

The students for 229 come next on the list of priorities--and I'll have time tomorrow to chip through their assignments. I'm meeting a student in the office at 9:30, don't have class until 12:30, and then will hang around until Conviviality at 5:30. There's a Women's Studies meeting I would like to go to, but it's a study session and I haven't done--and won't do--the homework. I don't want to go and feel like one of my own unprepared students, so instead, I'll hole up here and crank through what I have to mark.

Classes today went fine. There are two students in Native American Lit who probably shouldn't be there, but they're trying, hanging on by their fingernails, and I don't have the heart to shake their hold loose--not just yet anyway. The 102s are starting to show the initial attrition, too: students who have simply stopped attending (or who, if they come back, will be faced with the professor saying "I'm sorry; you've missed too much and cannot continue: you need to withdraw or take the F"). First papers usually shake the numbers down even a little further, as students panic and realize they don't know how to write the kind of paper I want (or when they get their grades back and realize how badly they did).

I will say, however, that I see a couple of high-quality students in each section. That's a mercy. Sometimes one will have a section that is filled with students like Mr. Smart: fucking deadly, that is. Or even simply with students who are filled with energy but who won't do the work, or can't be brought to focus. But all my sections seem pretty equal in terms of the capable to struggling ratios--at least so far. The balance can tip very quickly and easily, either for ill or for good, depending on who stops coming. But fingers crossed that the sections lose any dead wood, keep the lively minds.

Anyway.

My evening office hour is officially over, and I am pretty tired (not to mention hungry), so I'll wrap this up and look forward to an interesting day tomorrow. Students in the 102s are going to be doing peer review of first versions of their papers over the next two days: heavy lifting for them, not for me--until I start the grading. Then, yikes and likewise zoiks. But that's yet to come. Tonight, I can breathe easy and do the sea-cucumber act. Bliss.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Cosmic joke--or blessing?

This morning the alarm went off at 5:30, as usual on a Monday morning. I was in the midst of my morning ablutions when I noticed that the bathroom clock was an hour slow. Funny, I thought, I was just wondering how long that little battery would last. Then I went to make the bed and thought, "shouldn't it be getting light by now?" I looked at another clock--which agreed with the one in the bathroom. Turns out, something had happened to the alarm clock, and it was set an hour ahead of the actual time. I'd gotten up at 4:30.

Oh, hah hah, very funny.

But it turned out to be a god-send that I had gotten up that hour early, as I ended up needing the time to get everything marked for the second class today. But I did: I got everything back to them--in both classes. Both classes went very well, actually. I started each class with a little mini-lecture about approach, what I do and do not want, as precisely and clearly as I can state it. And I am more than a little abashed to admit that, in setting up the first version of a paper, I'd never before been precise about the value of isolating three points in one's thesis that will then be developed in the body. I've always ended up doing that in conferences, after the fact--as if somehow students would just understand the Magic Rule of Three by osmosis. But this time not only did I specify that part of the instructions, we also used part of the class discussion to isolate three things for each of the two potential topics.

Now, I don't for a moment believe that I will consequently see a quantum boost in their papers as a result of this "Oh, duh!" moment of mine--but if it helps even a hemi-demi-semi-skosh, I'll be pleased.

I still have more than I wish I did to mark for tomorrow's 102--and the poor students in 229 will very likely have to wait until Thursday to get anything back (mea culpa)--but because I was up at 4:30 (FOUR THIRTY, y'all), I need a nap before I try to finish up. I'm in the tail-end of my office hour right now and am waiting for a student who asked to see me but couldn't make the regularly scheduled time (happy to oblige). I thought I'd take this opportunity to blog a bit.

So, various close encounters of the student kind: a student showed up to class today, having missed the last two weeks of class (one of those a snow day, but still), and although he said he'd done all the work, I notice that he had no reading journals for me. Still, he said he could keep up, so I'll give him a little more rope with which to either save or hang himself. Similar thing with another student in the other 102, but he hadn't even picked up the reader yet. Um, sorry, but no. He seems a nice enough kid, and he's studying for his EMT exam, but if he can't even be bothered to pick up a free reader within the first three weeks of class...? No.

