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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.

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

All over but the shouting

And I suspect there will be shouting from a few students who failed. I didn't fail as many as probably deserved it, but a few simply did not turn in enough work and, in one case, were absent all too many times (even with the forgiveness factor in the wake of the hurricane). And the Would-Be Wonder Student was stupid and didn't follow through on the withdrawal, so he got a UW (unofficial withdrawal)--which averages in his GPA like an F. He is not, repeat not, going to be happy, but he's fucking himself up and needs to recognize that fact. I think he's one of those who would benefit from a year or two (or more) out there in the real world, away from school, to get knocked around, learn a few lessons, and come back when he's ready to really put in the effort, not just make a lot of noise about it.

Poor Dear Thing found out she was going to get a D+--and this is her second time taking the course, with the same result. I gave her the option to withdraw, and she took it. Honestly, she's one that I truly believe deserved the F, so just as well she'll have to take the class again, whatever her grade. But I'd lay even money that she'll get a puffball of a professor next go-round and will sail through--maybe even with an A, who knows. It's happened to students of mine in the past.

I didn't spend a lot of time working with Bruce this morning--scattered focus, too much going on--but I did help him solve one problem, recommending one of our former full-time faculty for one of our electives that was begging for an instructor. Happy all around. I'll be back working with him in January, when that round of shouting begins, but for now, we're OK. I'm happy to report that in all the byzantine recording that has to happen, I didn't make any mistakes. That sound you hear is me patting myself on the back.

Shifting gears back to the "all over" part: I had hoped to escape it, but I will have to come in tomorrow--but briefly, just to copy the paper rosters and submit them to the department. Not a huge deal: I will be in the area anyway, for a physical therapy appointment, so it will be easy enough to drop by and cross the final T's, dot the last I. If I'm feeling wildly ambitious--or simply in need of a little futzing around to round things off--I may clean up the hazmat area that is my desk. (Christ only knows what's lurking there in all the detritus.)

But there will be no blogging. I won't blog; I don't care how nicely you plead. Not until January. (Unless, of course, a P.S. sneaks up on me. One never knows.)

And until then, a very Merry Happy to you all.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Oh, yeah, and...

...looking at what's left, I've decided not to take work home. I think I can still do some scheduling (if Bruce hasn't finished it off) and still have time to get everything graded and the numbers crunched before too late. I might even have time to go home, feed the cats, and get back to the neighborhood for a dance get-together tomorrow night.

But that's tomorrow. No plans. Just today.

Surprise, surprise

I'm hearing Gomer Pyle: "Soo-prize, Soo-prize." I didn't think there would be any opportunity for me to blog today, but here I am in Advisement, having read and graded the stack of papers I brought with me (I didn't bring them all--and perhaps I should have). There are few students, long pauses, and I still have a little over an hour before I can get the flock out of here. So, what to do? Write a blog post, of course.

Things I wanted to record (in no particular order):

I can't remember if I mentioned yesterday that I realized, if I were to average the homework grades for the students in my later 102 class, I'd be handing out failures left, right, and center, as most of the students had racked up an impressive number of zeroes in their idea logs and (especially) glossaries. I'm getting soft in my old age: I don't want to fail them, mostly simply because they gutted it through to the end. I don't mind handing out an entire classfull of D's, but failing six of the eight who remain? I can't do it.

I told them about the problem--and what I was thinking about as a solution. I may consider anything that they turned in after the storm as extra credit. If I do that, those who turned in all the logs and glossaries would get a whopping benefit--perhaps too much, which is why I'm unsure whether that solution will fly. I don't want to end up having to move someone who deserves a D or a C up to a higher grade; I just want a legitimate, numerical justification to pass them.

I'm not sure about the fairness of making that kind of adjustment for one section and not the other--but in the other section, more students beat themselves to bits to get the work done, even if they did a crap job of it. It's all going to come down to the number crunching tomorrow; I'll juggle solutions until I come up with something that works to my satisfaction.

In terms of the reading of papers, there is one student--I think I've mentioned him before--who is certainly plagiarizing but whom I have not been able to catch at it. I read his final paper, and I'm even more sure that it is not his work. If he's using someone else to write his papers, I won't be able to nail him (which frosts my ass, as I wish I could burn his)--but my sincere hope is that he's getting over-confident, time-pressured, and therefore sloppy, and that consequently I'll find evidence to use to blast him. I spent a good while in the office typing his paper into a Word file so I can grind it through the plagiarism detector software I have at home. I really want to catch the little rat.

