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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Things to be thankful for

The first thing I have to be thankful for is that I made it through these three days without falling over. I've been having a very difficult time with sleep, so I've been idiotically exhausted. Today was particularly difficult, as for various reasons, I didn't get my morning dose of caffeine. I staggered through Advisement, stumbled through reading and commenting on the stories for the Fiction students, and before class, I had time for a 15-minute nap (and yes, I fell completely asleep). On the way there, I also got an enormous mug of tea, so now I'm chipper as a lark (maybe a little too perky, in fact).

So second thing to be thankful for: Paul suggested we have dinner together tonight, and I now am awake enough to do that without simply sitting across from him at a table, drooling. We can talk. Lovely.

I made the last tiny tweaks to the sabbatical proposal and submitted. I truly won't see it again now until after all determinations have been made.

Yet another: the students in the Fiction Writing class. One student whose paper was slated to be workshopped today didn't show up, but the others were there, and the workshop process went very well. The Real Writer had better, more intelligent things to say about the stories than I did. (OK, so despite the nap and the tea, I'm still a little drooly and stupid.) But I had enough to say that I didn't feel a complete yutz. I particularly liked the fact that when I arrived, they all were talking very animatedly about how to download music--and the discussion wasn't divided between the real writers and the hoi polloi: everyone was involved. I love when students just talk, about anything, before and after my classes. Because this is a commuter campus, students often don't know anyone--or only the friends they had prior to coming to NCC--so when they at least are acquainted with students outside their immediate circle (never mind actually finding new friends), it helps them feel the campus is a more congenial and literally collegial place.

I'm also thankful that, because three students were absent and we only workshopped three stories, we were done by 4:20. Thanks and praise, thanks and praise!

True, I've got a bit stack of stuff loaded into my bag to take home and mark, but I've been able to leave work in the office more often than not, so one weekend of taking work home is no big whoop. I also managed to cross a few more little bits off that list of tasks that sits on my desk and nags at me. (Hah! Take that, you nasty list!) Yes, there's more to be done, but gradually, I'm getting the tangle around my feet untangled, no longer in the tentacled grip of an Audrey 2 of work.

The final thing to be grateful for is that, once I check to be sure I have everything I need in my various bags, I can turn off the computer, turn out the lights, and be gone from here until Monday.

May we all have much to be thankful for, and remember to notice those blessings and give thanks for them.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Why isn't it Wednesday already?

I had one of those days today when I had a hard time keeping track of what day of the week it is and what needs to happen when. I'm so eager for that lovely Thanksgiving Thursday off that I kept conveniently forgetting that I have to work tomorrow--all day. In fact, I have four stories to evaluate before tomorrow's workshop, plus perhaps a meeting with one of my mentees for promotion. Not to mention the work from the Mystery class that has been piling up, again, for longer than I care to mention.

Still, it was a good day, all in all, and I got a few more bits crossed off my to-do list. P&B was a bit of a goat chase: we spent way too long trying to figure out if the three of us who are going up for sabbatical (all of whom were hired in the same year) should stay that we've had 12 or 13 years of continuous service at NCC: we'd been told by the representative to the college-wide sabbatical committee that we should say 13, but after going around and around about it, we finally determined that logically 12 made more sense (2013 minus 2001 is 12, not 13). Then one P&B member felt called upon to give way too much detail in reporting on his observation of a problematic adjunct--not the one I observed, another one (though I did observe her last year). We spent a bit of time on a colleague's application for full professor, which is much too much of a muchness (she has thirty--count 'em, 30--documents attesting to one item of service)--but ultimately we have to remember that it's her application: if she wants to drown the Promotion and Tenure committee, that's her business; all we can do is advise her to take a different route.

The classes were both good. In 102, I had students read a model paragraph of a student incorporating critical material into his argument: I let them spend some time coming up with their own observations about it, instead of simply pointing things out. (Note to self: that's the way to go in the future. It worked very well.) We then discussed the end of the novel--including spending a little time simply looking at passages we like, an unusual luxury--and we still had time for me to review the writing process with them. Of course, they're all in an abject panic about their final papers, but I told them my process--at least five times through even something I consider easy--and let them consider what that might suggest about their own work.

The Mystery class was not quite the usual mayhem, but only because I kept a tighter rein on it than I usually do. Judy Blue Eyes and her new friend, whom I will call Ms Enthusiasm, were ready to raise the roof, but I made them dial it back. Still, I was delighted that Judy Blue Eyes had a) actually done the reading and b) was participating in the class discussion. (I do love that she and Ms Enthusiasm, plus the Worker Bee, have all become friends in my class, but they're also a bit on the wild side.) Unfortunately, she also had a sudden mood shift during the period: I saw it happen in her eyes. We ended up having another heart to heart after class, but I'm being a lot tougher than I was at first. I reminded her that we may not like a reality, but that won't change it. She doesn't like that she's left with two options that are not what she wanted, and she's beating herself up about not having done the work all semester the way she did it today. I told her that she did the best she could with where she was at the time, and whatever she did, now she's in this position and has to make the choice: stay in the class and get a bad grade or withdraw. Lacking a time machine, there is no option C. I gave her some emotional homework: I told her to make a list of pros and cons for each option--and that she had to include some pros for each one (or she'll just focus on the negative and get nowhere). I hope that helps, but I'm running out of things to offer. I'm her teacher, after all, not her therapist.

Back in the office after class, I wrote a "recommendation" for a former student: she's a darling young woman and was tenacious as hell when she was in my class, but her grade would have been pretty low if she'd not withdrawn at the end, and honestly, I can't say much more to recommend her than that she is willing to work her ass off and is sweet. The letter rather damns with faint praise, I fear, but she told me I am the only professor she trusts and likes enough to even ask for a letter.... I did ask her to provide me with one of her papers, and she blanched at the thought, but I said I needed to be able to talk about her work and so needed the reminder of what she'd done. I probably should have been more frank with her and told her that I wouldn't be able to give a very strong recommendation--other than the two qualities I mentioned--but ah well. It's done, is the main thing.

As is one of the remaining observations. Sure enough, writing the positive ones is a hell of a lot quicker than writing the negative review.

Now, however, I'm ravenous--and tomorrow will be that other day I keep talking about. I know I'm going to have to bring student work home with me over the weekend (ah well), but if I can get some other bits crossed off that list tomorrow, I'll approach the weekend in a more relaxed frame of mind. Which is my main objective these days.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Can't change those gears...

