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Thursday, March 6, 2014

Dialing down the wailing and gnashing of teeth

I still want to force-feed knowledge and responsibility into my students, like a first step in making mental foie gras, but a friend once said "You can only be hysterical for so long," and apparently I passed that limit and have moved on to resignation. Still not exactly where I'd like to be: I'd rather move from there to forbearance and beyond, to patience and even--glory day--serenity. That's a life goal, in fact, not merely a professional one.

Three things of note:

1) Once again, students did not show up to my office hour, thereby making it possible for me to get all the papers graded while still attending the department meeting and even (!!) eating lunch.

By the way, and not so parenthetically, apparently the office mates have decided that I miss more department meetings than I ought. Paul teased me last time, something along the lines of why should I worry about missing that meeting as I never go anyway--and today, William saw me getting ready to go to the meeting and asked me why I was going. OK, boys, I get it. I'll try to get better about going.

2) When we first were going to read some poetry, a student in Nature in Lit made loud noises about hating poetry. Last class, she was frustrated and flummoxed by the Robinson Jeffers poems we were reading. Today, she had an excellent interpretation, based on intelligent reading of the text. I praised her input and then said, "See, and you thought you couldn't do this stuff." Again not so parenthetically, she also was notably silent in the first weeks, but now not a class goes by without her adding to the conversation.

3) I was reading the second to last of the papers for today's 102 and I had to stop: The obfuscation and turgidity made it simply impenetrable. Instead of clarifying her ideas, she'd just added wild proliferations of verbiage--and truly, I could not bring myself to read past the second paragraph. I wasn't sure at all what to do; I just knew I couldn't grade it. So I met with her after class, and I told her precisely that--and told her that she needed to rewrite the final version, but either she needed to find evidence to support her points or she needed to recast her thesis. My own feeling, reading all three versions, is that she's trying frantically to prove a thesis that does not, in fact, hold up--when it would be much simpler to simply ditching the thesis and go where the evidence leads. I also think she's getting a lot of help from someone, but I'm letting that go. I told her to write simple, clear, declarative sentences and let the complexity of her ideas carry the paper. But I need both that and her new paper on Tuesday. We'll see how she does.

And we'll see how my mood does. I'm taking work home with me, not because I actually believe I'm going to do any (though if I do, it would certainly make next week easier) but because, in order to write their papers, a few 102 students needed to have logs that are currently in my hands, so I said I'd scan them and send them via e-mail. I don't have the mental energy left tonight even to sort out who needs what, so I'm taking the whole megillah home to sort out when my brains return from wherever they've absconded to.

And yeah, I know that ends with a preposition. You fix it. I'm taking my brainless shell out for a meal and a drink. Please heaven, some sleep and down time over the weekend will help me get through the next batch of papers with all my faculties intact.


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