And I've done the same for a student in the earlier 102. I don't think she'll pass anyway; her paper has other significant problems, and she's been conspicuously absent (and not turning in work) most of the semester, especially since the storm. But if she plagiarized--and I think she did--I want to let her know she can't get away with it.

Well, sometimes they do get away with it--witness the rat in the Short Story class--but it seems useful to be able to scare the crap out of a student, hoping that the lesson actually has an effect.

I have to say, across the board the final papers are sub-standard, despite the incremental versions thing. Some student conveniently forgot the critical essay requirement. Many turned in a paper that is significantly under the required length. Lots of bozo errors. Generallycrappy writing. I'm giving grades that I know in my heart are way the fuck too high--but I painted myself into a corner with earlier grades. Still, many are getting a lower grade on the final version than they got on the in-progress steps, which drives me bonkers. How can I get them to come through on the promise of their in-progress work--even if it isn't much promise? I thought the proposal process was the problem, but it seems not. I will stick with the incremental submissions thing regardless: it does make more sense, even if the results are not what I'd like. But this is another area in which I'm going to look for that mythical perfect delivery method that gets every student to produce praise-worthy work.

That reminds me that in the discussion with the earlier class yesterday, one student said that she thinks there is nothing I can do to help students understand what idea logs should look like, why observation and summary (not to mention personal response) are not actually ideas. Her point--and she may be right--is that it students simply need to learn by doing, and not succeeding very well, and responding (at least theoretically) to my comments. But they did all love the procedure I instituted part-way into the semester, of distributing green and purple pens so I could distinguish their class notes from the work they'd done at home. That encouraged them to take class notes--because they knew they could get better grades if they did a good job of learning from the class discusion. My concern is that they won't be willing to risk doing the work (and making mistakes) at home, which is always a problem. I will have to remind them, over and over, that I'd rather see them  take a good stab at it and miss--or ask a zillion questions--than provide answers that are not useful to analysis.

Well, but that's next semester--and the ones to follow. Right now, I have four papers to comment on, another seven to read, a little Assessment dealy to do, and then the number crunching. Hoo-fucking-ray.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A gamble

I'm going to believe that I can get to the office early tomorrow and knock off the papers for the Short Story class in record time. Only two asked for comments, and one of those has already been commented upon; the other is half done. If I can hit the ground running (as it were), I think I'll be ready in time for tomorrow's class period--and I'll hope to hell that no one shows up looking for a final paper grade before I've had a chance to read the damned paper. It's a gamble, but I'm willing to take it--so I can get home, feed cats, and still make it to dance class. (A life? Am I allowed to have one of those?)

Tomorrow's going to be a mad dash of a day, not only because of the flurry of paper reading in the morning but also because I have to leave straight from Advisement to get the cat to the vet. I intend to do my Advisement time a little early, although that will mean leaving the office before the official end of the class period for the Short Story class. If I am done in Advisement early, I face a little less concern about getting to the vet appointment on time--and anything I can do to reduce stress is good.

Tomorrow I should take work home with me, so I can get a jump on the commenting (on four papers) and reading (of the remaining fourteen) for Thursday. I want/need to spend time Thursday morning working on adjunct scheduling--and one of my promotion mentees wants to meet with me in the morning, and she of the freelance job wants to meet with me in the afternoon, truncating the time I'll have for papers. Plus I want to be crunching numbers and figuring final grades by the afternoon, if at all possible. I fully intend to have everything done and my grades posted before I leave on Thursday, even if I have to stay until midnight.

But that's planning, and lately, my plans have a way of going south in a huge hurry. Tonight is enough to deal with.

It was interesting to get the feedback from students in both 102s today. Across the board, students said that they learned how useful the idea logs could be, and that they valued the revision process. Across the board, they said they feel they can read and write better. In the earlier class, we had a long discussion about whether group work is valuable. They think not; I know better, but they have a point that, especially at the start of the semester, students need more structured tasks in their groups in order to work productively. (I also realize--again--that I have to be very clear to give them permission to be confused and feel stupid.) One student also wanted me to do more spoon-feeding of the start of the novel--but again, I know better. If I hand them a lot of information before they start reading, what I say will be meaningless, as they won't have a context for it. I do wish I could make students read the entire book, cover to cover, once through, as quickly as possible, without taking a single note or doing anything other than reading, then have them re-read according to the assignment schedule--but I know damned well they won't do it. I am, however, feeling that the whole approach to the novel needs some rethinking--or that I need to rethink teaching the novel at all, at least for a while. Hmmmm.

