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Monday, December 9, 2013

I'm kinda surprised myself

Several minor miracles today. First, when I walked into Advisement, there was not a single student there. I practically did a triple-take--but then I also nearly did the happy dance. I had taken work with me "just in case," and I did get some done. Then, only one student showed up for my office hour (of the three or four who'd said for sure they were coming): more time to work. Finally, despite a small "I don't want to" fit, I got another small batch marked after class today. And the wonderful news is, tomorrow, I don't have a meeting. I should spend some time working on adjunct scheduling, even if it's just an hour or so. I'll check in with Bruce and see how things are going; I need to talk to him anyway about when he'll need me over the winter break.

Today's class was a bit chaotic again--but we did get the stories workshopped and had time for a quick (and very difficult) free-write. I need to explain very clearly what is needed for next week, though, as some students are still apparently confused.

The more I can get done tomorrow before class, the better: I want the decks as clear as possible for those incoming 102 papers. We're all wondering what the weather will bring: we are supposed to get 3-6 inches of snow tomorrow--but how quickly that will accumulate is anyone's guess, and the accumulation will, in turn, affect whether we have afternoon classes or not. I hope we do, just so I can collect those dratted papers--but if not, I guess I'll learn to use the "comments" function of TurnItIn.com and do it all electronically. I'd rather like to test-drive that function anyway: it may be easier than any of my current methods.

Meanwhile, I've been driven ever so slightly insane by two students who are asking questions about revising papers. I usually love that process--and indeed, several other students have been asking questions without annoying me in the least--but these two have big areas where they are mentally dense, simply unable to understand what I'm explaining. One cannot understand that an introduction to a quotation has to actually precede the quotation and be attached to it in some way. I finally had to write one for her--and it was all I could do not to say, "There, God dammit, can you finally fucking see now what 'introduce' means? How hard is that, really? What was going on in your little pea brain that you couldn't figure that out--even when you've seen other examples?" She's sweet, truly, but she's one of those who tries so hard that she sets up impenetrable static in her own mind, completely blocking out any information or explanation. The other poor student just doesn't have the kind of language skills he needs in order to truly understand much. He takes direct instructions pretty well, but he can't think beyond the specific instruction to apply it elsewhere, or extrapolate, or grasp a concept....

Which reminds me of one student I saw in Advisement today. I respect and admire her determination to attend college, but she could not understand the simplest part of what courses she needs or how to register--even after multiple explanations. I don't think I raised my voice, but it felt like one of those conversations when one is trying to make oneself understood to someone who speaks a completely different language and--even though we know it doesn't work--one begins to speak louder, as if that will suddenly lead to comprehension by the other party. It's maddening to be speaking English to someone who also speaks English and have that same feeling of not being able to communicate even a syllable.

One of my own 102 students came to me in Advisement, too. I spent a lot of the session trying to talk him out of tearing himself down so badly that he gives up--round and round that particular mulberry bush we went, until finally I said, "Why are you doing this?" He looked startled and said he supposed it was to motivate himself. I asked him if that was working: was he, in fact, feeling motivated? No? Then maybe a different strategy is called for. We finally got around to talking about the courses he might consider for spring--and then he wanted to talk to me about his final paper. Oh, I cut him off short on that one. No: that's what my office hours are for, or you can make an appointment, but you can't take my time in Advisement for that: I'm there to advise about academic programs, not about my specific course.

Most of today's Advisement encounters were the run of the mill ordinary student with ordinary questions--but one student (one of the last I saw), was obviously bright: I could tell just from talking to her and how quickly she picked up on things, how organized she was. She needs to take 102: I invited her into mine.

I've been thinking a lot about which one to drop, too--assuming I don't end up teaching three comps and no lit. Long, complicated thought process there, which I won't get into now, but this is the kind of thing I'm stewing about when I should be sleeping.

Speaking of that, however: if I get myself out of this office in the next few minutes, I may actually get an earlier night tonight than usual--and that would be yet another minor miracle. "Tomorrow is another day." "I'll think of that tomorrow, when I'm stronger." You know the quotations.

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