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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, February 28, 2013

Lord love a duck

That has become one of my favorite expressions of dismay. I haven't yet found opportunities to use "Oh, my giddy aunt," though I love that one, too. I also don't know why, in moments of fatigue and concern, one would petition the almighty to show affection for a form taxon of the Anatidae family, but it works well as an expression heaved with a sigh. Try it: big, deep breath, then on a falling note, "Lord love a duck."

(And yes, I looked up that whole "form taxon" "Anatidae family" thing. I had no idea that there was more than one genus for ducks, not to mention multiple species. Anatidae include geese and swans, which are patently not ducks, so the catch-all "duck" refers to the various forms of waterfowl within that scientific family--a "taxon" is simply a group of similar organisms--that are identifiably ducks. Which is neither here nor there. Ducks are everywhere. Oh stop.)

I just had to do some significant juggling of assignments for 229. Because I'd postponed the second mini-paper, without some shuffling of assignments, students weren't going to get it back before their first big papers were due--and the whole point of mini-papers is that they feed into the big papers. But moving the first big paper meant shifting other reading/writing assignments so the students have something to do for each class but are only moderately overwhelmed, not completely hammered (though they may say the reorganization didn't solve that problem). I think it will work, but I'm so addled that I'm sure either a student will point out a howling blunder, or at some point I'll see one on my own. As it is, the assignment for Tuesday is not placed ideally: students are going to have to read the poems for Thursday early in order to answer the study questions due Tuesday, and Thursday's assigned readings are contemporary poems, which rather fucks up the plan of having students read traditional stuff first, but oh well. Somehow I think we'll survive with minimal scarring.

About half the class was missing today--very likely because the second mini-paper was due. And a few haven't been around to collect their first mini-papers, so who knows what the prognosis is for their success.

But I did have two good conversations with students from that class during my office hour today. One student was in one of my comp classes a few semesters ago (I can't remember when). He's smart enough and likes the material (and, very flattering, took the class specifically because I'm teaching it)--but he hasn't turned in a single assignment so far. I encouraged him to get on track starting now, not worry about what he's missed. It's more important that he keep up; otherwise he's likely to fall further and further behind, trying to make up old assignments. I told him we'd keep tabs on how he's doing: I want him to have every chance to succeed, but he is in pretty serious trouble. He's one of those students who seems to find it almost impossible to actually do the work. He doesn't have any quarrel with the work itself, but he is among a population of students who can't seem to do whatever is required to get the work done. I don't see any common ground among those students: it's not socio-economic, or a matter of gender or age. I don't know enough about their educational experiences to know if there is some common denominator there. But it's frustrating--to them, as well as to me. I wish I could figure out what it is that stymies their ability to succeed so I could offer help, but I'm at a loss. I truly hope he pulls it together, but I'm not sanguine about the possibilities. It would be a relief for both of us if he does, though, so I'll keep at least a flicker of hope burning.

The other student is a young woman who came me after class several weeks ago to tell me that she's struggling and needed help. Today, she walked in my office door with the withdrawal slip in hand--but I talked her into thinking about it further before she decides. She needs to get a B in order to keep her scholarship to the four-year institution she's going to next, and in my class she hadn't earned anything better than a C+--until the batch of assignments I was about to return. When I showed her that in fact her hard work was paying off, that she was starting to get B's, she started to reconsider. I promised her I won't sabotage her scholarship, but I pointed out that the deadline for withdrawal isn't until mid-April--and that I think she can get a lot out of the class if she stays. She said she already is getting a lot out of it, that she finds my comments very helpful (and she's able to use them to improve her work, which is laudable; I told her so). She'd been so sure she was going to withdraw that she'd arranged to go to work instead of coming to class, but today's absence won't be a problem. I told her to take the day off from class to think things over. She does have a lot on her plate--and she admits to being someone who gets very anxious easily (hoo-boy, I know  about that)--so I told her if she ultimately feels that something needs to go in order to keep her stress levels manageable, and if she decides my class is what needs to go, I'll respect that decision. But I hope she stays. She could be a real success story, if she can pull it out.