It's still early enough that I feel I ought to try to knock a few more things off the to-do list, but on the ta-dah! list is the fact that I finally got the last last final changes to the damned sabbatical application done, all the appropriate pages are signed, and tomorrow, when Bruce's assistant is back in the office, I'll submit it to P&B (those of us who aren't recused because we're all applying for sabbaticals)--and then I don't have to think about it again, please God, until we find out whether sabbaticals are being awarded and if so, who got them. That will be in March or April, if things go as usual.

As I was working on it, I did have a very brief but full-blown hissy fit, when I realized that I didn't have the latest version of the publisher's proposal on this computer and had left my thumb drive at home. Thank god I'd printed it out from home yesterday, so I could copy-edit/proofread, and I had the printout with me, so I simply typed in the corrections/additions from the last two or three go-rounds, and of course I made further changes as I did. For the actual getting it published part, there's more for me to do--but for the sabbatical application, I'm stick-a-fork-in-me done.

That was after class. Between Advisement and class, I got the short stories commented, with enough time to eat lunch--but the to-do list just grew by a couple of other tasks that I remembered this weekend. (Oh, shit! Oh, Shit!!) We'll see what I can crank through tomorrow.

I also made a tactical error today in Advisement. I had 15 minutes left of my scheduled time, and I thought, "What the hell: I can see one more student." I should know better by now. That student was confused, needed to have things explained several different ways, needed a lot of hand-holding--and took almost 30 minutes. I was later getting back to the office than usual. No harm, no foul, as it happens, but there are days when those 15 minutes might have made the difference between "I'm ready for class" and "OK, what's plan B?"

Judy Blue Eyes also came to my office hour today. (Once again, I'd forgoten to open the door, but this time, she knocked.) Sometimes she just sits and stares at me, obviously wanting something (rescue?)--and usually I don't mind working a little to get her to talk about whatever is going on, but today, I had things to do. I reviewed what she's missing, what I suggest she do to finish the semester--and told her she'd probably get a D (and that it might be a "mercy" D). She was not happy with that, but although it feels like failure to her, it is not, in fact, a failing grade, as I pointed out--and right now, it's the best she can do. It's not her best ever, and eventually she'll be able to do her real best again. But right now that's the best she can do--and it accomplishes her goal of not withdrawing. I don't want to be harsh with her, but I also don't want any big surprises at the end of the semester because I've been too gentle. She needs to know where she really stands. After I was sure she was clear on that, I said, "Normally, I'd love to chat with you but..." and she finished the sentence for me: " have work to do." She left, and I went back to the work.

She did report that she and a few of the other students in the class are signing up for Nature in Lit, and getting their friends and boyfriends to sign up as well. Two of the students from the Fiction Writing class also said they were thinking about it--but I'm not holding my breath on those. Four students are officially registered, three of them from the Mystery class--one unknown to me (though her name looks very familiar). It's early days yet, but fingers and toes are still going to be crossed until the class actually runs.

The Fiction class was fine: we workshopped, and it was the usual. If I ever teach the class again, I want to give students instructions about how to start their critiques so we don't hear twelve iterations of "I liked your story; I thought it was good." The Real Writer is, of course, better in the lead-off to his critiques, as he has real feedback to provide. Calyx was there (sigh of relief when I heard from her yesterday; she'd been in a fender-bender last week but is OK). She was obviously exhausted and hadn't read the stories for today's workshop, but we did workshop her story, and she perked up for that. Edison Adams was absent again today. I hope he's OK.

And I really have nothing else to report. I told Paul earlier that these days, I can think about one thing at a time. I was working on the sabbatical application, and he asked me how everything else is going. At that red hot moment, I had no idea. I assumed it was all fine (and indeed it is), but I couldn't haul my brains up out of the sabbatical thing to even remember what else is going on, good, bad or indifferent.

I will, therefore, leave you with some of the student bloopers I've collected over the last month. I just posted them to Facebook, too, so those of you who also follow my Facebook posts, I apologize for the repetition. For the rest of you, let the hilarity begin:

Describing the sleuth in a Nevada Barr mystery: "She falls off a cliff and summits to the bottom."

Talking about an ambitious character in The Left Hand of Darkness: "He may be next in the air to be king."

A student describing the character she's creating in the Fiction Writing class: "He has a scar because in battle a grandad went off next to him." (Man, those old fogies are dangerous!)

Same student, describing the same character, who is a police officer: "He don't spend time with anyone besides his squid."

Another student in the Fiction class, wrote that her character's mother had "won the Most Pristine Woman of the Year award." To hell with the Nobel Prize: that's the award I want on my shelf.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The good, the ugly ... no bad, really

First, writing that wretched observation report took infinitely longer than I anticipated. I don't know if it's because I've forgotten how long it takes me to write the reports or if it's because I felt I had to include a lot more detail, laying the paper trail, as it were, for the "needs improvement" rating. I also had to run through it several times to remove some sugar-coating--and to get it to fit onto three pages (usually they only run two). But it's done, thank God. That's one unpleasant chore off the to-do list.

Of course, I also realized last night and earlier today that there were three more things to add to the list, but none of them are particularly unpleasant. They're just a few of the pearls that had rolled behind the furniture momentarily.

Classes were fine. The students in 102 are heroically trying to understand the research component of their final paper--and one student seems particularly unclear what it is he's looking for and why. He asked the lovely librarian who conducted the session, then asked me again--and he's asked before in class. I told him we'd go over it next class, and I think I may ask the other students to explain it to him. They may do a better job of it than I can--and it will help them feel secure in their own knowledge of what to do. A few students turned in huge wads of work that was due ages ago; at this point in the semester, I don't make a fuss about accepting it. I'm more invested in giving the students every opportunity to earn the best grades they can. I will have to remind myself not to comment much (the fact that they're late with the work doesn't mean I have to break my neck), but I'm glad to have the work--and will be glad that they have it when they're ready to start their papers.

I loved that when I arrived in the library classroom, three young men from the class were talking about the novel, checking in: "How far have you gotten?" One said he was eager to finish the book, and they were making predictions about what might happen. It's immensely gratifying that they're caught up in it.

After class, a student wanted to talk to me: he's one who is missing a lot of work, and he is struggling mightily to stay on track. However, he was concerned that his notes on the reading didn't focus on the gender topic, which is what most of them will write about in their papers. I assured him that the way he had read the novel was correct, that I don't want students to read the book just to pick out what the paper will be about but to experience the book as a whole--which he's been doing. Even though I haven't gotten some assignments from him, he seems to understand the novel and to respond to it well. I told him that I'm confident, if he looks over his notes, he will, in fact, see things about the gender issue: he may not have realized that was what he was seeing, but it will be there. And I reassured him: he's doing the best he can under difficult circumstances, and the best we can do is all anyone can ask.

