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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.

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