I'm looking over at my desk, and I see things stacked up that are not papers to read: what am I forgetting? I'll head over there when I've finished this post and do another triage list, then pack up and split. No blog tomorrow, I'm sure, but I'll probably post when I've tied off the last bit of the semester on Thursday. God, I can't believe I've only got two more days. Shit!

Monday, December 17, 2012

I take it back.

Over the weekend I told several people that this week shouldn't be too bad. I take it back. I just realized I have a lot to get done for Wednesday at 11--and virtually no time to do it in, not and do my job in terms of adjunct scheduling. I passed by the office today and saw Bruce hard at work on the scheduling; I'm hoping like mad there isn't much left for me to do--or that maybe I can do it on Thursday instead of tomorrow (which would free up a ton of time). I canceled my physical therapy appointment for tomorrow morning; the receptionist asked me if everything is OK. I said, "My life is blowing up, but my body is fine." Continuing cat crisis and, and, and... I don't even know what all. No time, no brain, too much to do.

I did finish the freelance editing job for my colleague--but now she wants to sit down and go over it. I told her Thursday--by which time things really should be better; I should be down to crunching the numbers, not reading/marking any more papers (or only a few) (or I hope). And I finally took a look at the promotion applications I'm mentoring and responded about those. I have some bits of leftover homework for the 102s that I will, by God, get done tonight--but I'm going to take it home (need to be home to care for the cat). I had hoped to go do dance tomorrow, but that's looking unlikely, unless a miracle occurs.

The students in the Short Story class really did not want to do the wrap-up, talk about what they got out of the semester, what worked. They confirmed my hunch that in the future, I need to give more specific topics for the paper assignments: even though they will need to learn how to develop their own topics eventually, it seems they're not ready for it yet. Fair enough. They generally said that the idea logs were helpful. Most of them had at least one story they'd liked. A few legitimately felt they got something good out of the experience. A few gave a nice goodbye at the end (including two who thanked me for making them stick it out, not quit). Only two want comments on their papers (sweet). I'm glad as many crossed the finish line as did--and I see a number of "mercy D" grades coming.

No clue what the 102s will be like tomorrow. It will be interesting.

But now I have to figure out what to take home--finding that balance between what I'd like to get done and what's realistic to expect I'll actually do. And I have to go home.

More tomorrow.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Good decision? Bad decision?

I'm not going to take any work home with me this weekend. I may regret this come next week--and if I start to get jittery about it, I can always drop by over the weekend and pick stuff up (I'll be in the  neighborhood anyway). But at the moment, I think I can get everything done next week without undue strain--including looking at those dratted promo folders--and I'd prefer to spend this weekend finishing that editing project for my colleague and, well, I don't know what else. There's always something. (I've suddenly turned into Rosanne Roseannadanna).

I did write up that observation, finally, so that's off the triage list. I also spent a little time yesterday gathering together a bunch of stuff to send off to the copy center, so I don't have to strain the hell out of the department copiers (well, not as much anyway). It would be terrific if I could get my syllabi pulled together in time to send those to the copy center as well, but somehow, I don't think I'll count on that.

I got all the Short Story second versions graded and on the door to be picked up. One student e-mailed me to say she wouldn't be able to get hers today after all (growf), but if she doesn't get it before Monday, that's her too bad.

Both classes were nearly non-existent today, as I anticipated. A few students proofread their own papers; some exchanged papers with a classmate to proofread; more just pulled together all the pieces, handed them to me, took the self-evaluation assignment, and split. Piece o' cake. And I got some idea log flotsam marked as I waited for the late-comers to blow in the door. One student had completely forgotten her paper at home; she kept trying to find ways to turn it in late (tomorrow? Saturday? Sunday?) but I just kept shaking my head, "no, no, no." I said, "What's your day like today?" Well, she's finished with classes and is going home. And where is home? I can't remember what she said, but I simply lifted my eyebrows, and she realized that, if she wants to be responsible, she needs to go home, get her paper, and bring it back to me today. She asked how late I'd be around; I said "pretty late"--but in fact, that probably won't be the case. Still, I will leave a note for her to put the paper on the office door, that I will pick it up later. I just won't specify that "later" means either tomorrow or Monday.

