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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, January 31, 2013


Did sort of OK with the organization, but I still feel like I'm behind the curve. Hate that.

Class went sort of OK. Students were pretty silent, afraid (I think) to share their responses--about an admittedly challenging reading. But one student conquered her insecurity and offered a few responses, got good feedback from me, and I made a point at the end to praise her for her good work. She was thrilled. Yay.

Six of the sixteen students registered weren't there. Three had written with one reason or another for not being there, but I wonder if the remaining three were scared off by the reading. Maybe. It would be a shame, but it does tend to happen. The shrinkage begins.

I just finished writing letters of recommendation for Kayla (last year's intern); it was lovely to be called upon to extoll the quality of a good student.

But now I'm heading home. We'll see how next week goes. I hope that soon this experience starts to simply feel like a semester, any semester, but that may take a while. Meanwhile, I keep on turning the crank, as my father would have said, breathing and doing what must be done.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Tired. Hungry. Leaving.

I did sleep in late this morning; in fact, if the car repair place hadn't called, I might still be sleeping. I am not sure when I'll feel like I've gotten enough rest, however: not only have I not slept well for several months, grief is exhausting. Ah well.

Since I got in so late today (not even this morning: it was after noon by the time I walked into the office), I didn't get much organizing done--and there is a fair amount of stuff I want to have nailed down tomorrow. I do want to return first idea logs to the Native American Lit students, so they have an idea what to do better next time, and I do need to make copies of handouts for the 102 classes so I'm set for next week. I had intended to stay tonight to get some of that done, but, well, no.

I am happy to report, however, that both 102 classes went well today. The earlier section performed well, as I had hoped they would, and the later section redeemed themselves quite nicely, getting a good conversation going on both stories. I am a bit concerned about a young woman who was in 102 with me last semester: she had to withdraw because of a family emergency that caused excessive absences--and she was absent today (and late on Monday). I hope I'm not sensing a trend here. I've got a repeat student in the other section, too--and he may also be repeating a trend from last term, as he didn't have one of his logs today. I let it go this one time--I'll accept the log on Monday--but he'd better button it up starting right now. Still, I actively invited both those students to take the class with me again, as both are very bright and potentially capable. If they live up to their potential, they'll be a blast to have around.

I had a nice interaction with a student from the later class, at the end of that session. During class she told me she was concerned about the idea logs, whether she'd done them correctly because she'd felt confused, and I assured her that asking questions--and trying to answer them--was a wonderful way to use the logs. After class she reiterated that she is worried about having trouble understanding the stories, "getting confused," as she said--and because she wants to do well, she is very anxious. I again assured her that it's fine to be confused--that, in fact, often the best learning comes out of working through confusion. I urged her to relax and allow herself to make mistakes: as long as she learns from them, they're beneficial. She was relieved; she said she'd never before had a teacher tell her it's OK to be confused, and I think simply that I gave her that permission will make a lot of difference. I also encouraged her--and several other students--to use me as a resource, keeping in touch by e-mail or through my office hours or appointments. I want them to come to me; it's one of my favorite parts of teaching.

I did notice that the young man who wrote the lovely e-mail yesterday was not in class again today. I'm not sure what happened there, but it's not boding well. And a young man came up to me after the second class to ask if he could be allowed in: he had a long, sad story, but the upshot was that he was trying to register for a 102 class after the end of the drop-add period--and since my class has seats available, he wanted to get into mine but needed my permission. I was very sweet about it, but I told him that he'd be too far behind and it wouldn't be fair to him, as he wouldn't have the best chance of doing well. His graduation will be delayed if he can't find a teacher to let him in, and of course that makes him unhappy, but he did seem to understand that it wouldn't make much sense to get into the class only to have to withdraw or fail. I wish him luck.

I just realized, I didn't do the ice-breaker exercise with either class, though I'd meant to do it today. I will try to do it next week: it bugs me that I don't know their names yet. Well, I know a few, but not everyone, and it's important to me to know them all. I think it helps them feel comfortable--reassured that I know them well enough to tend to them as individuals--and that comfort helps them take risks, which they must do. I just realized, I also didn't give my working through frustration/what college is for speech. I guess that will have to go by the wayside this semester: we're deep enough in the work now that I don't know if/when I'd be able to take the time for it. Ah well. It will be interesting to see whether it makes a damned bit of difference.

I'll try to get on a more normal schedule tomorrow: get up at the usual time, get into the office at the usual time, finish marking logs for 229 and get a good run at organization before class. I hope. Right now, the bells just rang six o'clock: that's an early departure for me, but I'm going to take it. Maybe I can get another decent night of sleep and feel a bit closer to being compos mentis tomorrow. Signing off with a weary wave....

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


I had to leave part way through today's P&B meeting. I was falling asleep--and since apparently I can't sleep at night, I thought I'd take the opportunity to get some sleep when my body was demanding it. I came to the office and curled up in our arm-chair with my feet on another chair: I'm short enough that I can get pretty horizontal that way, and I utterly konked out. Fortunately I knew I'd wake up when William returned to the office after P&B; otherwise I'd likely have slept through my class.

And I'm glad I went to the class. They seem like a surprisingly lively and intelligent bunch. There was some serious confusion over idea logs (as always), but we had a great conversation, lots of good input. One student came to me after class to ask if I thought it would be too much for him to take my class and Early American Lit from one of my more demanding colleagues. I asked about the rest of his schedule--and honestly, I think he'd drown. I told him so, but he told me that he was so interested in the class after this first meeting that he didn't want to drop it. I think he's going to see me during my office hour on Thursday; I'll be interested to see what he decides. Another student--not originally from the U.S.--was worried that she didn't know the historical background at all and wondered if she'd be able to really participate in the class, given her lack of knowledge. I encouraged her to do a little research into the history of Native Americans, just so she has a sense of the big picture, but I did tell her that she'd surely learn a fair bit just by being in class.

