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Thursday, December 12, 2013

O frabjous day!

I just checked enrollment for Nature in Lit, as Judy Blue Eyes told me today that she has a bunch of friends ready to sign up for the class. There are now 9 students enrolled--which is reason enough for some celebration, but even more, I am thrilled that beautiful Calyx has joined the class roster. Truly, I am delighted, and honored.

As is often the case, I see a name on the roster that looks incredibly familiar, yet I don't think I've ever met the student. I wonder if she's been on my rosters before, or withdrawn early from some previous class...? It will be interesting to meet her, in any case, and find out if our paths have crossed before.

The 102 class went better than I anticipated. I told the students to be sure to see me about every single place where I'd written "see me" on their papers--so each one got at least a few minutes of my undivided time. I felt bad for the three quiet young women in the far corner of the room, as they had to wait until the very end of the period in order to talk with me, but I feel like every single student now has at least some idea of how to improve the paper. Of course, the end results may not show much change--but some of them have already made significant strides toward a better paper. If all goes well, there should be at least three good, solid B's in the bunch--and that's a good ratio, out of 12 remaining students.

The Mystery class was more haphazard, as I'd told students that if they weren't dropping off work and didn't want to talk to me about papers, they didn't have to come--and most of them took me up on that. A few who have never asked for help before specifically wanted to talk to me, which is gratifying (better late than never, I suppose). And my poor Worker Bee talked to me for a while: she prefaced the conversation by saying that she is terrified--not just about my class but about her whole semester. She's still missing a lot of work, and she didn't have her revision ready; I'd told other students that I wouldn't accept anything on Monday except their third essays--and the extra credit assignment, if they choose to do it--but I'm making an exception for her, as we had an agreement that she'd get me as much work as she could as soon as she could. Knowing that she can't make up as much as she'd hoped, she was in a panic about the outcomes she could expect from the semester--said she's sure she failed her Criminology final, for instance--so I asked her, bottom line, what is the absolute minimum she needs to get out of the semester. She said all she needs is to pass. With any grade at all? Yes, just pass. I said, "OK, I can guarantee that," and you'd have thought I'd just given her a puppy, she was so thrilled. I've never known a "mercy D" to be so clearly an act of mercy. She's still going to do all she can to do a great job on the third paper--and to revise the second one, if she can--but she'll get the D, no matter what. She's tried so hard; she deserves that much.

Judy Blue Eyes and Ms Enthusiasm were being complete lunatics; they are off the wall, those two, and they bring out the middle school student in each other. I chased them out of the room while I talked to the Worker Bee (who is also part of their group of friends)--and then I saw them outside the building after class. They have been getting riotous about how I'll regret having them in the Nature in Lit course, and since I'd been thinking about that in the elevator on the way down, I stopped to talk to them. I told them that I love their silliness (which is true) but that next semester, they'll have to tone it down: there are other students in the room, and important work to be done. Judy said that I'd have my hands full because of all her other friends coming into the class--and I said, "You don't want to see the other side of me." I metaphorically smacked her on the nose once for, I thought, using the word "gay" to mean "weird" (she apologized later and explained the context, which I'd missed), and that's about the only time they've seen me get tough--but if I have to pull out the drill-instructor aspect of my professional persona, I will. (In fact, sometimes I kind of miss it: I do that so very well, after all.)

And I am--still, again--working to figure out how to make Nature in Lit less daunting, more "user friendly" as it were: to make it more like the Mystery class in keeping students engaged and presenting them with not just a challenge but the sense that they can meet the challenge. I know I'll need to rework the paper assignments, but there's only so much of that class I'm willing to let go. It matters to me: I take it perhaps too seriously.

Meanwhile, I am steadfastly ignoring the pile of student work that awaits my attention: I'll deal with it next week. I finally wrote the last of the observations--more cause for celebration!--and now I only have to get some food in me before I go to the play tonight to watch the Real Writer to see if he's also a real actor. I'm damned tired and rather wish I hadn't committed to going, but by this time next week, I'll be in the final grading process and damned near calling it a wrap on the fall 2013 semester. And man, that will be a reason to celebrate indeed.

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