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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

boing, boing, boing

I feel rather as if I've been the ball in a pin-ball machine today, racketing around from one thing to another. I'll try to reconstruct, mostly because I need to have a better sense what the hell happened.

I didn't get much paper grading done before my first meeting of the day. However, the Plan B I came up with last night was to separate out the actual papers from the rest of the stuff to be marked for the Mystery class, mark the non-paper assignments, and try like hell to get the papers done for Thursday. (That may be a forlorn hope, but call me Pollyanna.) It worked, insofar as I did get those other assignments marked and returned to the students. So, even though I feel like I didn't accomplish much, I did what I needed to do for today (including detangling some of the vines from around my ankles).

Because I wanted to get even more work done, I was hoping that the meeting of the Chancellor's Award committee would be brief--just the election of a new chair--but I'd forgotten that we are working to come up with procedures for an entirely new award category. The discussion went on so long we didn't get the new chair elected: we'll have to do that the first meeting of the spring. My term on the committee is up at the end of this year; I'm on the fence about whether I'll ask to be appointed again or whether I'll let it go. (The need for college-wide service in applying for promotion to full is the only reason to re-up--but that's a compelling reason.)

P&B ended early, thank God--although it went on a lot longer than need be (one of the committee members drives me batshit: every time we're about to end early, she brings up a hairball of an issue and we end up stuck there for another 30 minutes or more). Also, I'm afraid my mentee who is going up for tenure is about to get hit in the face with the work equivalent of a two-week-old flounder: I had to instruct him to hurry the hell up and get everything completed and ready to be signed off on by Tuesday: yikes! I had misinformed him that he had longer: I was going by my understanding of a different set of deadlines, but Bruce doesn't want P&B to have to deal with that application at all after the break--which makes sense, as it has to go to the college-wide committee almost immediately once we're back. I also had advised my mentee to fix some old paperwork, but that opened up a large can of worms in terms of getting the revised paperwork into his personnel file. Consequently, I had to tell him to get the papers walked through the various levels of signatures and into his file now (as in yesterday)--or to revert to the old unrevised paperwork (with an apology from me for suggesting he do work I'm now advising that he ditch). In any event, I sent a "panic in the streets!" e-mail to him and have yet to hear back. He's been harder to keep in line than I anticipated--and much slower to respond to e-mail--so I'm a bit nervous about whether he'll come through. I also got some helpful feedback on the letter of support for his application that I whipped up yesterday. In addition to comments on the substance from various P&B members, William pointed out some utterly bone-headed errors--shame on me--so I need to get that fixed for next week as well.

What about those observation write-ups you may ask? Please don't ask. I have no clue when I'll get them done. At this point of the semester--as I've said to anyone who will listen--I can teach, or I can do committee work, not both.

The 102 class was simple. I will say that I was not entirely happy to find one of my students sitting outside the classroom, looking like death warmed over, paper clutched in her hand: she told me she's been throwing up all day but wanted to give me her paper--and her germs, apparently (thanks a heap). Four papers have yet to be submitted, and at first I was calling out the hounds on the students who were late, saying that the assignment specifically said "No late submissions"--but then I re-read my own assignment sheet, and oh, oops, I forgot: I decided to allow the same late period I allowed for the first two papers. Duh. I had to call a student back and apologize, after scaring her witless. I'm not sure how I feel about the softening of the rules--only because I worry that I may be making life more difficult for myself--but honestly, I'm not going to get deeply into the grading until tomorrow, so getting some of them late shouldn't make any difference.

In any event, I told the students that if they wanted to stay and get feedback from me, make hand corrections, before turning in their papers, I'd be happy to stay and work with them--but if they were sick of the sight of their papers, they could simply turn them in and split. Only two took me up on the offer of help; the rest took me at my word, dropped papers on the desk and vanished. The two students who stayed for help didn't stay long, so I was out of class very early. I decided to come back to the office, thinking I'd get some grading done--and I have no idea what happened, but no papers were graded. I know I was busy untangling vines, but I honestly cannot recall what ate up that time. (Audrey 2?)

The Mystery class was fun (as always), but they didn't have a lot to say today, so I let them go very early. I've been too relaxed about accepting work late, so in the next week I'm going to get a deluge of past-due assignments. I've told students I'll just fling the marks onto the pages rather than providing any feedback--but it isn't the students who need to know that: it's me. I have to be fierce with myself and get through those late assignments as rapidly as possible. I also have to remember to take some points off for their being late.

After class, Judy Blue-Eyes wanted to talk to me: this time, she had to tell me that she had a profoundly traumatic personal experience shared by a character in the book: the perpetrator of the crime she was victim of even had the same name as the perpetrator in the novel. I am still willing to believe that she truly has experienced what she says and that the emotional "perfect storm" she is experiencing is real--but I am also aware that at best, I'm feeling compassion fatigue--and I confess I'm starting to have some doubts about what she's telling me. I won't act on those doubts unless I get evidence of a reason why I should: even if I have doubts, I prefer to operate from a position of trust and belief in my students.

But what's starting to grate on me is, no matter what the issue is, the dialog is virtually exactly the same every time we talk. She says the same things; I give the same responses. If I were her therapist, I would do the same dance with her week after week--that's part of the job--but I'm not her therapist: I'm her English professor. However compassionate I may be and however much I may like her personally, I've about reached the end of what I can say or do. If her personal experience makes it too traumatic for her to read the book, then she shouldn't read it. If she can put her personal experience behind her as she says she can, then she should do that and read the book. Obviously I can't fix this for her, and I can't help her fix it for herself: it's beyond my training or my job description. Consequently, I don't know how much more I need or want to hear about it. It is helpful to know when a student is dealing with a difficult situation--I'd always rather know the reasons for a student's behavior--but ultimately, the behavior is what matters, not the reason. She can do the reading or she can't. She can do the work or she can't. And she'll have to live with the reality of what she can or can't do.

As will I, for myself. For tonight, I probably could do more, but I'm not going to.I would dearly love to bail on Advisement again, but I think I've used up my quota for this term--and I don't want to jeopardize my chances of being selected again.I'll just have to see how much I can do after Advisement and before and after class. I have asked the official alternate for Thursday's committee if he can cover for me: that would buy me a good chunk of time, if he can, though I'm prepared for the answer to be "no." (I'll be disappointed as hell, but c'est la vie.) And I will probably significantly truncate tomorrow's class.

I keep reminding myself: somehow it will all get done. It always does. And there are now ten more days of classes left in the term. Ten. Surely I can survive that.

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