The Mystery class was the usual chaos. I truly wonder what the senior observer thinks of the mayhem that ensues every class. The students were particularly batty today: I had to tell one in particular to dial down the responses, as she was getting a little too excited about some sexual humor that was running through the room. She and I actually had met earlier, during my office hour, and I think she has a much stronger sense of what is required in her papers. I was delighted that she already had a sense of where problems lay in her second paper, and once we started talking, the connections became infinitely more clear. She has a great deal of potential--largely because of her enthusiasm--but as she herself said, no one has taught her what real academic writing is until now. Another student talked to me after class ended (and it ended very early): she said I'm the hardest professor she's ever had--and here I'm thinking that I'm going so easy on them this term. I'm not sure what that goes to show, but it certainly goes to show something. However, both young women stated that they appreciate my standards--and the fact that they're finally learning what they need to know. That is tremendously gratifying.

A couple of the young women in that class have become friends, and they were hanging around being absolutely giggly and girly after class, shrieking with laughter. But I was delighted that one of them had clearly been waiting for her turn to talk to me. She's the Worker Bee, whom I made cry last class--and she wanted to know if she could turn in her paper late (yes) and if I'd accept her missing work on Tuesday (yes). She nearly leaped out of her skin with happiness and relief. She'd managed to get the entire weekend off work and plans to devote it to plowing through all the assignments she has yet to submit. In talking about her paper being late, I asked to see the two pages she'd been struggling with, as she said she'd developed writer's block. I read the first paragraph, and I could see why: no thesis. We talked about her ideas, and as we did, a thesis idea became much more clear to her. Score! Second one of the day.

I do feel disappointed that I had to bail on my dance lesson tonight--but I truly needed to get that observation report finished and to at least begin commenting on the stories to be workshopped on Monday. I know that I won't have any time in Advisement to do my own stuff (though I'll take some with me, just in case a miracle occurs)--and I can't keep bailing on my time in Advisement. Without tonight's head start, I wouldn't have a prayer of getting them read. In fact, I probably should take at least that much home with me--but as I stated to My Favorite Student (who also was hanging around after class, waiting for her next class to begin), I hate to bring work home. It's enough that I have to comb through the sabbatical application one last time, attending to a few suggestions for minor adjustments. I also have a lot of things on the calendar for the weekend, so I'm feeling a teeny bit frantic--and that means I'm truly unlikely to get any marking of student assignments done, even if I were to take them home. If a miracle occurs, I may come in to the office between events tomorrow to knock off a little more story reading--but I'm going on faith that I can get the rest done on Monday, even if I remember to open the door for my office hour. (I keep forgetting, and Judy Blue Eyes came by this past Monday, saw the closed door, and left....)

I hope I'm leaving everything in some kind of shape so it makes sense on Monday. I have well and truly hit the wall, just now: ain't nothing else coming out of this woman's brains.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Cleansing breath....

I just said goodnight to the problem adjunct--and god damn am I glad to have that done. (Deep, cleansing breath; deep, cleansing breath.) He did explain away some of my biggest concerns; I'm not entirely sure I believe him, but without any evidence to the contrary, I must simply treat him like an honorable professional and take his word about what he does. However, three concerns remained, so the ultimate evaluation is "needs improvement." I told him that, because of that rating, he'd be observed again in a future semester--and he said he may not be back. I'm not sure if that's because he feels like he's being hounded here or if there is some other reason--and I'm not taking it as gospel that he'll be gone. (Note his caveat that he "may" not be back.) So, I reiterated, if he does come back, we'll observe him again, specifically looking for improvement in the areas I mentioned. If he does come back, all I can say is, if there's another round of observations, I will recuse myself: my previous evaluations will weigh too heavily against any attempt at objectivity, and I think we need fresh eyes on the man.

I will say, he was gracious and polite about the whole thing--but I could feel him holding himself on a very tight rein. My guess is that, buried under the ultra-formal and soft-spoken demeanor, he is a profoundly angry man. But I do feel compassion for him (my goal in every part of my life). It can't be easy to feel under scrutiny, and to have not only one's methods but also, by inference, one's underlying professional philosophy called into question and considered inadequate. He does have another job, and I hope he can find great satisfaction and validation in that venue. I don't think he's going to find it here.

So, now I have to write the damned thing up--and he's being a stickler about the time frame: technically I have 10 days, but he wants it on Monday, one week from when I observed the class, and I'm more than happy to comply, simply to have the whole distasteful process behind me. I'll be happy to cross all the observation write-ups off my to-do list, in point of fact, though his is the only one that will be a challenge to my skills at diplomatic honesty.

(It occurs to me that maybe I need to also develop a "ta-dah!" list, celebrating the moments when I pull yet another I-got-it-done rabbit out of the too-much-on-my-plate hat.)

As I envision tomorrow's work load, I've been waffling about whether to finish marking at least the 102 assignments before leaping into the observation write-ups or not, and I think I'll split the difference. I'll write up this difficult observation report first. Then I'll do some grading. If I still have time before class (and around students coming to my office hour), I'll do more observations. Back and forth.

I have to say, today was mostly a lovely day, despite my slight anxiety about the looming conversation with the adjunct. This morning, when the alarm went off, I decided to turn the damned thing off and go back to sleep: to hell with Advisement. I didn't sleep as late or as well as I wish I had, but even the little bit extra was lovely--and I took my time getting out of the house, a slow, leisurely wind-up to the day. I drove into the lot behind the building--once again just as someone was leaving a legal parking spot (hosanna). I read and commented on the three stories for the Fiction class and finished rereading Hillerman's The Dark Wind for the Mystery class. In class, the workshop process went well, and we were finished extremely early, so I was able to get a good whack at the marking of 102 assignments before the adjunct conference.

My only concern remaining is that Calyx, my lovely Rose in Bloom, was not in class today--and hers was one of the stories we were going to workshop. I think I saw her mother parked near the building, waiting for her to get out of class, too, so I know she must have been on campus. (She told me last class that her mother works just around the corner, and that her mom drives her to and from campus every day.) I sent Calyx an e-mail telling her that the stories I photocopied for next week's workshops are on my office door, ready for her to pick up, and letting her know how we'll reschedule workshopping her story. I'm inclined to worry a bit, but I'm trying to let go of that: there could be any number of reasons for her absence, and since in the past she's been good about checking and responding to e-mails, I'm going to assume I'll hear from her before Monday.