And Mr. Smart (so he thinks) had about a thirty-twoth of a journal with him in class today and was about as useful to anything going on as one of the linoleum floor tiles. I returned his "reflection" on the assignment with a minus (as in, "well, you turned in something more than a blank page"). He was shocked and offended. As he took 25 years to pack up at the end of class, and since all the other students were gone, I decided, "Oh, what the hell: let's make this a teaching moment." I asked him if he understood why it got such a low mark. "Because it wasn't long enough?" No, my dear: because all you did was complain about how the assignment was too hard and how you shouldn't be expected to write anything as long as 4-5 pages because you work and have to take care of your baby brother and in your 101 class the final paper was 4-5 pages so it was completely unreasonable of the professor to expect you to start with anything that absurdly, insanely long, and and and and. That's not what the assignment was. Oh, he said. Can I do it over? (Should I just put him out of my misery now or allow him to delude himself a little longer?) OK, I said. You needed to vent, and you vented, and now you can do the assignment I asked you to do. He tells me he now understands what he needs to do. But all he's done so far is complain and make excuses for why he shouldn't have to do what is required. (Clearly, that's a "smart" way to deal with a professor, or anyone in a position of authority.) In any event, he also now has more rope: he can do with it what he will.

The campus bells are playing "Wayfaring Stranger," which is not as good as the near-blizzard-Wednesday when they were playing "Let It Snow" but similar in irony, to my mind, to the time they played the theme from The Godfather. Who makes these choices?

In any event, I will do a little P&B paperwork (no real thinking required) and meet with my student. Then home to nap and mark more assignments, dinner, movie, bed. And with any luck at all, the alarm will go off at the correct hour tomorrow--7 a.m.--and not a nanosecond before.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Evening hours

Because the committee meeting I had to attend today was mercifully short, I had a little extra time between that and my next class, so I not only got a little batch of reading journals marked for this afternoon's 102 class, I ate my lunch and still had time for a 20-minute nap. I wasn't sure I'd actually sleep, but I was out: good thing I'd set an alarm. That little snooze gave me the boost I needed to get through both afternoon classes in fine form.

Native American Lit was particularly interesting. Only six students were there (and among the missing was one of the strong students); one of those present hadn't done the reading (again). I'd have tossed him but decided to keep him just for the even number. He's actually relatively smart, and he'd be great in the discussions if he knew what the fuck he's talking about: the fact that he talks without having done the reading is more than a trifle annoying, but I told him that he needs to read first, then ask questions or make comments. We were discussing two critical essays today, and (on Paul's excellent advice) I divided the class in half: each half was responsible for explaining to the other half some of the key points in one critical essay and demonstrating how those points could be used to support analysis of one of the stories we've read. They did a pretty good job. Their understanding may have missed some of the more intricate subtleties, but they got the main ideas very well.

It was fun when the discussion veered away from talking about Native thought as revealed in Native writings to a more generalized discussion about society, how we are taught history, whether we need to protect children from uncomfortable truths (or even grim--or Grimms'--readings), just kicking ideas around. I love when that happens: it doesn't happen often enough in classes here--and there do have to be limits and parameters--but I made the students laugh when I found a thread and said, "Notice how she deftly brings us back to a discussion of Native American cultures...." It was great, and we could have kept going.

I do, however, hope that we end up with a few more than six students. There is one who wasn't there today whom I'd be happy to lose, but for the most part, I hope the rest all stick.

Both 102s went well today, too: significantly better than yesterday, and largely because I was more patient and willing to allow them to work their way around to the central issues in their own way and time. Good discussion, good questions, from both classes.

I have now asked several more students to leave (one is the young woman who tried to withdraw from my class after the first day: I bet she doesn't stick), so each class has seen the example of what happens to students who are unprepared for the work of class. I haven't started tossing people for cell-phone use: I may start doing that next week. Honestly, I've been more worried about holding on to a critical mass of students than about enforcing the rules. Well, whatever. They're hurting themselves more than they are me (and I don't think they're detracting too much from the learning experience of others or I'd be more draconian).

In addition, in what may be an inappropriate move, I've asked the alternate to take over for me in a position I was elected to on a campus-wide committee. In other words, she'll attend the meetings in my place for the rest of the semester. I thought it would help boost her current promotion application, but she's already submitted that; still, she says maybe it will help her next one. (It will be detrimental to mine, but I'm hoping I can find other things to fill in the gap.) It's an astonishing relief not to have to go to those meetings. I've been losing my mind on that committee lately: there have been several times in which quite nasty verbal fights have broken out between people from different disciplines. The cliche about academics fighting so hard over issues because the stakes are so small comes to mind. But the fights also revealed a relatively ugly schism between the arts and the sciences, the latter being flat out disrespectful and dismissive of the other. I've no patience with that sort of behavior and would prefer just to let them act like rude adolescents outside of my sight and hearing.

But I'm not cranky about it or anything.