I'd vaguely hoped I'd have it in me to at least look at a few of the final versions for the 102 classes tonight, but it's not going to happen (and who was I trying to fool, hoping that it might?). I will take them home for the weekend, and maybe--maybe--I'll crank through some before Monday. It would be good to get those out from underfoot before the accumulation of other assignments starts to overwhelm me like kudzu, but my energy levels are proving very slow to return to normal, and my desire to treat myself as if I am very fragile is powerful, so it's difficult to do the things I know, intellectually, will make me feel better when I also know that doing them will not be a delicious experience. That whole "do it, get it over with, and have fun later" mentality has always been a problem for me. I want to have fun now. (Is it happy hour?) But if the inspiration to work suddenly strikes, I can't be a good Do-Bee if the papers aren't with me to work on, so I'll schlep them home and hope that I am overtaken by a fit of self-discipline sometime in the next three days.

Speaking of schlepping things home, it's now time for me to make sure I've got everything on my desk in the appropriate stack with the most combustible material on top (to prevent things from going up in metaphoric flames), and then, dear readers, I am getting the flock out of here (to finish with another duck metaphor). Wigeons away!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Teeny bit of a freak out

I just freaked myself out a little: I was in Advisement, turned my head, and suddenly had a searing headache, which quickly subsided but left some dizziness and neck pain in its wake. I'm betting anything you like it's simply tension (me? tense? why would that be?), but it flipped me out enough that I left Advisement and am canceling my classes for this afternoon so I can see a doctor. Canceling class is going to make next week a bit of a cluster-fuck, but ah well.

The day started with that departmental assessment committee meeting, which was interesting (and reminded me that I have a bunch of work to do for that committee--stuff I can't put off indefinitely). But nothing else happened that is worthy of report. I assume I'll be back in the traces tomorrow, however, and will post more then.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

If it's Tuesday, this must be...

I'm very confused about days of the week. I seem to be locked into thinking that my comp classes are on Tuesday/Thursday and my lit elective on Monday/Wednesday. I don't know why that rhythm is taking over my brain: it was the case in the fall semester, true, but last spring I was in the elective on Tuesday/Thursday routine, as I am this spring, so it's not as if this is rare. But it's extremely difficult for me to keep straight which days I have which classes and what that means in terms of meetings and the prioritizing of grading. Of course, the situation in my personal life has scrambled my brains to a greater or lesser extent, but still, I'm mystified by how difficult it is for me simply to keep track of what day it is and where I need to be when.

For example, I've looked at my calendar at least a dozen times, and I know I have a departmental assessment committee meeting on Wednesday, but it wasn't until I was walking across campus talking to William that I realized Wednesday is tomorrow--and then only because William said as much. Oh. So my planned trip to Personnel (to review the folder for my one remaining mentee, a job I've been putting off for months but that must be done before Friday) has to happen after the assessment meeting--making me even later to Advisement than I anticipated--or I have to get here super-duper early (as the meeting starts at 9:30). I'm opting for the former: it's hard enough to get my ass here by 9:30, so trying to get here by 9 feels like cruel and unusual punishment. I'm going to have to make up time in Advisement anyway; what's a few more minutes?

Shifting gears: class was dull and foggy today. Mr. Enthusiastic wasn't there, and I think the lack of his particular energy created a drag on the whole group. Some of the other students who are usually lively and participatory were unusually quiet today, too. Maybe it was just a matter of after-break blues, but it was a trifle painful trying to get any kind of conversation going about the readings. And I think they should be getting easier, but apparently not.

I'm also trying to figure out how to deal with a plagiarist. I know the mini-paper he submitted is not his work, but either it was done by someone he knows or it's a work for hire, as I can't prove the cheating. But it's manifestly evident: his logs and study question responses have been almost monosyllabic, whereas his paper dealt with a very sophisticated concept--and one we did not discuss in class. If I had hours to spend, I might be able to track down where he got the ideas, but I ran the paper through two different plagiarism detector systems and the only bits flagged by one of them were not enough to nail him on, and moreover, were not the stuff about Native literature, which is what I'm most concerned about. I left a note on his paper saying we need to talk and that his grade will be determined after our conversation, but I notice he didn't approach me after class to set up an appointment. If he knows he cheated and knows that's what I want to talk to him about, he may simply vanish rather than risk the confrontation--but if he wants a grade on that paper, he's going to have to see me.