I do want to get out of here as soon as I get a few things organized. I need to make an actual triage list, not just the one in my head, so I don't lose track of anything next week. For instance, I keep tending to forget that I have to fill in some information for an assessment of "information management," with my Short Story students as the guinea pigs; I need to do that as soon as I have the papers evaluated. I'm even going to put the routine paper-work on the list, just because it will make me feel good to get it crossed off. Mostly, I need to take a look at what is on (or near) my desk and know what's where. Then I can toddle off home and watch something dopey on DVD while I munch popcorn or something. I need to turn my brains off for a while so maybe I can actually get a good night's sleep. That's one think I'm looking forward to more than almost anything: mornings when I don't have to set an alarm. Between class days and two weekend appointments, there are six more alarm mornings before I have two weeks in which to loll about in bed as late as my little old heart desires. Yah. Nice.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

All the chocolates in America will not clear out this little mind

Lady Macbeth I am not, despite what my students think, but I do feel like I'm responsible for a bloodbath. I've marked all but three of the second versions of the final papers for the Short Story class, and although they genuinely are better (hooray!) they still have a long, long way to go (boo!). I do wish I could bring myself to mark the last three: I tried to save the best for last, but I looked at the first paragraph of one of them and thought, "Oh no. Oh shit. Oh well." And hit the wall.

In class today, I asked students to let me know when they could pick up their marked papers; the one I just looked at needs to be ready by 11:15 tomorrow morning; the other two I can grade during my office hour. So the plan is to come in as early as I can make it, grade that one, do adjunct scheduling until my office hour, then grade the last two--and see where that leaves me in terms of time.

The class period was pretty easy today. I went over the procedure for submitting final papers with them, worked out when they'd be picking them up, told them they could work with each other or stay and ask me questions--or they could simply split. Most split (not a surprise--and in fact a relief.) One student needed to have his paper marked then and there, as he had no other opportunity to pick it up; a few others stayed briefly to ask questions. One of those is the one I know has been plagiarizing all semester, but I haven't been able to catch him at it (very sophisticated plagiarizing). I did point out to him that two pieces of information in his paper had no textual support anywhere (the plagiarism flag flying in my head)--so he agreed to either find the support or remove the information. Still, I don't want to expend energy and anxiety tying my knickers in a knot trying to nail down plagiarists. If I can do it relatively easily, well and good. Otherwise--as in the case of this kid--I have to adopt a Pollyanna-ish stance and believe that their cheating ways will at some point bite them in the ass (the evidence of Big Finance notwithstanding)

On the other hand, going over the paper with the student who needed his grade right then was kinda great. The student has good ideas; they just haven't been making it into his papers very well. I pointed out where ideas needed to be clarified, where the connections were missing, where he had an idea to develop and where he was off track--and he seemed to be getting it. It was an experience validating Paul's assertion that one-on-one conferencing is the best way to help students see what's going on in their work. Paul's right, and I know it works; I just have made the choice not to expend that kind of energy. (Are we noticing a trend?) If I ever do it again, it will be with final papers, when I have fewer students to meet with. I admire Paul's tenacity--and devotion--in continuing the process, but I'm trying to make life easier for myself, and conferencing is exhausting.

And I'm already exhausted: the ongoing cat worries (especially Monday's drama) have wrung me out, and I am finding it a challenge to recover. (I also find it a challenge to know what day of the week it is....) Part of the slow recovery is actually anticipatory in nature: I know what's still in front of me to be done. Final versions of final papers are arriving from the 102s tomorrow, and final versions of final papers from the Short Story class on Monday. Consequently, you may well ask (as I ask myself) when I intend to look at promo folders, and write up that observation, and finish the other tasks that must (really must) be finished before the end of next week. And my honest answer would be, I don't know. This semester is a very interesting exercise for me in learning the futility of plans (mouse plans or human plans, they do seem to gang agly, not just aft, but damned near always). I live by the Book of Scarlett O'Hara (though I have yet to make an outfit out of old drapes). Sufficient unto the day are the tasks thereof.

And the chocolate thereof. William showered me with chocolate, not only for my birthday but to help me get through the whole issue of the sick cat--and I damned near polished all of it off tonight. (I have to say, dark chocolate and cocoa dusted almonds are wickedly snackable.) But even all that sweetness (and the bit of caffeine within) won't get me through one more paper. I'd write the observation up, but I'm concerned to get home before too late.

I truly cannot believe that a week from tomorrow it will all be over. How is that possible? Is that possible?? Weird as hell.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


Jesus, this is just the semester from hell. Appendicidis, hurricane, and now a critically ill cat. I had to cancel class (and bail on Advisement) yesterday to rush her to the vet, lots of sturm und drang, got home mid-day, and collapsed. Fortunately, I didn't leave a ton of student work in the office, so I was able to be home and essentially senseless without washing about in waves of guilt. I could have worked on that editing job for my colleague, but nah. Maybe this weekend.