I realized that I've set up the first two weeks pretty much exclusively on historical background: traditional narratives (mostly creation stories), stuff about the Ghost Dance, the overview of Native cultures and literatures in Paula Gunn Allen's "The Sacred Hoop" (an essay extracted from the book), chapters from Vine Deloria's God Is Red about the difference between Native and Euro-American views of space, place, spirituality and religion.... We won't really get into the literature per se until the third week of classes. But I do think the contextualizing is important. We'll see if it helps the students.

Two other interesting student encounters. On my way to Native American Lit, I saw a young man dashing to class--and he cheerfully smiled and yelled "Hello, Professor!" It was last-semester's Would Be Wonder Student. I was surprised that he was so cheerful and friendly: he didn't follow through on the withdrawal form that I signed for him, so I had to give him a UW, which is the same as an F in terms of GPA. He wrote me an anguished e-mail about that, wondering why he got the UW, and I was pretty blunt in my reply, telling him that he had just learned an important lesson in follow-through. I was sure, based on that exchange, that he'd loathe me forevermore, but apparently not. Or he's good at social fakery. But I choose to believe he's learned a lesson and does not blame me for it: that speaks more highly of him.

The other encounter was via e-mail. I got a very well-written and gracious e-mail from a student who was AWOL from one of the 102 sections yesterday. Turns out that the hurricane wiped out his family's finances, and he was worried about not being able to buy his textbooks, not wanting to come to class unprepared (apparently Paul was very clear that I am a hard-ass but will work with students who reach out). I wrote back to tell him that the reader is free, and that the other books can be had cheap--that I'd even be willing to loan him one of my copies of the handbook. He was thrilled--and apparently surprised. Hey, if he can write that well, I want him in the class, and I'll do what it takes to keep him there.

Now, however, I am beyond exhausted. I meant to get groceries yesterday (the larder is bare, after my being away for 10 days), but I opted to do other, sadder chores instead. But today, I really do need to get some food--especially healthy food. Eating anything that makes sense is almost as difficult as sleeping, but it's even more difficult when there's nothing appealing in the house. I've decided to bail on tomorrow morning's assessment meeting and on my stint in Advisement (again). If I can sleep late, I will. If I can't, I'll come in and continue to try to get organized. I still feel like my own private hurricane flew through my work area and left everything scrambled, and I can't go on like that for long without losing what's left of my mind. There's Thursday morning, too, but I think I'm going to need both days to begin to feel like I'm getting a handle on this part of my life. It does feel good to lose myself in work as much as I can--and that will be all the easier when I feel I'm making forward progress of some kind.

But now, food. Then--please God--sleep. And tomorrow is that other day we keep hearing about.

Monday, January 28, 2013

...and then the building caught on fire.

Truly. The building where I had my first class today had a fire. Not the whole building, and it was out and everything back to normal by the time class started, but I really did wonder if I'm being told I should get the hell out of here while I can.

This is going to be a rough semester, starting out as it does with an enormous load of grief in my personal life. It's very hard to breathe, never mind think. And in fact, the day started with me realizing that all the work I did on schedules and so on was on my computer at home, not here in the office where I could print it. Shit. But I decided I'd feel better to duplicate the work and have the schedule ready to hand out to students today, so I did at least the schedule for today's classes. One day at a time. Tonight I'll either e-mail the stuff to myself or put it on my thumb drive.

I've spent a good deal of time just trying to make sure I have the handouts I need for the next few days: on my "To Do" list is to make a schedule of what I need to photocopy by when. I also spent a fair amount of time trying to clarify and codify the steps for revision for the first papers in the 102 classes. I hope it makes some kind of sense. Who the hell knows.

My first impression of my 102s matches Paul's. He covered for me last week, and he noted that the later section evidenced some whining and grumbling about the late paper policy--a clear indication that they're not ready for the rigors of a Prof. TLP class. Today, in the earlier section, although some students had not done the idea logs on the day's reading, they were mostly alert and responsive and ready to go. Granted a few hadn't read the story either--though most of the ones in that camp were brand new to the class. so I don't feel too concerned about them (yet).

But in the later section, only one student had done the log. One. And only about five had read the story. I went over a few things with them, trying to help them understand what I'm looking for in the logs, but without something concrete to work with, there wasn't anything we could do, so I sent them home and told them to have both stories for the week and both logs for class Wednesday. But at least four of them seem to be effectively switched off: no lights on behind the eyes. Ah well.

It will be interesting to meet with the Native American Lit class tomorrow. And it will be interesting to see if I can actually do this: prep, teach, handle my job at all. I did warn the students I may have to take off again--and if I need to go back to Montana, either for my own sanity or for my sister's, I will. I was thinking I'd wait for the February break, but maybe not.

Right now, it's about all I can do to breathe and keep putting one foot in front of the other. I'm actually somewhat amazed that I got anything at all organized today, not only because grieving short-circuits thinking but also because I'm running so short on sleep it's amazing I'm not collapsed in a heap somewhere.

And now I have to deal with some sad responsibilities. I'm the kind of person who, when faced with something difficult, generally would prefer to just do it and get it over than to postpone it. I charge and dive into cold water, rather than wading in slowly: the metaphor holds for the things I have to do now in my personal life.

I don't know how often I'll be posting this semester. Or how coherent I'll be. But here I am, trying to use work as a narcotic to dull the pain. Sort of works. Sort of.