I was pretty direct with another student who had written a tale told by an idiot rather than a paper: full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. At the end of class, he remarked that I am a tough grader (yep), but I'm pleased that he was smiling as he said it: I think he's going to appreciate the challenge. Another student is surely shocked by the amount of red on her paper; she still got an A-, but I'm certain she didn't expect any criticism at all, and she got quite a bit. Clearly the paper was still very good; I wavered on the A-/B+ borderline, but truly, in terms of ideas, it deserves the low A. I told her that I mostly intended for my comments to guide her next papers but that if she wants to revise and aim for the A+, I'm happy to help her get there. Since NCC doesn't officially give minus grades (which drives me bat shit), my giving her an A- is essentially meaningless; NCC also doesn't give A+ grades (plus grades for everything else, but not for A's), so in terms of her final grade, an A is an A is an A. But I want her to know that there are gradations in that range, as far as I'm concerned, at least.

Getting back to the sound and fury paper, I was encouraging about his potential: I told him I'm quite certain he can produce exactly the kind of paper the class requires; he just needs to understand what is expected. He's been allowed to get away with sentences that sound impressive but are empty of meaning--I don't understand why so many teachers are seduced by that kind of bilge, but apparently many are--but no more. As I said to him, "You are using this paper to air some philosophical concepts rather than to engage in careful literary analysis--which is your task in this class. The high-flown rhetoric does not adequately convey the actual points you want to make--it sounds impressive but is short on actual content--and it lacks specific textual support, which is an absolute requirement of academic writing." In fact, I copied his paper (which is why I can quote my own commentary verbatim), along with another student's paper, which received an honest C. (His got a generous D.) I'm contemplating extracting a few sentences from each--maybe even a full paragraph, or the entire paper (they are, after all, mini-papers)--and handing them out to my comp students with the query, "Which is better writing, and why?" It would be interesting to see if any of the comp students are capable of recognizing the problem of writing that is ornate but hollow.

But that's a thought for another time. Right now, I should be grinding through idea logs for tomorrow's classes, the homework I just collected from the Native American Lit students, getting the decks clear so I can start grading final versions of the first paper for the comp students--but, well, as you see, I'm not. (Fuck "should.") I got through the logs for the earlier section of 102 in a red-hot jiffy, because I've stopped commenting. By now, if they don't know why their logs aren't getting good marks, they need to come see me, as I've written it often enough. So I'm sure I can whip through the other set and maybe get a good whack at the homework for the lit students tomorrow during my (truncated) time in Advisement. And there is always Thursday morning. I do have to look at the assignment schedule to see how quickly I need to get the second mini-papers back to the lit students: they need them back before they have to do their first big paper, and I don't remember when that is. I don't need to be absolutely frantic to get papers back to the comp students, even though they'll start bugging me about them tomorrow, I'm sure. I'll aim for next Wednesday. As long as they have them well before the first versions of paper 2 are due, that's all that's important.

Mostly, I'm just hanging out until I have fulfilled my evening office hour obligation--and because I have to get to the vet's office before they close for the night, I'm going to have to bail a little early. (I'm sure I'll make up the time on other evenings; I'm here late most of the time anyway.) But I can't bring myself to do any more work. In addition to my difficulty with days of the week, I'm having a problem getting into a sleep pattern that it conducive to functioning throughout the length of my work days. I'm hoping if I start winding down now, although I'm still at the office, maybe I'll have a shot at getting more than 6 hours of sleep. I think better when I've gotten at least 7 hours: more is optimal. So, let the noodling begin.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Returning to the fray

All the various meanings of "fray" apply in this instance.

I did not, of course, do a damned bit of work over the break. I told myself I would all the way up to Saturday, at which point I had to get honest with myself. In point of fact, life would be a teensy bit easier this week if I had gotten the mini-papers graded for 229 over the break; I'd then be able to turn my attention tomorrow and Wednesday morning entirely to idea logs for the 102 classes (not to mention beginning to grade their final versions of their first papers). But ah well. I need to look at my calendar, but I think I'll have time tomorrow morning, before P&B, to get the rest graded (I did get a few done in Advisement today), and then I can get to those logs.