Everything is in tumult at the moment: my personal life is as bouleversee as my professional life. My promotion mentees have been very gracious about waiting (interminably) for feedback on their folders (which, fortunately, are not due to the college-wide committee until March). I have yet to start adjunct scheduling, which I intended to start two weeks ago. The broken strand of pearls analogy no longer works: I feel like a very inept plate-spinner. (Cue sound effect of smashing crockery.)

Because of the need to cancel yesterday's class, I am now trying to figure out what to do about the second version of papers for the Short Story students. One solution--which I do not like at all--is to collect the second versions tomorrow, grade them over the weekend, return them on Monday, and reschedule the final paper so it is due the last day of that class. I dislike that option for two reasons: one, it means I'd have to read and respond to papers over the weekend (which is more of a psychological problem than anything). Two, it means I'd have to madly read papers and crunch numbers the final day of my semester instead of being essentially finished. The only other option I can figure is to collect the papers and return them to students later in the day tomorrow or on Thursday, depending on when each student would be able to retrieve his or her assignment. I like that option better, even though it means a rather hellish stint tomorrow afternoon into Thursday morning. Not only would that solution bring an earlier end to the "I have to comment in ways that make sense" thing, I can sell it to the students as giving them more time to complete their papers once they get comments back from me: the whole weekend, not just a day and a half. I think I just sold myself on that option. Whew.

Today, the 102 students were still struggling: weirdly, the theses that they managed to pull out of their asses last class evaporated over the intervening days, so we spent a lot of time clarifying those theses again. And I almost had to have a show-out in the hall with one student in the later class: he kept insisting that he was making the argument I asked him to, and that his misreads of points in the book were correct, and that the slender thread he picked up on was sufficient to support his paper. I kept saying, "I'm trying to help you," and "You may think it's working, but if I tell you it isn't...." At one point he said, "I'm just going to write my paper the way I think  I should," and I got up and walked away from him. He tried to call me back, but I said, "If you're not going to listen to me, what can I do? Go ahead; write your paper the way you want." I knew, even as we were wrangling about it, that his reactions were defensive: he was confused, scared, and didn't want to let go of the life-raft of the familiar--even though it was wrong. I helped some other students (while we both cooled down), and then I went back to him, saying that perhaps the way I'd phrased the question was throwing him off. I asked him some very leading questions, then wrote down a version of his answer and showed it to him. He saw what I meant, and that it was, in fact, a thesis he could argue. I said that unfortunately, some of the ideas he loves so much may not work with that idea--but it's where he needs to go with the paper. He pretty much has to start from scratch (and overall he's in serious trouble anyway, because of missing work), but we'll see. I'm hoping I can legitimately give him a C for the class, but I'm dubious.

After I'd wrestled him to the ground, Poor Dear Thing chimed in saying she doesn't want to get help through e-mails because I'm so mean. I said that the two of them could have a party, sit down over coffee and commiserate over what a bitch from hell I am. Mr. I'll Do It My Way said no, on the contrary, my class is his favorite. Yeah, I'm not so sure I believe that, but OK. Poor Dear Thing had to admit that she is interpreting sarcasm and put-downs in what are, in fact, genuine answers to her questions. I love that class, but man, I wanted to throw the two of them out the window. And not open it first.

One of the students who should still finish the course (and could, potentially, get a decent grade--if I ignore his lousy attendance) was not there today. I deeply hope he shows up with that final paper on Friday. If he does, that means I'll have seven students remaining in that class; the Would Be Wonder Student withdrew, saying he'll see me next semester. (OK, if you're sure that's the best thing for you.) At least one other student needs to bring the official withdrawal form--or he'll get an Unofficial Withdrawal (a new policy this semester; it has the same effect on the GPA as an F). I am not sure how many students are left in the earlier class: could be only 8, or it could be 10 (or 9). I'll know more on Thursday.

I'm sure there is more I could complain about, but obviously it isn't anything all that urgent. Short version: I'm overwhelmed. Welcome to end of semester. I am, however, absurdly proud that I got everything for tomorrow's class marked and ready to return. It wasn't much, but when I left class today, I wasn't sure I'd be able even to blog, never mind do any productive work. Getting even that little bit done feels like a triumph. But now, I'm tired, and I have a cat to medicate. Speaking of medication, I may stop at the liquor store on the way home....

Thursday, December 6, 2012

I know I had a brain around here somewhere...

