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Monday, October 28, 2013

Practicing Whi-ning

I'm once again practicing the ancient Chinese art of whi-ning: I've been in a childish snit for days that I actually have to work for a living. There is nothing whatsoever wrong with my job, my career: all is well. I just don't want to. Three days of no alarm and doing whatever the hell I wanted have simply made me greedy for more.

And yet, I enjoy what's going on when I'm on campus. I know: inconsistent, contradictory, illogical. I came very close to calling in "I don't feel like it" today, but I managed to persuade myself that I was (am) perfectly capable of getting to work and putting in a decent day. I even thought about canceling the entire week: I've got the "sick time" accrued, heaven knows. But really, there is no earthly reason to be so resistant to being here. I'm just channeling Bartelby: I would prefer not to.

I spent most of the time in Advisement coming up with free-writing prompts for the Fiction class, as well as a few more substantive exercises for them to do at home. Saw a few students--one of whom came with her mother, which I always hate. These over-protective "helicopter" parents, unwilling or unable to allow their children to make their own mistakes and learn their own lessons: I want to say, "What kind of adult do you want your child to become?" However, I did address myself virtually exclusively to the student--and tried not to get testy with the mother for insisting that I wasn't looking at the right paperwork when I knew I was. But i digress. There weren't many students, and generally I didn't need to spend much time with any of them, but I still didn't get any assignments marked for tomorrow's classes.

And I didn't get any marked during my office hour: the depressed young woman from the Mystery class showed up today, and although I had asked her to figure out how she wanted me to help her, she said she'd been unable to do so. OK. Mostly we just talked, about nothing, anything: I want her to feel supported, not pushed. But I did eventually turn the conversation to her paper revision--and immediately felt the change in affect. I hope I've given her a method for looking at the revision so she doesn't beat herself up about what she did but instead focuses on what she can do. But I do realize that my ability to help her is very limited, and if we meet again, I should shift gears, let her know that it's probably not appropriate for me to be there just to chat with her and make her feel less alone but it is appropriate for me to help her with the class in any and every way I can.

She's very complimentary, too--largely by being utterly matter of fact: of course I should grade hard; of course I should have high standards. That's a refreshing attitude to encounter, and I believe she is genuine. Certainly she doesn't sound like she's sucking up.

She also told me that the students in the Mystery class really like me, which is, of course, gratifying--but I'm not in this to win any popularity contests. I'm more interested in whether they are learning anything. I've not heard anything from the students who wanted to meet with me about their papers; I'll be a teeny bit disappointed if I don't but not at all surprised.

In any event, I spent my entire office hour (office 75 minutes) with her, which I cannot do regularly--but this time, no one else showed up wanting to talk to me--and I didn't want to mark assignments anyway. I had to shoo her out finally when it was time to go to the Fiction Writing class, which was great. We workshopped the two stories we hadn't covered last week; then we did a free-write, talked about it, went over what's required in terms of their revisions (due on Wednesday), went over how the free-writes and some at-home exercises will count (instead of the reading notes I'd originally assigned). The writer of the soap-bubble of a story wanted to see me after class: she was worried about the requirement to "respond" to critiques in the revision, thought she had to do what was suggested, and I assured her no. She has to respond by at least explaining why she chose not to do what was suggested, but it's her story, and she can decide what changes to make, or not make. As long as she does revise, all the changes can be entirely her own ideas, as long as she explains why she decided not to do anything else. She was relieved.

And I came back here and, after bitching to Paul for a while, checked e-mail and then sat down to do this post. Which I'm ready to toss up to the blog, unread. I really just do not want to be here, and since I can get out now, I'm going to. The rest of the work to be done be damned.

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