Meanwhile, although I probably could get a little more work done tonight, I'm going to allow myself an end to the day that matches the start of it and head home. I may even take myself out for dinner, as a treat for having gotten through the conference with some modicum of grace. I'm not even going to look at my triage list. I'm going to make sure the stacks of papers on my desk (and on the radiator) make some kind of sense, pack my little bags, and toddle off. It will all still be there tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The doctor is in.

The day began with a good omen: just as I was pulling into the parking lot behind the building, someone was leaving a legal parking spot, so for a change I parked without risking a ticket. The next good thing: although I did bail on the department meeting, I got everything marked to return to both of today's classes--so for a full hour and 45 minutes, I was caught up on two of my three classes. True, I have three stories to read for the beginning of the workshop process tomorrow, but I'm sure I can do that after my time in Advisement. And of course, I collected more work from both classes today--but ye gods, it felt good to return those enormous stacks of assignments that had been building up for eons (or at least days).

There was a full house for 102: everyone who is left in the class was there. We went over the final paper--and did some review of general knowledge about writing academic papers. No one had any burning questions on the final paper, so I'm assuming they're ready to dive in. They're a little uncertain about the critical essay bit, but I'm hoping all that will be clarified (at least mostly) in the library session on Thursday. Nice news for them--and for me--is that they don't have any work due for me the day we're in the library. They'll finish the novel for next Tuesday--and they'll be the first of my students ever to read the entire novel before embarking on the paper. I know that a lot of what I said today, both about the paper and about the novel, has slipped through their grasp, but they're hanging on--some by a thread, but they're still with me. Hooray.

The Mystery class was especially wild today. Sometimes I'm as bad as the students are in flinging out tangents and random silliness--but I do manage (most of the time) to bring the discussion back to the work at hand. I collected their second papers today. I'd love to think I might see some improvement from the first papers, but I doubt it. (Wake up, Pollyanna: you fell out of the tree and you're never going to walk again.) Still, they can revise--and a few of them will. Much to my delight, at least three of the students in that class are signing up for Nature in Lit. I've warned them that it tends not to run, so I'm encouraging them to drag passing strangers in to register. I haven't publicized it yet to my other two classes (I keep forgetting); I need to do that--and to ask the colleague I subbed for a while back if she'd mind handing out my flier to her students (who liked me a lot). Anything to get the puppy to run.

On a much sadder note, I made two of my students cry after class. Both are young women I like very much--and both are in serious danger because of missing or substandard work. One is my depressed student, whom I'm going to call Judy Blue-Eyes. The other is a student I may or may not have mentioned: she's just gotten a big promotion at work and it's eating up all her time. She's truly lovely--but I look at her info card and I see zero, zero, zero, zero.... I told them both that I'll do whatever I can to help them--but ultimately, they need to do the work, because that's all I can grade them on.

The Worker Bee left, still shaky, and told me she'd think over what she can realistically do to remain in the class. I then ended up talking to Judy Blue-Eyes for almost an hour: essentially, I was conducting an unlicensed therapy session. It took a lot of work just to get her to come up with a realistic goal for herself, instead of going around and around on the wheel of how hard it all is. Ultimately, she decided that she wants to finish the semester and get the best grades she can--knowing that the "best" this semester may be pretty lousy. Just finishing will be a triumph; I told her to make that her anchor, and to write it down, so she owns it. Her anchor is, "I will finish the semester; I won't withdraw, and I will do as much work as I can, knowing that my best this semester is not the best best I am capable of--but it's what I can do right now." I said that whenever she feels her thoughts get caught up in that wheel of misery, she needs to turn to her anchor: "At least I have this. At least there is this one thing I can do, this one thing where I have a plan I can execute, this one thing I can focus on that is not part of that wheel."

I truly hope it helps. Worker Bee also suffers from terrible anxiety (Jesus, what is it about our world and these poor young people?). My heart aches for these young women--but I also have to gently help them understand that this is adult life. We have to do what we can in dreadful situations and get through them in whatever way possible, even if we're not happy about how we get through them, or where we get. It's just now; it's just this moment in a life. There will be more. Things change.

Continuing in the vein of difficult moments, I also talked to P&B about last night's observation. I have a lot of questions to ask the adjunct when he comes to conference with me tomorrow--and based on his answers, I'll determine the ultimate rating--but P&B reminded me that there is a lot more to the observation and evaluation than just the classroom interactions. My concerns about the content of his courses--and yes, about his pedagogy--are sufficient for an "unsatisfactory" rating, unless he allays them in our conference. Somehow I don't think he will. William put it beautifully: this adjunct seems to think that he is the sole defender of some crucial standard that none of the rest of us can uphold--that what he is doing is brilliantly innovative and provides students with precisely the tools they most need. What I saw in class is that he's teaching them how to follow his byzantine procedures--and very little about actually writing essays with any kind of substantial content. Certainly no content was discussed in class: it was all about his rules.

I am not, emphasize not, looking forward to the meeting tomorrow. I may need to recover over a very stiff drink after.

On the other hand, I feel I am on some kind of moral high ground, defending our students and their educational needs against at least one instance of potentially fucking gawd-awful pedagogy. There's a bitter taste to it, but something gratifying, too.

I must say, the P&B work is now piling up. I have to get the last revisions to my sabbatical application done and the whole thing returned to P&B by Monday. In the next two weeks, I need to visit the personnel files for the people I'm mentoring and write the cover letter for the colleague going up for tenure. I'll leave a note in his mailbox tomorrow with some serious warnings (he dislikes electronic communications, despite being of the electronic generation): he's screwed up the dates for his observation twice, so he hasn't yet picked up the ball that he dropped. In addition to those tasks, of course I have four observations to write up. I reckon I'll devote Thursday to that--once again putting on hold the assignment marking for my classes. I won't have to put it off for long (please heaven), but I have to get the P&B work done or the first week of December, I'll be running around like my hair is on fire. I don't want to be racing about in an abject panic by then: by that time, I want the students to be rolling along on their own, with only the occasional nudge from me, so I can take a small breather and gather my resources for the end of semester deluge.

But that's later. That's not tonight. I'll think of that tomorrow, when I'm stronger. Tomorrow is another day. (I think I need to get myself a huge hoop skirt and start talking in a Southern accent....)

Monday, November 18, 2013

Is it me?