I spent ages today looking frantically for a student's second essay to grade and return. I looked everywhere I could think of, at least three times, and finally gave up. I went to class, all set to tell him that I'd mislaid it and to ask him to send me the revision (and apologize for losing the first version)--but when I said I'd lost his paper, he looked at me like I'd lost my mind and said, "You returned it to me already." I had. I'd even recorded the grade. Talk about the absent-minded professor....

His paper would have been the only bit still hanging over my head from the last week or so: I am happy to report that although it was a near thing, I did get everything I had in hand marked (sort of marked) and returned. Because I returned all those assignments, the students in the first 102 section wanted to ask a zillion questions--especially about how to calculate potential final grades--and I got so caught up in helping them, I almost missed the next class. The earlier section actually did a damned good job discussing Le Guin's "Is Gender Necessary? Redux" and the intro to the novel, even though most of them hadn't done the reading. Just enough of them had--including some of the duller students--and to my delight, they were getting the points, and getting them well.

The second class was more problematic, partly because Would-Be Wonder Student kept hijacking the discussion to talk about sociological or philosophical questions, not focusing on the actual texts (largely because he hadn't read them). The student who seemed to understand it all best is one who's been missing the last few classes; he's sweet and honorable and wants very much to do well, but his life has been a train wreck, so he's been behind most of the term. It was lovely to have his participation but sad, too, as I had to tell him after class that he probably needs to withdraw.

And that is the situation with WBWS. He and I had a long talk after class, the upshot of which was that the offer of an incomplete is withdrawn--on top of which, because he is well behind the curve in submitting the first two versions of the final paper, he won't get comments on the second one (the first was ungradeable). I could have graded his second version over the weekend and returned it on Tuesday, two days before the final version is due--but I didn't want to put myself out when he's not been holding up his end. (So there.) But I didn't tell him that. I did tell him that his grade for those versions will take a hit for being late. He's not quite ready to acknowledge that sometimes situations beyond our control fuck up our best intentions, nor is he entirely willing to admit that although he had all sorts of "new leaf" resolve about this semester, he truly has not put in the effort he's capable of--granted, in part because of those situations beyond his control, but the fact remains.

In any event, I may end up with both those young men in my 102s next semester, which would be fine by me. WBWS was trying to massage the angles so he wouldn't have to resubmit the work he turned in this term--and my answer was, well, kinda: I'd allow him to turn in this semester's final version of each paper as his first version for next semester--but he'd have to revise from there.

He was upset (understandably) but also very complimentary: he said he'd done his research and read on Rate My Professor that I would provide a real, high-level college experience, which was what he wanted. (Be careful what you wish for, I reckon.) He said that I taught at a level of sophistication that he hadn't encountered anywhere else. I'm somewhat surprised he'd say so, but I'll happily take the compliment.

I'll also happily take the weekend without work. I have some logs to mark for the short story class, but I'll do them next week (maybe even Monday before class, if I get here early enough). I have a teeny bit of stuff to mark for the 102s, but not enough to even think about. I'll have to do serious work reading the promotion folders for my three mentees (I've been falling down on my P&B business)--and next week I really do have to start work on the adjunct scheduling. But this weekend, if I do anything at all, it will be prep for next semester. My primary objective for this weekend, however, is to flush stress out of my system. I can feel it starting to build for the first time this term: I've been busy and harried but not as stressed or anxious as usual--until this past week or so. I don't want to carry stress around with me any more; it is at very least counter-productive, if not downright damaging, so whatever I need to do to alleviate it will be the order of the day.

Oh, I almost forgot (speaking of alleviating stress): I did snap at Poor Dear Thing, who interrupted me again. It was interesting to watch her after I'd scolded her, fighting down the urge to interrupt. She's so odd: she brings up her ideas in a belligerent manner, as if she's in the midst of a fight--even when A) it's the first time she's mentioned something and B) she's right. I suppose it's a defensive reaction because she feels "stupid" and is therefore all too willing to assume she is being judged as inferior by others, before she even opens her mouth.

But speaking of opening mouths, I'm hungry, so my method for alleviating stress at the moment means getting the hell out of here. I feel pursued by the "shoulds," but I'm going to try to lock them in the office and run. I can't do much tonight anyway, so what's the point in wearing the hair shirt of "should"? (It's chilly outside, but that's not a good choice of a warm layer.)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Assessment meeting was fine. I don't remember what else I'm supposed to do in terms of Shitstorm (er, Taskstream), but at least we got the main stuff covered. I think.

Class was fine. Students did a decent job with the last reading, and did a decent job working on their papers in pairs.

Advisement was fine. A steady stream of students, only one of whom was annoying as hell. (First case of that this semester that I can think of). I even got to mark one assignment while I was there.