I keep wanting to believe I'll have a breather or two between now and when the next big paper is due for the 102 classes, but I realize that, too, is self-delusion. There will be a steady stream of work coming in: logs, study question responses, another mini-paper from 229, their first big essay... Four weeks of steady grind (and a few days of flat-out flurry, when we start the revision process of the second paper for the 102 classes), and then spring break. The grind will continue after spring break, but there won't be so much in the way of manic flurry--I don't think. Just the donkey plodding in a circle, turning those mill-wheels.

Classes today were OK: no one caught fire, but no one was lying comatose on the floor, either. I did have a conversation with a student who is in dire trouble: he fell into the same problem last semester, didn't make it through to the end, withdrew--but he said he liked me and the class enough that he wanted to take it from me again. But the same problem: he already has five absences, and he missed the first paper entirely. I'm willing to take whatever he has for the paper: my official policy is that I don't take a paper if the student hasn't gone through the revision steps, but even if I do take the paper, 10% of his final grade will be a zero (that will be his "revision" grade)--and god knows what the paper itself will look like. I told him he won't get much in the way of feedback from me (reminder to self), but whatever he gets will be better than having 20% of his final grade a zero. I don't know if he'll be able to pull it out this semester: I don't have a good feeling about it, but I'll give him whatever chance I can.

A young woman from that same class is in a similar situation. She came in to talk to me today: she wanted to withdraw right away, and I'm not going to prevent her from doing that, if she decides it would be best, but I'm giving her a chance to try to pull it together from here, dangling the carrot of a potential incomplete in front of her. But another young woman--from the other section--I am not going to try to keep, even though I like her personally very much and would love to have her in the class. She is dealing with an infant child at home, and she's got too much on her plate I think--and I don't think I'd be doing her any favors to try to keep her hanging on. I think it's better for her to free up her time and energies right now and know that she'll do fine when she tries again. She wanted to take the class from me over the summer, and I had to inform her that I don't teach in the summer terms (gawd forbid); we'll see if she decides to wait to take the class with me in the fall or if she opts to take it from someone else and get it over with.

The comp classes are noticeably dwindling. I've only had one official withdrawal, but in addition to the three students I just mentioned, another handful are simply AWOL. I hope they turn up with the drop/add slips in hand so their withdrawals are official, but I'm not going to go chasing them down about it.

I spent a little time today making sure I have what I need in the way of handouts and so on for the next few weeks. I need to do some more of that: have the folders already loaded with every handout I'll need for the rest of the semester, pretty much. I'm so addled--and will only become more so, as the work continues to roll over me--that if I'm not set up soon, I'll have far too many of the "Oh shit!" moments.

Right now, I'm just hanging out to complete my evening office hour. I'll take a look at what's on my desk: there's some flotsam there I think I can take care of with only a partial brain--and if not, I can at least organize stacks for tomorrow's plan of attack.

And that should be enough for one night.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The 60-second post

OK, it may take a fraction longer than that, but I want to get out of here (important event tonight at 6). I am thrilled to bits to report that I got everything cleared off my desk that I wanted to get done before the break: letter for my promotion mentee, committee minutes, attendance rosters (official bookkeeping needed for state aid), "early warning" messages: all done. I contemplated not taking any work home with me at all over the break, but I need to return mini-papers to the students in Native American Lit immediately after the break (so they have them before having to write their second mini-papers), so I tucked them into a bag--along with my absolutely wonderful folding editor's desk.

Had a pretty full house today in class, more students than I was anticipating. We sat in a circle and they were all engaged. I made sure everyone spoke at least once, but most didn't need any prompting. One student has been in a class of mine before: I can't remember when, or whether he made it to the end, but he's already in deep shit--and he knows it. I talked to him after class, and he swears he's going to turn everything around over the break and be a new, improved student, turning in all his work. He's obviously doing the reading, and he's got good ideas, but he hasn't turned in a single assignment yet. Ouch.

But the class ended with another discussion with Mr. Enthusiastic. He wasn't prepared for class today (too bad), but he still wanted to share some thoughts about things tangentially related to class. I enjoy talking with him. I had my doubts about his ability to make it at first, but I'm thinking he may be OK.

I'm OK. The world is OK. I have to be here early tomorrow for a lesson in using an online plagiarism detector thingy that the school subscribes to, but then I'll officially be on break. I have a ton of life maintenance to do in the next few days, but then, I'm hibernating for as much of the break as possible.

