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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Thinking about the week ahead: brief post

I am chewing on my thoughts about what to do when I see the students again tomorrow and the next day. Part of me wants to get fierce--the dragon awakened fully and breathing flames--but truly what I want is to figure out how to let go of my frustrations so that I can calmly move forward without the need for combustion. I realize that I am angry because I want the students to get it, to wake up, to snap out of it and grab responsibility with both hands--and I realize that the only way to maintain any kind of calm is to recognize that I have very little to do with whether they will step up to the plate or not.

I imagine the lecture. I imagine saying nothing unless or until individual students come to me with late papers or excuses or what have you. The latter is probably the better way to go, but the thought leaves me feeling faintly itchy. And I recognize that chances are pretty good I can't really determine in advance what I'll do: my usual improvisational style will have to lead me into whatever feels right at the moment.

As I think about it, I realize that what feels best is to do something in between: to actually talk to them about my dilemma. I don't know what it would do for them--it might be interesting to find out--but I think it may well feel best to me if I simply tell them honestly that I'm torn between wanting to rip their heads off and wanting to simply smile and watch half of them drown.

Several people I trust have told me that I am giving the students something important in terms of their development when I insist that they adhere to deadlines, that they take responsibility for themselves. I already have done much more than I should have to, sending out reminding e-mails (even though I know the students who most need the e-mails are precisely the ones who don't bother even to see if they have any communications from me).

I did get the e-mail from a student who said she was thinking about withdrawing--and who changed her mind when I reminded her about working through frustration (not to mention that it's early in the semester yet, and she may well see her grades improve).

I got another e-mail from a student who said that between her job and being a mother, she can't give "100%" to the course (she missed the first version of the paper, not to mention some other homework, so she's right: at the moment, she's giving about 80%): I told her I would fully understand if this class demands more time and effort than she has to give at this point in her life, that I'd hate to lose her but would understand if she decides that it's in her best interest to withdraw.

Another student sent his paper late with a plea for a stretch of the late deadline: I said yes, if his paper was uploaded later that day. It wasn't, so I sent an e-mail saying that the revision ship had sailed--and I got an e-mail from him this morning saying he thought the paper had been uploaded but he guessed not.... I replied that perhaps he needed to learn something about follow-through (OK, yes, I hadn't gotten myself around to the "it's better for me if I'm calm" thing, was still steaming out the ears).

Several students have been in good contact with me--including one who is desperately confused but trying her damndest to get sorted out, bless her heart. And the rest: vanished into the ether, apparently.

Sigh. My only job, my sole task, is to figure out what I can do that will be best for me: I have a great deal of myself invested in teaching, so that needs tending to, but I also need to reduce stress in my life, especially in how I approach my work, and at times those two goals feel antithetical. They aren't: I've seen that the students respond best when I'm most relaxed. But at this particular juncture, I'm finding it difficult to locate the point of equilibrium and calm.

But I can't do anything about any of it from home tonight. Once I'm back in the classroom tomorrow and onward, I'll see what develops. It will be interesting, whatever transpires, and I'll learn something, even if it's what not to do.

Jesus, I need that sabbatical. I need the six-month reset button.

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