Got through the huge, steaming pile for the first of tomorrow's 102 classes. The pile for the second class is slightly less huge, and perhaps not quite as steaming (a bit less shit, I'm hoping). I may regret not working on it more tonight, but not only am I hitting the wall, I have to get out of here so I can get to the vet's office before they close and run a few other cat-related errands.

I'm tired. But I realize, since I'm not actually holding class the final days, I will only see the students from the Short Story class three more times, and the students from the 102s four more. (and I feel a surge of anxiety: the "Oh shit!" feeling about how much work remains to be done if I'm going to get out of here with my feet clear.)

As I said, gack. But for now, I'm out of here.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


I feel like I'm being chased by a pack of rabid chihuahuas. It seems everywhere I turn, someone wants me to handle something, or there is some piece of business I have to attend to, or (most pressingly), I have huge, steaming piles of student shit to shovel through that must be marked immediately if not sooner.

I did get all the first versions marked for the Short Story class (whew), and tomorrow we're not going to talk about the last story I assigned unless we have time after we work on their papers some more. The most common problem is that the students try to compare two stories that are wildly dissimilar: for instance, both stories contain the word "God"; therefore they can be put together. Consequently, their "thesis statements" are so enormous as to be essentially meaningless--along the lines of my old favorite, "Many people feel the same and differently about many things." The attempt to stretch the evidence from the stories to cover the huge space they've staked out is painful to observe. (At least my students in 102 are spared that, having only to write about the novel.) This does make me think that perhaps I need to suggest pairs/themes--even if only very broadly. Students here, at this level, may just not yet be equipped to find good fits on their own. (And they give me fits in the process.) After all, in my other lit courses, I do provide more scaffolding in terms of parameters, choices; next time I teach the Short Story class, I need to rethink the essay structure.

Today's students were pounding their heads against the second versions of their papers. Would Be Wonder Student showed up today--and reminded me that I had suggested they could simply scrap their first versions, since so many realized in class that what they'd come up with was not going to fly. He missed an important decision that I made after I said that, which was that I would, in fact, collect their papers and give feedback, but I'm going to give him a break over the confusion--and he'll just get the same grade for versions one and two, and only get my feedback once before he has to produce the final. I'm glad I didn't lose him entirely--but I still need to talk to him about the incomplete, as he's rather falling down on the arrangement.

But as I said in both classes, I'm getting tired of policing shit. Hand in whatever. If you don't have it today, get it to me next class. Or the next one. Don't put it off much longer, or I won't be able to grade it in time for it to count. Yeah, fuck, whatever. Don't bother me with the begging about wanting more time, the excuses about crap quality, any of that. Hand the stuff in and go away.

I was about ready to remove Poor Dear Thing's head today. In her self-denigrating panic and confusion, she tends to get so caught up in her excuses and worries and "I can't" statements that she interrupts me and won't listen to what I say. I finally snapped--only a little, but after about the fourth time she interrupted me I did say, "God dammit, stop. I'm serious." I'm about at the point where I'm going to say, "Clearly you have no interest in what I have to say, as you perpetually interrupt, so I'm not going to respond any more. I will answer no more questions and provide no further help. Period." Of course I doubt I could stick to it, but her behavior is seriously getting on my nerves. The maddening thing is, she actually has a few good ideas; she just can't recognize them as good ideas, even when I tell her they are. She insists, "I don't know how to say it"--or, even more irritating, "I have an idea, but you don't understand me." "Clearly, then, the problem is in the expression of the idea, so you need to write it over and over, as many different ways as you can think of, until finally you feel like you've expressed it clearly. And because you are still a student, you then run it by me and see if I agree it's clear. If I don't, then you go back to the writing board (as it were). That's the process. It's not just you; it's anyone, everyone. That's how writing works."

Fuck. Well, whatever.

I realized with a sinking feeling that we have an assessment meeting tomorrow morning--time I had, of course, counted on for paper grading. And my Thursday morning is going to be eaten up as well: I am seeing a student at 10 (assuming he shows up: I'll double check with him tomorrow), and then I have to make up time in Advisement--and the Would Be Wonder Student has already said he wants to come to my office hour--and I should start work on the schedules with Bruce, but that just ain't gonna happen this week. But with all the other bites taken out of my time, when, you ask, will I mark all the second versions for the 102s, never mind the make-up logs and glossaries? Good question. I wish I had an answer. The only thing I know for certain is that no more of it will happen tonight. I'd push the make-up time in Advisement to next week--but I have a zillion appointments and meetings next week, too. Fuuuuck.