I don't understand what's going on. I just observed an adjunct who has been a serious problem in the past and about whom we get numerous complaints. William observed him earlier in the semester and rated the fellow's teaching "unsatisfactory." I know Bruce wants to get rid of the guy--mostly because of the chronic students complaints, but maybe for other reasons as well--but in all honesty, I can't say that I found the class completely unsatisfactory. I have problems with the guy's pedagogy, and some serious concerns about whether he's doing what we need him to do in order to prepare students for 102, but in the classroom itself, I didn't see a problem with his behavior with the students, and that's been the primary beef. In fact, a couple of the students joked around with him a little, there was some laughter--and, completely counter to the primary complaint, he was willing to answer questions and to admit when he'd made an error in marking their work.

So, what's up? This is the second time I've observed this guy, and both times I ended up feeling the same way: problems, but not a disaster. I'd say "needs improvement," which is what I said last time. Both times, however, I went in to observe after he'd already gotten into trouble. Is he cleaning up his act for me (or for whoever observes him after he gets called on the carpet, as it were)? Is he not as bad as others think? Or am I being too nice, too forgiving?

I generally "conference" with the observed person immediately after the class, mostly so as not to prolong the process. (I even did that with the one class I observed that I did rate unsatisfactory: confronted my colleague then and there with the problems.) But this time I asked for a little time to reflect first: I'll meet with this professor on Wednesday to conference--and meanwhile, I'll talk it all over with P&B. I honestly am baffled.

And I wanted to skip P&B tomorrow, and skip the department meeting--and now it seems I should at least make a cameo appearance at both. Dammit. I need time to mark student assignments. I suppose I can bail on the department meeting at least--or maybe another miracle will occur and I'll be able to get a lot more marked before the meeting than I anticipate, so I'll be ready for classes.

However, that won't happen if I don't get myself home and settled damned soon. Class was fine, nothing in particular to report--so I won't try to come up with more to say. Maybe more tomorrow. For now, I'm outa here.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

2-minute post

Trying to get out the door in about 10 minutes, haven't eaten since this morning, headache from about noon on: I'm feeling pursued by packs of miniature dogs. Trampled to death by geese.

But the day went well. I got most of the stuff marked for Mystery; didn't get everything done for 102 (no surprise)--I'd forgotten that I had an observation this afternoon instead of my office hour, so lost a chunk of time to that. Still, the class I observed was utterly delightful--this is a colleague I like very much personally, and in addition, I admire her pedagogy (and would like to use some of it as a model for my own). The 102 class was fine--apart from the moment when I snapped at a student who was being willfully dense about getting in a circle. The Mystery class reached new heights of absurdity. They weren't just up in the rafters; they were above the rooftops somewhere. But it was fun--and they deserved the fun after having received a mini-lecture about what a thesis is, how to construct a paper....

And now I need to get some food in me, figure out what I'm taking home, and brave the traffic out to Stony Brook for my dance lesson. I am so desperate for Thanksgiving weekend, I'm about to fall over--and that weekend, I want to do absolutely, utterly, completely nothing. Please heaven I'll get closer to caught up next week.....

I'm off. I'm also leaving.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A bit of noodling to end the day

I was going to try to get out of here a while ago but I ended up doing a little noodling: replying to e-mails and other messages--and beginning the planning of a presentation in the "Traveling Professor" series here at NCC. In February, I'll do a little slide show and talk about my trips to Portugal (mostly Lisbon, but a little beyond), probably including a little fado music as well as the photos. It's a lot of fun to contemplate--and I'll have a hell of a task in front of me, scanning the photos from my first trip (pre digital camera) and then culling the best of the photos from the zillions I have. Of course, even thinking about this makes me want to go back--tomorrow, if possible.

The traffic stream in Advisement is now constant. Down side: I can't get any of my own work done. Up side: time flies. No one annoyed me unduly today, but I felt like a dithering idiot: it was one of those days when I couldn't seem to locate the information I wanted in any efficient or intelligent way. Ah well. I helped the students I saw; that's the main thing.

I wasn't at all sure I'd keep the Fiction Writing students for more than about five minutes: I was pretty cranky heading to class, in part because several students hadn't gotten me the full submission of their second story revisions, despite repeated requests. My huff was deflated, however, when two of the three had exactly what I needed to get. The third? I handed his partial submission back to him and told him that I've recorded a zero. If he wants to change that, he needs to resubmit the story with all the required pieces.

I talked a bit about upcoming assignments and a slight schedule change (so we can get a jump on the workshopping, get everyone's story discussed prior to Thanksgiving) and a request (so we have some stories in advance of the final workshop session, on their "portfolio" stories). Some of the students still haven't checked their e-mail and so still didn't have the specific assignment for the next story--and were unclear, even though I went over it in class before. There is a lot of overlap between the exercise they did as homework and this upcoming story assignment, so I understand some of the confusion, but some of it simply is because they're not paying attention.

After I got that all sorted out (which took a while), I asked them what would be helpful. Tyra wanted to just leave (no surprise there), but one of the students wanted to talk about the exercise they'd done, and the Real Writer wanted to do another free write--so we did. Two students hadn't done the exercise (including Calyx), so I'll collect theirs on Monday. And I had a little talk with Edison Adams after class: his work has suddenly been slipping, and I wanted to be sure he's OK. Yes, he said, and then, after talking in general terms about an ongoing situation in his life, he finally said that he didn't want to use it as an excuse, but he suffers from depression....


I said to him what I said to the student in the Mystery class: that I understand very well, that I want to help, that I want him to do well, that he should let me know if the problem continues, that it isn't an "excuse," it's a real problem. But the whole time I was wondering not only what it is that has brought these students to me in this way but also, what is going on in our culture that so many young people are suffering from depression? I find that terrible, deeply distressing. I know I'm not looking at a statistically significant sampling here, but it certainly feels like I'm looking at an upsurge in a serious problem.

I am still concerned about the student in the Mystery class. I just marked some of her assignments, and they're pretty awful--so I can't give them good grades, much as I'd like to. In fact, I have the same problem with the "revisions" I got. I didn't get many, and most of the ones I got may have been changed, but the problems remain unaddressed. As I said to Paul, this confirms my belief that students truly cannot see what to revise or understand how without intensive work and training. In the past, I'd have been handing out D's and F's right and left--but I'm more forgiving now (or more exhausted, I'm not sure which). I'm more willing to give a C for a paper with no thesis, no argument, but clear writing--in part because I don't have the time to teach these students what a thesis is, what an argument is, and if they don't know, and I can't teach them, it seems grossly unfair to slam them for what they have never been adequately taught.

