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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?

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