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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Just barely made it

One of those strokes of sheer good fortune struck today--actually two: one of the students who said she was going to submit her paper either last night or this morning didn't (one less to mark), and the student who was going to come to my office hour was unable to make it, which bought me enough time to mark the last of the papers for today's 102 just before I had to leave for class. I have an enormous stack of unmarked homework from all my classes (partly because I  just collected a huge backlog of assignments that had yet to be submitted for one reason or another), but I resolutely refuse to bring it home over the weekend. Monday will be soon enough.

I will be interested to see how many papers I get on Monday and Tuesday--including papers from students who entirely missed the first two versions. But I don't comment on final versions: I mark the rubric sheet (OK, I also stamp "bozo errors") and that's it--so they should go relatively quickly. I do still have to read them, but I'll admit that I often don't read with full attention. If I can tell pretty quickly that a paper is unrevised or otherwise significantly problematic, I merely skim to see if anything good pops up that I should point out and otherwise--a little like trying to remain as uncontaminated as possible when in the presence of a noxious substance. The papers aren't generally that horrific (some are), but I still don't want to sully my precious intellect with their turgid banalities.

But I'm not resentful or bitter or harsh. Heavens forfend.

Nature in Lit was a blast today. We hit a passage that is frankly problematic in "Walking," one in which  Thoreau seems to be advocating for "improving" landscapes through human alteration (draining swamps) and saying that it's right and good that the Native people should be moved off the land as Euro-Americans will take better care of it. I was amused that the students were so busy trying to defend Thoreau that they weren't looking closely and carefully at the actual language of the passage. I teased them about it--and then there was an eruption of comments about him being a hypocrite, which I also had to point out as perhaps not defensible as a reading of what he says. We got into some significant tangents, of course (I love them, but I do have to eventually find a thread I can use to return to the language of the text itself)--and I was delighted that I had to haul them out of the rafters. Great stuff.

Today's 102 was less lively and interesting: I think there are a few too many of them yet remaining for the "everyone in a circle" thing to work. I know they don't much like being in groups, though, and I'm not sure that the quiet ones would be any more likely to talk even if we did start out in groups. I may use the tactic of taking one point from everyone in the circle before turning it over to a free-for-all--or I may just let the lumpy ones be lumps. The Monday/Wednesday 102 works better, generally speaking, in part because there are fewer of them but also because of the mystery of class chemistry.

The chemistry of all the classes will continue to morph over the semester, depending on who stays and who disappears, but I'm hoping that Nature in Lit is pretty well set.

Returning to that class, I think I've mentioned that one of the students was in my 102 last semester. She joined the class late, and she's struggling: the readings simply are not computing for her somehow. But she came to me after class to ask about it, and I suggested that she and I sit down in my office to go over reading techniques. I reminded her that logs full of questions are great--but I can tell she's frustrated and worried, and I don't want her to be. I hope we can set something up for next week, for her own comfort--which augments mine.

And at that, my mind just came to a screeching halt. I may have enough energy left to get to dance class tonight, but more than anything, I'm looking forward to a nice dinner and sleep. If anything else of interest occurs to me later, I'll post again, but for now, good night and good luck.

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