Over and out.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Wait, you mean I have to come in tomorrow, too?

As hard as I had to push to get everything graded for classes today, it feels like the week should be over and the break beginning as of an hour ago. But no: one more day. I'm hoping it will be relatively easy. I canceled class yesterday; I'd only gotten 1-1/2 hours of sleep and knew I needed to be able to keel over whenever the urge hit. So I took papers home and ground my way through the grading (barely napping: too wired)--but the upshot of that is that I did not collect the first mini-papers from the Native American Lit students. If I had, I'd have felt impelled to try to get the papers marked and returned to the students for tomorrow's class, but as it is, I have a few bitty bits in terms of student assignments and some other, larger business (letter for the one promotion folder I'm still mentoring, minutes of the Chancellor's Award committee)--but nothing threatening to consume me. Thank god.

Class sessions went pretty well today. Mr. Aren't I Cute almost got throttled on several occasions: he keeps trying to argue me out of things, trying to prove that crap is actually OK--even is beneficial. At the end of class, I told him that my job is to help him do well, but not by making things easier: by helping him do the kind of work he actually needs to do. If all this comes up again, I've already been planning the lecture about how each level requires something new--and a challenge--or one isn't actually learning. At one point I shut him down pretty harshly (because he wouldn't get off it), but I think I made it up to him OK. I may still want to strangle him (just a little), but I don't think he's really an asshole. He's just been trained to be unbelievably lazy, and somehow has learned to believe he can cajole his way out of doing anything that requires effort. Um, no.

Another student who has been conspicuously absent and not turning in work spent some time pleading with me to accept his idea logs--for the paper that he (theoretically) just finished writing. I will be honest and admit that if I thought it would do him any good to accept them, I might have, but I have a strong hunch that if I did, he'd just continue to fall further and further behind--and he's ill-prepared for the rigors of the class anyway. After I had already said no at least twice, I finally said, "You already have the answer. You asked and I answered." Case closed. Move on.

In the second session, five students showed up who had not done the first step of their papers. I will give them credit and say that they all were quite willing to follow the procedures I laid out for them--and because they were so willing to work, I adjusted the procedure slightly so they can get at least a little feedback from me on their papers before the final versions are due. Once they've done the first "in-class" step on their own, I'm allowing them to e-mail me with specific questions and concerns, which I'll answer--and they can do the second "in-class" step using that feedback the way the rest of the students use my comments. One of the ones who had missed Monday's session had been AWOL for a long time: he told me he'd been on vacation but had kept up with the work. OK, I said, but there is still a lot that's been going on in class that you missed. His pretty confident about his abilities, doesn't seem to think he'll need my feedback on his paper to do well. He may, in fact, be good, but I have no evidence one way or the other yet. Another reminds me a bit of last semesters Bright Young Thing wannabe. He's sabotaging his own best efforts through absences and missed work.

The early warning system has gone live--at a reasonable time in the semester for a change--and I hope it serves as a wake-up call for a number of the students. In semesters past, I've seen very mixed results--but I'm happy to have it to use.

I'm sure there is other stuff I could record about today, but I'm tired, dammit, and I'm going home.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Fog, literal and metaphoric

It is intensely foggy outside. Matches the feeling inside.

I don't have the energy for much of a post tonight--and I'm facing a hellish two days, trying to get all the student papers commented on and ready to go by Wednesday afternoon. I have to be in as early as I can stand it tomorrow, and stay as late as I can stand, and call in "sick" to Advisement--and even with all of that, it's going to be dicey.

And that's even with the fact that a lot of the students didn't show up today, haven't e-mailed--don't have papers. If I had all the papers, I'd really be fucked. As it is, I'm only slightly fucked. I do expect that a few more papers will show up: students wanting to submit them tomorrow, that sort of thing. Well, we'll see.