This is a radical shift in my core beliefs in terms of my pedagogy. I have always taken on the "gate keeper" role, much as I hate being the enforcer: I've felt that students need to know, and know now, if their work is insufficient. I still feel that way--but instead of just slamming that gate on them, I'd rather either let them through (knowing they may get slammed even harder later) or give them the keys. Ideally, I want to give them the keys--but that learning curve, understanding what analysis is, understanding academic argument, is a mighty steep one, and even in the classes in which it's my specific task to help them understand those things, it's almost impossible to impart the understanding in one semester. And in literature electives, I have a different agenda: I'm supposed to focus on the literature itself, not their writing skills.

I may well flop back the other way next semester, but what I really hope is that I can find a way to structure assignments for the literature electives so that the students can learn those basic writing skills, if they haven't before--and practice them if they have learned them. Paul does drafts in his lit classes: I may do paper review days, even in the electives.

I profoundly hope that sometime in the final weeks of the semester, when I'm marking less, I can spend some concentrated time working on revamping the syllabus and paper assignments for Nature in Lit. I want to keep the readings the same--but I want to radically restructure the writing so it's not so utterly daunting for the students. And I want to keep working on clarifying what the logs need to contain: that's still a struggle, for me and for the students.

One curse--and blessing--of this career is that it includes perpetual change. Even if the changes are slight, they're there. For example, I've used the same paper topics for 102 for years now--but the approach to the writing is different, and the way I word the assignments is refined almost every semester, in one way or another. Eventually, I'll get bored with the readings and topics, too, and I'll do a major overhaul of that, too. I may be frustrated, angry, discouraged, ground down by work load--but I am not bored. I am never bored.

I am, however, hungry. And tired. So I'm going home. Yet another unread, unrevised, un-proofed post. These are becoming more common than the more carefully worked posts of days long past. Ah well. I get the opportunity to think a little, and reframe, and that's all I really care about. I hope my faithful readers (both of you) are content with the roughage (as it were). Thank you for reading.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

my own damned fault

As my friend Eloise would say, I'm up to my antlers in ungraded student assignments--and of course, I didn't do a damned one of them over the weekend. I carried them all home, like a good little girl, and then carried them right back again: I didn't even move the bag they were in, just plopped it on the table when I got home on Thursday and picked it up again this morning.

Consequently, I'm going to have to burn, well, not the midnight oil (things aren't that dire yet), but the "later than I'd like" oil. I already put in a decent push tonight--just getting caught up with the short story class. I must say, I'm more than a bit ticked off that three of them are still, after repeated admonishments, missing necessary pieces of their second story submissions, so I can't grade them. I never put anything in the syllabus about late penalties (note to self if I ever teach the class again)--but this is getting ridiculous. I'm about ready to give them each a zero and leave it at that. OK, no, not really, though it is tempting. I will, however, read them the riot act tomorrow. In front of everyone. I'm all for a little shaming right about now. One of the offenders is Edison Adams, much to my dismay. He's suddenly falling apart, and I'm not sure what's going on. I need to talk to him.

I also just spent a few minutes here putting everything for the Mystery class in order--triage within triage. I've been shunting their stuff aside for the 102 class for way too long. This week, if I end up not getting work back to the 102 students, it will simply be their turn to get the fuzzy end of the lollipop. I had to postpone the due date for the second paper for the Mystery class: I figure it's only fair to give them their revisions back before they have to embark on a new paper, so they can see if they did improve, are on a better track. (And I just realized: one student who asked for more time didn't give me her revision today. I think she's missed the boat now.)

I had a conversation with a student after class, another young woman who is struggling. Her issue isn't depression, just over-work. We talked about it, and I told her she's simply in a position of having to make a very difficult decision, knowing the consequences of her choices. I did tell her that I'm willing to talk with her more about it, if it would help her to bounce the ideas off someone--but essentially, she has a very demanding job right now, and it's preventing her from paying sufficient attention to her studies. The options are, withdraw from the classes so she doesn't demolish her GPA, knowing she's "wasted" her tuition money and is going to be set back pretty far in terms of her progress toward graduation, or stay in the classes and know her GPA is going to take a hell of a hit because of the job conflict. I'm touched that so many of my students feel they can talk to me about these problems. I don't actually offer much help, but I think it matters to them that I will listen with empathy and respond with compassion.

One annoying thing to report: I was in the middle of the 102 class when one of the students showed up--about 30 minutes into the period--and from the door, waved to me to come outside and talk to him. I said, "No, I'm not going to interrupt class to talk to you. You can talk to me after class, or you can come see me or send me an e-mail." He said he couldn't wait until after class, and I said, "OK, then, contact me some other way." We'll see if he does. I'm not very sanguine about his chances in the class, which is too bad, as he showed some promise at the beginning.

I counted today: there are, right at this moment, 14 students remaining in that class. I'm hoping like hell they all stick to the end, but I'm afraid I anticipate losing a few--not because I have any real indications that anyone is blowing up but just because that's what usually happens. I feel nervous about throwing them into the final paper, as this semester they didn't get the test drive of using critical sources that I usually provide with the second paper (because I fucked up and didn't get them the apparatus to read the provided essays and get anything out of them). So they'll be dealing with critical material for the first time--and it ain't easy. But they get to revise and revise, so I'm hoping that will help them figure out how to use the stuff at least well enough for this level.

My eyes are burning; I can barely see, never mind think. I'm tossing this post up on the blog and getting the hell out of here. Back in 13 hours. Oy.

Thursday, November 7, 2013


The Mystery class is a continuing delight. I truly am hauling them out of the rafters, but we're all having a blast--and I think they're truly learning, too. I've never had this many students left at this point in a semester before, and that is completely because I've lightened up the assignments--and my demeanor. I like this better. I'm happier, the students are happier: it just makes sense. I am a little worried that some may be in for a nasty surprise at the end of the term, so I need to take a look at grades and issue another warning to those in jeopardy, but I don't want to chase them out of the class.

I have to come up with a moniker for the young woman in that class who is suffering from depression. She came to my office hour today for help with her revision. I'm not sure whether she's able to take in the specific, task-oriented advice I gave her, but I did tell her that if I give her nothing else this term, the one thing I want her to take away is my firm assertion that she needs to practice more self-care. Most of us do, but in her case, I think it's particularly important. I did say it is a practice--as I well know. Practice means we make mistakes, means we need to keep trying. I said that because I'm beginning to wonder at what point I have to draw the line and tell her I can't bend any further. We may be approaching that point, but we figured out some priorities for her today; if she can come through, she'll be OK. If not ... well, we'll need to talk.

