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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.

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