One of the students in the earlier 102 is trying to use the "but I'm funny and charming, therefore the rules don't apply to me" routine. My response is, "You are funny and charming, and I enjoy you thoroughly--but the rules still apply." Today he said he was only a little late. I said, "Do you know what 'a little late' is?" He looked at me blankly. "It's late." Oh. He's trying to jolly me out of being strict: not gonna happen. He's pulling the "that was harsh; it hurt my feelings" card. I need to show him the Doonesbury cartoon that's on my office door, in which the professor says, "Here students gain confidence through actual achievement, not through grade inflation and empty praise. The real world demands results. It doesn't much care whether you hold yourself in high regard. That era is over." (Man, I love Trudeau. I may start using that as the cover of the photocopied reader.) Mr. Aren't I Cute also asked me to give him some leeway "out of the goodness of my heart." I asked him what gave him the impression I had any.

But it was all very light hearted. He may be shocked when he sees my commentary on his paper (most everyone will be), but, well, see the quotation above. Meanwhile, I need to get home so I can get to bed so I can get up so I can come back in here and fling myself back into the fray. While I fray around the edges. But this too shall pass. Never mind tomorrow being another day: God willing, there will be other semesters. I just have to get through this one, one day at a time.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Balm to the soul

Earlier today I got kicked in the heart (metaphorically) and was so distraught I was unsure I would be able to finish the day--even though it's a short day. I entirely missed the department meeting (though William informs me that I didn't miss anything important), but I managed to pull myself together well enough to finish marking the few assignments for Native American Lit--even started on some stuff for the 102s--and then went to class.

A number of the students were missing (they tend to disappear when I've assigned something challenging to read--and a few are already in danger of not passing the class), but those who were there were great. I started with very technical stuff about paper formatting, getting them ready for their mini-papers, due Tuesday. Then we sat in a circle to talk about the chapters I'd assigned from Vine Deloria's God Is Red. It's very dense, challenging material--and even the study questions are not easy--but I told them that even having an answer they didn't think was good would be helpful: we could work through it and get to something good, and that would be beneficial to everyone. I also remembered to encourage them to be in touch with me if they're not seeing marks they like on their logs, or if they're struggling with the reading, or anything: I assured them that I want to help them, so they shouldn't feel like they need to flounder.

I wouldn't say there was a lively discussion of the reading, but they had smart answers and good questions--and then we just got into some questions about Native beliefs, Native history in general. Two students spoke up for the first time (hooray!). And much to my amazement, next thing I knew, it was the end of the class period--and I'd thought I might let them go after about 10 minutes.

But the best part was after class. Several students stayed to talk after class. One young woman said she was really struggling with the readings, and I was reassuring: they're very challenging, I said, difficult material. I said she may find it easier once we get into the literature itself (as mostly we've been reading background stuff), but that if she continues to feel like she's in deep water, she should contact me and we'll work on things together. The problem could be that she needs new techniques for reading, or that she needs some conceptual framework, or who knows what, but that we can work it out.

And then one young man came up to me to tell me how much he loves the class. He was practically bursting out of his skin with enthusiasm. He kept saying, "I love this class!" He's going to become a physical therapist, so math and science are his thing, but he loves the way the readings challenge him to think "outside the box," to think critically (he used the term), to have ideas "out of left field." He said, yeah, he likes his math and science classes--but this one just sets him alight. I asked him to write a letter to the president of the college, or to the board of trustees, or both, to tell them how much the class means to him--and why. I told him that they are generally interested in killing off the humanities because we don't help students find good jobs--and he said A) there are no good jobs anyway, and B) that he feels having his brain stretched by my class makes him much more interesting and versatile as a job applicant anyway.

Manna. Truly: falling from heaven, manna. It was lovely to hear his delight in the class, his desire to be challenged--his willingness to get "torn apart" by his grades because he feels he's really learning something worth learning. Precious. Wonderful. I am grateful.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

done for the day

Cooked. Toast.

I did manage to get all the logs marked before classes--just, but it was done. The 102s are apparently going to keep me guessing all semester: they flip-flopped again today. Most of the students were there for the earlier section and the discussion was lively and good, got into parts of the story that we often miss. There were 11 students in the second section, and "discussion" wouldn't readily describe what was going on. Even going over the paper assignment was infinitely more invigorating and intelligent in the earlier section.

It does make me wonder what the specific magic ingredients are for each class: which students or how many need to be there in order for things to catch fire. Very strange.