But delight of delights, today was the first time I can remember that she's said anything in class--and she talked (and laughed) a couple of times. In fact, I was hearing from people I've not heard from before, or so seldom that I wondered if they were truly there. The rambunctiousness is spreading, thank the good lord.

The students in 102 are doing an amazingly good job with the novel, too. Most are getting it at least some, and several are getting it on a lovely level of sophistication. I had to force a couple of the students to participate--and one resisted mightily, but when she finally added something, I praised her highly for bringing it up. I'm hoping that the silent minority will gain some confidence and start to join in.

I have an enormous stack of student assignments that I'm taking home with me. I will be very interested to see how much I actually get done. I'm feeling my cold more today than I did yesterday (the lack of sleep the last few nights is wearing down my immune system)--and I'm supposed to be on campus tomorrow for a symposium that starts at 8:45, of all insane hours. I don't know yet whether I'll go. I do want to--interesting topic, actually--and I have to fulfill my obligation to go to two professional development events each academic year: this would be one of them. But I'm going to see how I feel tonight and in the morning. I have no intention of making myself sick again just to go to a Friday event on campus. Even if I go, I will not be there on time. There will be the obligatory coffee and baked goods before the event, so things won't really start until at least 9:15, if not later--and people who teach on Fridays will come late, leave early, so I wouldn't be alone in not attending the entire event.

As I say, we'll see. My desire to bring more compassion into my work springs in part from an amazing seminar from a number of years ago, so one never knows what gems will be offered at these things. On the other hand, my health is not to be sneezed at, if you'll pardon the expression.

I'm folding my tents and slipping away into the darkness. No posting until Tuesday, unless something unexpected arises. More on the flip side.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

the difficulties--and the wonder of it

I had another broken night of sleep: this time I was awakened by a screaming headache at 3:14 a.m. I've managed to keep it subdued all day, but it's lurking (and jumped out momentarily in Advisement: I turned my head too fast and the top of my skull felt like it was going to blow off). Despite the way in which headaches interfere with my synaptic connections, I managed to be at least moderately useful in the Assessment meeting--which was, in the event, a bit of a bust, as only five of us were there, less than half the committee. I also managed to be helpful to students in Advisement. And I think I managed to teach the Fiction class with some measure of success.

I am, of course, drowning in student assignments: this is what happens when two sick days (Thursday and Monday) are followed by three days packed with events. I spent some time dithering about how best to utilize my time: start marking, even though I know I can't possibly finish before tomorrow's classes? Just note who turned in what? I started marking, which may have been a mistake, but I would like to get work returned to the 102 students so they have feedback before their submissions next week. Of course, in a way, it would make more sense to mark the stuff for the Mystery class: I won't be collecting anything else from 102 tomorrow, but I will get another batch of notes from the Mystery students, so I could keep the stacks relatively even, instead of having one go down while the other increases. But the Mystery students don't have quite the same need to get their assignments back. Triage, triage. Given how nuts tomorrow will be, and how much I have to do, I almost--almost--wish we had our regular schedule next week, so I'd be in on Monday, getting work done. I'll take a stack of papers home with me tomorrow, but I'm not laying any bets about how much I'll get done. I know myself too well.

So, those are the difficulties: nothing unusual, just the ordinary grind. And the difficulties are not truly all that difficult. Yes, there is a grind, but there is in any job--and yes, I tend to overload my plate, but I'm aware that's my decision, so I hardly have grounds to bitch. (Oh, speaking of which: the woman who, for the last several millennia, has run the Chancellor's Award committee--along with honors, and god knows what else--is retiring in December, so we're going to have to elect a new chair for the Chancellor's Award committee. (I don't know how a new monarch of honors will be chosen.) I immediately thought, "I should run: this is important for promotion to full professor, being chair of a college-wide committee." Then I came to my senses. Not only are there people on the committee who have been on it a hell of a lot longer than I have, and who therefore know the ropes a hell of a lot better than I do--but what am I, nuts? Do I really want to take on that amount of work? Lord, woman, get a grip on yourself and sit on your damned hands.)

But now, now, to talk about the wonder of it.

Today I had the single most moving moment of my career. I was leaving the Fiction class, heading back to Bradley, and a woman got out of a car, calling to me, "Are you Professor P--?" Yes, I said, curious: this was no one I'd ever laid eyes on before. She introduced herself: she's the mother of the Fiction Writing student who produced that beautiful soap bubble of a story. She didn't want her daughter to see her talking to me--the student is part of that gang who hang out together after class--but she said her daughter had pointed me out before, and that she had to thank me. Turns out my student has suffered from severe clinical depression for three years. Prior to the onset of the depression, she used to love to write, but as she fell into the depression, she told her mother repeatedly how she couldn't write any more, and how painful it was that she felt she couldn't. However, the mother told me, since the start of the semester, this lovely young woman has been writing--passionately, endlessly--and loving it. The mother was profoundly grateful to see her child happy again, enjoying writing again, and she attributed that change to me. She said that after the first class, her daughter came home and said how much she liked me, how much she was looking forward to the class.

I almost cried. The look on the mother's face, as if her world had suddenly opened up--as if she were herself suddenly rising out of a depression--was beautiful. I told her I don't think it's really about me: it's the young woman herself. But I am more deeply moved than I can say to know that something about that class was the catalyst that helped the student find again something that she thought she had lost, something she missed, something she needed to bring her joy. I've been searching for a nickname for her, and this has helped me find it: Calyx.

There is no way to adequately express how moved I am by this. Or how humbling it is to be even a small part in something so important, not only to this young woman but to her family, the people who love her. I am truly overwhelmed.

I wonder what cosmic forces are aligned that I have two students this semester, both young women, both highly intelligent, who are struggling with depression. Or, more precisely, that I know they are: it's possible I've often had students in my classes who are dealing with that pain, but this time, I know it. I have actively wanted to bring more compassion into my teaching, to find a way to maintain my high standards while offering more solicitude. It seems these young women have come into my sphere of influence at a time when what they need is precisely what I hope to offer. Their presence confirms for me that my desire to approach the world with more sympathy is correct. All I know for sure is that I feel much better about myself, my work, my interactions with my students, as I work to cultivate compassion along with rigor, not only in my profession but in all of my life.