Well, whatever. Somehow it will all come out all right. ("How will it?" "I don't know; it's a mystery." Thank you, Tom Stoppard.)

Monday, December 3, 2012


...where did I leave off?

I didn't blog Thursday, and there were some blog-worthy events, particularly in the later of my 102s (of course). The should-have-been wonder student wasn't there, hadn't handed in the first version of his paper--has now effectively sunk himself entirely. Offer of an incomplete is hereby withdrawn. The other potential wonder student--even smarter, actually--also blew himself up (metaphorically speaking). He showed up late (again) on the day students were getting their first versions back to work on and sat there looking at the assignment sheet. I called him out in the hall and told him he couldn't pass (no essay 2 submitted, no version 1 of final paper submitted, lots of absences and lateness, and so on). I also told him he was driving me crazy--because he had the potential to be an A student, if he'd do the work. He tried to wiggle out of the situation because--wait for it--he's already on academic probation. I don't know how the withdrawal will affect that, but not positively, is my guess. I said he might not be allowed to come back to Nassau until he petitions for readmission--but before he does that, he needs to be sure he's ready to commit the time and energy to school. I trotted out my speech about "Sometimes the most important lessons we learn in college are life lessons..." and he agreed. (I gave the speech again today to another student from that class who also needs to withdraw.)

Of the students who are left, however, all were in the situation of struggling to come up with a clear, focused, debatable thesis. I circulated the room, helping as much as I could. The Poor Dear Thing got what Paul calls a "hit to the pleasure centers" because I read part of her first sentence aloud: perhaps the only thing she did right was to start of immediately talking about the novel instead of making big generalizations. She was thrilled to know she did anything right (note to self: remember to let students know!). The rest of her paper was a wreck (and I got an annoying e-mail from her this weekend asking me to tell her which chapters she should look in for evidence to prove her points... um, no), but at least she did that first sentence right.

Toward the end of class, another student pointed out that I had said we probably need to go over works cited pages in class. I saw that a classmate nearby had his head down on his desk, so I said, "Look at him: can I ask him to think about works cited pages now? Let's do it next class." But the young man raised his head and said, "No, no. This is me trying to take it in. I guess I really do need to pay attention to your comments on my papers." No shit, really? You think?

But I turned it into a joke. I was tired and consequently giddy enough that I was turning almost everything into a joke. And they were laughing. But they also were coming up with theses. Finally.

Then I went to observe one of our new adjuncts, and although there were some things about her class that were good, she clearly wasn't addressing the problems of remedial students. We had a long--Loooooong--talk after, in which I gave her ideas, pointed out the problems, explained what she should be focusing on. Of course, it's now so late in the term, I'm not sure what's going to happen with her poor students when it comes to the exit exam, but at least they have material for their portfolios. It was odd to realize that she honestly doesn't understand A) how to pull things out of the students' heads (instead of handing too much to them) and B) how to make almost any exercise interactive--which is what prevents boredom. In any event, I told her that the evaluation would be "needs improvement," but that I'm sure she will improve. She wanted me to come back to observe her again this semester, which I can't do (I don't think), but whenever we hire her again, I'll make sure someone observes her, so we can show that she has, in fact, improved. I know she wants to--and I think she can. But something about how I talked with her about it made her feel incredibly grateful, so much that she insisted on giving me a kiss on the cheek. (At least I hope that was gratitude.)

Today's main event of note, in the student department, was a long conversation I had with a student who wants to withdraw because he's getting a C. He's the one who hung his head and told me he was frustrated when he got my feedback on his first essay. He is, in fact, struggling to understand what he needs to do--but he is getting there, and I decided I'm not going to let him bail. I told him a C is not the end of the world, and I think there is a lot he can learn yet. He is learning; his work is improving. He just needs to gut out the next few weeks.

I started marking the first versions of the final papers for the Short Story class, but I hit the wall. I know this will bite me in the ass tomorrow and into Wednesday (I may be getting up at 5:00 all week), but I also know when I've hit the point of not diminishing but vanishing returns. I hit it like a dropped brick.

I need to spend some time starting the spring scheduling of adjuncts tomorrow, but I also have to get papers marked. Hmmmm. Maybe I need to miss P&B again? Or postpone the scheduling bit? I'll talk to Bruce in the morning and see what's possible. Right now, I'm painfully tired (not much sleep the last 4-5 nights, and a lot of stress over the weekend, not work related), so I'm going to sit here until I figure out what I want for dinner, then head off. And tomorrow is another day. Ain't that the truth.