But even the second section did well enough that my classes removed the bad taste from my mouth after Advisement. The last student I saw was furious because it turned out she was missing a class she needed to graduate. She went on and on, then got her mother on the phone, which got her even more worked up and unhappy. After consulting with one of the pros, I offered her two solutions, but that wasn't what she wanted. She was saying things like the person who last advised her should have to pay for the course she needs to take, blah blah. I pointed out that she had some responsibility in this too, that she also is capable of reading the requirements and seeing where there is something missing--and that advisers are human beings, too, and capable of making mistakes. But she kept saying, "I'm a student, I came in here so someone would tell me what I need to do"--as if being a student means she's incapable of figuring out whether she has fulfilled her degree requirements. Turns out, she hadn't even seen an adviser for last fall's registration--and the last time she did see an adviser, she was told she needed the course that she is missing.

I was calm and reasonable, but also felt I needed to point out that she was not being either of those things--and she kept getting more and more and more worked up (with Mom in the background, egging her on). Eventually I said, "We're looking into what happened. I'm going to ask you to get off the phone now; you can call your mother back when we have found out what we can." And then I palmed her off on one of the pros. But it was almost funny to see how many people got involved in trying to figure out what had happened and make sure it was not, in fact, the fault of anyone in Advisement. (There was some sense of "gotcha" when it was determined that she didn't see an adviser prior to registering for fall.) And I'm rather proud of myself--and somewhat amazed--that I didn't even come close to losing my temper with her. And I'm grateful that I was able to turn her over to the pro.

I also got an e-mail from a student apologizing for not having been in class this week and asking for me to tell him what we'd covered, assuring me he'd be back next week. I wrote a rather lengthy e-mail explaining that in fact he's been in class once: he already has four absences, when three is the limit before facing a penalty--and that he's missed all the discussion and preparation for the major paper due on Monday. To encapsulate, I told him my advice would be for him to withdraw. I do hope he does.

In comparison to that, the spells of quiet and lack of response in the later 102 seem completely fine. When they did talk, it was good stuff--so we'll see how their papers are. Paul and I both are rather dreading their reactions to that particular blood bath--but at least my students know the first "grade" isn't going to count: it's simply an indication what the paper would get if that were the final version, but they're required to revise, so the grade should (one hopes) change for the better.

I'm tired. I'm just chronically, systemically, utterly tired. I'm going to make a quick run to the grocery store and then stagger home. There's a department meeting at 11:30, so technically I don't have to be up early, I know I should probably just continue to get up at 6 (I'll have to on Friday anyway) and get my body used to that routine. That would also get me in to do some work before the meeting, and that would be better than having to face bringing anything home over the weekend....

Ah, enough. I may have time for a quick post tomorrow between class and physical therapy, but if not, I'll "see" you (all 2 of you) on the flip side.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

heavy sigh

It's been a mad dash today, and it isn't quite over, but close. Maddeningly enough, I came within one student of marking all the logs and study questions for the Native American Lit class--but I didn't get that last one marked, and didn't get the grades recorded, so, well, they'll get it all on Thursday.

I have not yet done a single log for the 102s. I pulled out their self-evaluations: I'm not even going to try to have those ready for tomorrow. Normally I'd want to have those back to them before they have to do first version of first paper, so they have a sense of what a grading monster I am--but I realize it's just hopeless to think I can get that done by tomorrow afternoon. As it is, I'm taking my whole roller-pack home with me: it includes not only the unmarked logs but everything I need for class tomorrow. I realized yesterday that it will be easiest on me if I don't even try to get back to my office in between Advisement and my first class: I have a half an hour, but by the time I walk from Advisement to my office, and then from my office to class, I've lost minutes out of that time. Since Advisement and my first class are on the same side of campus, it makes more sense to carry my lunch with me and sit somewhere down at that end of things to have a quick munch between advising and teaching. That way I can read a bit, relax a bit, breathe a bit--maybe (gasp!) even prep a bit.

I also need to go on record: I have some of the world's best colleagues. In P&B today, Bruce asked about that observation, and I said I really didn't mind that but was more worried about the letters for the promo folders--and one of my colleagues (who has been extraordinarily caring and compassionate across the board) promptly volunteered to take over the mentoring of two of the three applications for me. That's a huge load off. I do still have to do one, but that's do-able.