I'm going to take this home with me, this warmth around the heart, my enormous gratitude that I am able to facilitate someone's unfolding in this way. I am truly, deeply honored--and blessed.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


I just clicked on the link for one of the pages that Google has as originating traffic for my blog--and it's a sex site. Good lord, what am I posting here?

cough cough hack hack

My poor students: I'm clearly walking around like Typhoid Mary, congested and coughing. One student sat through the entire 102 class with his shirt pulled over his nose and mouth, trying to avoid my germs. I don't blame him. I feel somewhat worse today--this thing is kicking the stuffing out of me--but I realized that talking extensively tends to set off coughing fits. Mercifully, because of occasional allergy explosions, I carry a baggie of cough drops with me at all times--and I needed them today. I hacked a bit less in the Mystery class, partly from the build-up of cough drops from the hour before but largely because of a cup of herbal tea with a little lemon and honey. In any event, I want this bastard out of my system soon, so it's going to be another leave-the-office-in-a-hurry night for me. Being even a little under the weather, as I am now, demonstrates very clearly how hard it is to do this job when anything interferes with my energy and focus.

(Just thinking, it is odd: this is my first full day since the clocks fell back, and it was strange to leave the Mystery class after dark....)

Only about half the 102 class was there. I got e-mails from two students regarding their absence--one is awaiting the birth of his son (a pretty good reason not to be in class)--but the rest are simply AWOL. I hope they check their e-mail (unlikely), as I adjusted the reading schedule slightly so we can get caught up with discussion. Certainly, the students who were in class today were relieved about that.

The students were not so relieved to get their papers back, however. (Minor miracle: I didn't think I could get those papers marked in time, but thanks to that early alarm--and a truncated club-hour meeting--I was just able to squeak them out.) One student was hanging about after class so he could tell me how disappointed he is with his paper grade. He's been telling me this all semester. I pointed that out to him: he's been disappointed, but he hasn't done anything about it. I suggested that, if he continues to get grades that are lower than what he wants, perhaps it would make sense for him to meet with me to figure out what he can do better. He allowed as how that might be a good plan--but I'm not holding my breath that he'll follow through. Being mopey and disappointed takes a lot less effort.

The Mystery class was the usual: nothing of note to report--except that most of them are still hanging in there. Prof. TLP, take note: keep this in mind when you work up the assignments for 281 next semester. (I did make a pitch for 281 to the Mystery students: I need to remember to do the same in my other classes. Every now and then, I get a few takers--and I always love it when I do.) In fact, I'm considering re-doing all my lit electives to ease up a bit, at least on the formal paper assignments. It's a shift in priorities for me. My standards are still high, and I will hold to them, but I'm lowering my expectations, if that makes sense. If the assignments are slightly less sophisticated, slightly less demanding in what I'm asking the students to accomplish, I can still have high standards--just for less elevated work.

I don't know if I'm making sense here: my brains are approximately as energized and capable of clear thought as three-day-old oatmeal.

I know tomorrow would be easier if I were to do some more grading tonight, but I refer you to the rating of my mental capacity, above. I have packed the bag I'll carry to Advisement--because there's an Assessment meeting at 9:30 and I will have to go directly from that to Advisement. I know I can't count on much time to do my own work in Advisement: registration opens next week, and students are starting to get the idea that maybe they should consider in advance what to take, so they're ready when their priority comes to the top of the heap.

However or whenever it happens, I hope I can get the revised stories read for Fiction Writing, but if not, c'est la vie. At least I managed to pull an idea for story three out of thin air (sent it to them via e-mail on Monday when I canceled class)--and I know what we'll do in class tomorrow, as well as knowing what their next at-home assignment will be. I think. It's all an improvisational dance, so I'll know more about what I decide after I've decided it.

Oh, random P.S.: I'm pretty sure I said something about panic at the thought that I'd lost all my notes from the two observations I've conducted. I hadn't. On Thursday, from my sick bed, I was mentally reconstructing the day of the second observation--and suddenly remembered that the notes were in a red folder. I'd shoved it into my bookcase (always a mistake: next to the word "chaos" in the dictionary is a photo of my bookcase). I now have it pulled out and more prominently visible. When I'll get a chance to write the damned things up is an entirely separate question--and I have to figure out when to observe a problem adjunct, soon. Ah, but I can't do anything about any of that now. So, it goes on the triage list, but not very high up.

And now I'm going to take my stuffed up, muzzy head home.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Posting from home

I did go to campus today, even though I canceled class--largely to submit my revised sabbatical application, but also to review the promotion applications before tomorrow's P&B meeting. I'm glad I reviewed my two mentees when I had plenty of time to look at them. One has an application that is probably overly detailed (and she is, apparently, the queen of embedded clauses: look out Faulkner!)--and the other has an application that is frighteningly underdeveloped: frightening because he's up for tenure, and if he doesn't get it, there is no second chance at NCC: he'd have to go to another school. And he's a brilliant teacher, so we simply can't lose him. I tried once to impress upon him that he needs to give detail about what he's done, but apparently it didn't take. I need to let him know he might not get tenure: that should wake him up. The maddening thing is that he probably does have enough service to do fine in the tenure deliberations; he simply hasn't said anything significant about what he's done, so it ends up looking like nothing worthwhile.

The Putz is also up for promotion to full professor--and his application is a mess. He's got tons of stuff to include: he is the king of self-serving self-promotion, but the thing is riddled with idiotic typos (has he never heard of spell check?) and overstatements and comments in bold just in case we don't get how hard he's been working. We know how much is bullshit, but it looks good--and we don't sandbag our own. But if he gets full, and he may very well, that devalues the position significantly in my estimation. He also has a Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching, case in point for why I don't take mine as meaning much of anything. But then, I get the asterisk: *actually merited.

If I do say so myself.

Another colleague is up for promotion to associate, and her application is also a mess, but for different reasons. She has no logical sense of how things work, so she's asking idiotic questions--in the text of the application itself (and it will serve her fucking right if she forgets to delete something and it goes to P&T with the dimwitted question embedded). She also wants to include taking people out to lunch and talking to her church groups. At least the Putz has stuff that actually looks real to puff up. I don't think taking a visiting author out for a meal counts as service to the college or professional development.

In any event, all that took longer than I'd hoped--long enough that I was still working on some of it when I'd normally have been heading over to teach Fiction Writing. When I finished, I sat down to see if I could maybe grade a few more papers, so I could have a fighting chance of getting them done before tomorrow's class--without having to bail on my committee meeting. Nope. My brains and body were very clearly telling me it was time to leave.

So here I am home. I didn't teach Thursday and I didn't teach today--and even that small hiatus is going to make it challenging to go back to it tomorrow, even if I didn't still feel wrung out from this wretched cold. (I was profoundly annoyed to actually be sick on a planned sick day. How is that fair?) Don't know how much energy I'll have tomorrow, or when I'll be able to get in to campus, or what I'll be able to accomplish, but it sure will be interesting to see.