My hour as evening assistant chairperson is almost over for tonight. This timing actually works out just fine: I had time to finish class, return to the office, water the plants, pack my bag of weekend work (and my beloved editor's desk), do a little P&B business, and blog. I'll take one last look around the office to see what, if anything, I have forgotten to nail down in preparation for the start of next week, but it's looking like I can simply fold my tents (my tense) very shortly here and toddle off to the next thing, taking care of my personal life. And ain't that grand?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Bad night

Didn't get the light out until after 2:30. Had the alarm set for 8 (much later than I'd normally allow but figuring the extra sleep would make up for the loss of work time). Woke up at 6 anyway. Tried to fall back to sleep until I gave up a little after 7. Scraped ice out of the driveway for half an hour, splashed to campus, and managed to get through at least one set of reading journals for today's class so they could get some feedback. Went to class.

Either because of last night's ice storm, or for some other reason that is one of the mysteries of the universe, only fifteen students were there--or at least there and allowed to stay and work. One came in a little late and didn't have his reader or his homework: sorry, but bye. He was replaced by another student coming in who did have his homework: hooray, you can stay. Then half an hour late, in bangs the student who, on Monday, acted as if he'd never heard anything I'd said since day one. I asked him if he had his reader. "It's here." Where? "It's here." Finally I got him to pull it out of his pack. Do you have your reading journals? Yes. Where? Repeat conversation above, except it turns out he did not, in fact, have his reading journals: he had the other homework for today.

Before I figured out that he didn't actually have the reading journals, I was going to have him join a group--but after he'd been sitting there for five minutes, still with nothing open in front of him and not participating in any way, I called him out in the hall. First of all, I explained, my attendance policy says that if you're more than 20 minutes late, you're absent. "What?? But in high school it was like 30 minutes." This isn't high school. He tried to argue with me: why is 20 minutes late? One could almost laugh about that one, but I just repeated, it's my policy. "How late was I?" Thirty minutes. Plus, you're clearly not ready to do the work of the class, so you need to leave today and try again on Monday. More argument, why can't he stay and at least take notes and try to learn something? Because you're not prepared and the other students are, and you're getting in the way of their learning experience.

Back into the room we went, and five minutes later, he still was sitting there. I called his name and said, "Goodbye." "I'm packing up," he said, although he was not moving, hadn't been since returning to the room. A few minutes later, he grabbed his coat, flung it over his shoulders and stormed out.

I hope I never see him again. I realize that I was similarly disenchanted with Mr. Macho last semester, but he at least showed signs of intelligence and ability under it all. This guy: nothing. I mean, nothing. It isn't that the light's on but nobody's home: the light isn't even on. He's animated--breathing, moving--but otherwise inert.

The class did not go well, generally, because I pushed an idea on them too fast and they froze up: my bad. But, tired as I am, I just didn't have it in me to circle around and around and around the central issue of the story. Ah well. We discussed it, at least, and we discussed some stuff about paper writing generally (I was very proud of myself that I did talk about the day's homework). And that was that.

Monday will be better, please God.

So I came back to the office, fully intending to pack up immediately and head for home and what I hope will be a championship-quality nap, but then I ran across a little P&B stuff that needed tending to (yep, I'm back on P&B, taking up my duties as alternate). So I cleared that off my desk (there's more, but at least that part of it's done), now I've blogged, and I realize I almost literally can't see, so I need to get myself fed and horizontal. More marking assignments for tomorrow will follow some sleep. Sleep will help everything.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Figuring things out

Today, for instance, I figured out that--unless I am under a ferocious crush of paper grading--it does not make sense to get up at 5:30 on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Bruce checked with me this afternoon to see what hours I want to be available as evening assistant chair, and since I teach until 5:15 on T/Th anyway, I said 5:30-6:30 those two days. And today, I had a hell of a hard time getting to P&B at 1, never mind all the way through my last class. I used the rotten weather as an excuse to bail on my evening hour, but from now on, it makes more sense to sleep a little later so my energy holds up a little longer into the day. Thursdays will be a little more complicated, as I have class at 10, which means I can't sleep past 6 anyway, but even that extra half hour might help get me through.

The day felt weirdly chaotic and unfocused, even though it actually went OK. I got a fair amount of stuff marked this morning, showed a video in 229 to give the students a little historical grounding (a shameful number of them know absolutely fucking nothing about the history of the westward expansion of Euro-Americans and why that created conflict with the people who were already living here), and did the same basic thing in 102 that I did with the other two sections.

And I'm hoping wildly that the ice storm we're supposed to get tonight (on top of, yep, more snow) means at worst a delayed start tomorrow: I really want to see those students and get them up to speed. In the thirty years I've lived in New York, I've never seen a winter with this much bad weather back-to-back-to-back, and it's annoying as hell on all sorts of levels.

But now I'm home and in "soft clothes" and frantically hungry (and the cats are telling me they've never been fed in their entire lives, not once), so I'll go tend to my life. More anon.