Class today was fine: I didn't actually have to do much teaching, as we watched the video on the Ghost Dance massacre at Wounded Knee. I thought I might not have a chance to show all the bits I wanted to, but now that I have it on DVD (instead of VHS), I could skip quickly enough past the parts I didn't need to show that we had a few minutes at the end for questions/comments. At first, they were reluctant to ask, but the young woman who was so good last class about being brave and asking questions stepped up to the plate again and got the ball rolling. You'd think I'd be over it by now, but I'm still stunned that 99% of them have never even heard of Custer....

But it suddenly occurs to me that I can recommend another video series (owned by our library) that also covers the Ghost Dance "war"; I'll send out an e-mail. Not sure if Netflix has it, but I'll check into that as well.

But now I have to create a "to do before it bursts into flames" list (pearls are bouncing everywhere) and then dash off to physical therapy. I'm not sure whether I'll have it in me to do any marking of assignments when I get home, but if not, I'll just have to get up super early in the morning to crank out some stuff before the morning appointment--and hope like mad I can finish up during my time in Advisement. I don't think I have anything scheduled for Thursday morning: if not, that will be a good opportunity to crank through as much as possible....


Monday, February 4, 2013

Ah, hell

I am already so far behind in getting logs and stuff back to students that I feel like I might as well just go home, pull the covers over my head, and not come out until June. I was certain that tonight, before I left, I'd at least finish the logs that I didn't return to the later section of 102 today (I managed to get them done for the first section but not the second). But then I had copies I had to make for my meeting tomorrow, and for class tomorrow, and some little bits that I felt I had to take care of right then, before they dropped through the floorboards--and then I realized I have a set of logs and study questions for the Native American Lit students, which I need to get back to them, and here it is, after 7, and I haven't touched the 102 homework. Which wouldn't be such a disaster, except tomorrow is going to be a hell of a day: doctor's appointment, meeting, P&B, class, physical therapy, back to back to back, no time to mark doodly squat. Wednesday, I have an appointment before Advisement, too--and today demonstrated that I can't get two sections worth of logs marked in my time in Advisement.

The upshot is, god dammit, that I'm going to have to take work home with me tomorrow and try to get something done after physical therapy--even though I'll be exhausted and ready to just curl up and go into a vegetative state.

Which is precisely how I felt leaving class today, so the fact that I managed to get done even the bits I did is rather miraculous. I really can't wait until my energy levels start to return to something approaching normal.

It's telling, in fact, that I was so exhausted when I'd actually had a great class. The earlier section of 102 was a disappointment: not only were quite a few students absent, but of those who were there, only 9 had their logs. Had a pretty good class with those 9, but even so, it was dispiriting. Funny, I was remembering them as being very dull, but as I think about it more, I realize no: they actually were relatively lively, joking and participating nicely in the conversation. Just the lack of bodies in the room made the energy feel sort of low--particularly in comparison to the later section. Only three students were unprepared (and two of them were unprepared because they just read what was next in the reader instead of following my assignment schedule), and the rest were ready to have a good conversation. Not only was the talk lively, but they were laughing and teasing and being very smart. (Well, most of them: a few are pretty lumpy, but the rest make up for it.) I told them at the end that I'd had my doubts about them at the beginning but that they were great, did terrific work, were a blast.... I'm always happy when I can say that and mean it.

Shifting gears abruptly: I don't know what I'm going to do about P&B. I got the report from two of my colleagues that, when I left the meeting half-way through last week, Bruce had suggested that someone else do an observation I'm supposed to conduct, as a way to help take some of the pressure off me. Honestly, that's insignificant, compared to having to mentor those applications through the last bit of the process. I've gotten questions from all three of my mentees, and my answer has been pretty much, "Uh, uh, I don't know." I am supposed to write the letters in support of their applications (and check their personnel files), and that seems fucking overwhelming right now. And I really need to do it this week: when???

Ah, hell, I don't know. I'm going to go home and try to go to sleep early (yeah, right) and hope that by tomorrow I have a workable plan B--even if it's just apologizing and letting the students know I'm not going to comment at all on their homework, just slap a grade on it and return it. I hate to do that at the start of the semester, when some guidance can make a difference, but it may be the only way to get through this week without beating myself to a pulp.

But one never knows. Sometimes a wonderful solution will present itself all unexpected like. Here's hoping.