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Monday, March 31, 2014

I know I'll regret it

You all know the refrain: I have a ton of work to have done before tomorrow's classes; I have an 11:30 meeting followed by P&B, so I don't really  have enough time to get all the work done--but I'm feeling whiny and petulant, so I'm hanging it up for tonight. I've tried to tie up one or two little loose ends (one of which wasn't even on my triage sheet: I had to rework the final essay assignment for the 102s so I can distribute it this week)--but I still have an enormous, steaming pile of student work on my desk, and I really do need to get it back to them. I'm rather hoping for a "magic pony" moment: that I will finish this blog post--or even interrupt it part way through--and crank through another paper or two.

Hah. There's delusional thinking for you.

The problem, of course, is that because registration starts on Wednesday, we had students back-to-back-to-back today in Advisement--and that trend will pretty much continue for the remainder of the term. The students weren't lined up out the door, but there was a steady stream of them, so just when I'd think the waiting area was empty, nope, there was another student for me to see. Only one was painful--and it's a pain we're all used to: the completely unprepared, incapable student who wants to get into the nursing program. I'm suddenly reminded of a student I had years ago who took one of the comps from me (101, I think) twice, failed it twice--and thought he was going to become a surgeon. I know that surgeons don't necessarily have to be brilliant at English-type topics, but the kid couldn't read with any understanding, couldn't write at all--and was doing equally "well" in all his other courses, too. He was so sweet and friendly and charming, I had to like him, but talk about someone whose thinking was delusional. The sad thing is, he'd gotten this far with no one ever demanding of him that he actually master any of the skills needed to be an adult in the world, never mind a college student. And the young nurse wannabe today struck me as being very much of the same ilk. It breaks my heart.

Class today was rough: one of the smart whips in the class was there, but a couple on whom I rely to keep the ball bouncing were out, so there wasn't much in the way of conversation. However, I did meet with the young woman who left her papers on my office door for millennia. She sent me a rather sad e-mail last night, saying she couldn't understand the book and wondering if she should withdraw. I told her we should talk--and since I let class out very early, she and I sat there in the classroom and went over her reading.

She says she has a significant anxiety disorder, for which she has yet to find the correct medication, and she also has ADHD--but can't medicate both at the same time. However, I said she needed to set all that aside and develop a reading strategy that might work for her. When she reads paragraph by paragraph and simply focuses on each one without trying to go beyond simply what happened, she does fine: the problem is that after a few pages, her attention has wandered and she has no clue what she's been reading. I suggested that she make a brief note about each paragraph as she reads, jot down just enough so when her mind wanders, instead of having to reread the pages in the book, she can simply look at her own notes and think, "Oh, right, I remember now" and keep going.

We talked, too, about the sometimes painful calculus of time: reading that way will be very very slow--and she may find that her other courses are suffering because she's putting so much time into her English class. If that turns out to be the case, she should withdraw and put her energy into the classes where her grades can be better. She acknowledged that she barely squeezed through 101, so it's not terribly surprising she's struggling in my 102. We'll keep in touch about her progress and revisit her case after spring break.

But I found the whole thing very moving. She'd made friends with another young woman in the class--who showed up today to withdraw. I didn't try to talk her out of it (she's right; she should), but they both said I'm an "awesome" professor. I don't tend to take that kind of compliment very seriously--easy to say, doesn't necessarily mean anything--but the young woman I was working with said that she'd been at another school before coming here, and her teacher for 101 assigned even more work than I do (can you imagine?) but provided no support: she'd essentially throw the students into the deep end and leave them there. I at least will be shouting from the sidelines with instructions how to dog-paddle--and this young student was deeply grateful for that. I don't know that it will help her in the long run; this feels very much to me like too little too late. But I'm glad that she's at last coming to me for help--and realizes she'll get it.

As frustrated as I get with the students, their lack of responsibility, their cavalier attitudes, their resistance to actual learning, I also truly do love working with the ones who are willing to listen and try. I love helping them. I love the fact that I can give them something of value--not just for my class but for life in general. I truly love that feeling. it's why I do what I do.

It's still light out--ah, spring truly is coming!--and I'm going to head for the hills. I'm going to try my damndest to set an early alarm, get here molto pronto, and hit the ground running tomorrow. There's always the fall back and punt option, when all else goes awry. As it may well do--but only briefly. No matter what, there are six more weeks of class to go this semester (seven weeks total, given spring break), and then it's over--and somehow, as is always the case, it will all be finished. Till then, I just keep breathing and putting one foot in front of the other, keeping on keeping on.

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