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Monday, March 3, 2014

olla podrida--metaphorically speaking

No, I'm not making stew (though the idea is appealing): I use "olla podrida" in its metaphoric sense as a hodgepodge, miscellany, ragbag of whatevers to include in this post. I'm not entirely sure why everything feels scattered and amorphous at the moment, but I know it's a reflection of my mental state, not an accurate reflection of the actual state of events.

I just spent about half an hour or so that I probably should have spent on marking student assignments working instead on preparation for my sabbatical: I've been needing to construct a one-page version of my (long-winded and overly detailed) publication proposal, and today--for reasons I can't explain--I felt I needed to do that NOW. I was just about to shovel it off to the agent in question and a voice of caution suggested that perhaps it would be a good idea for me to let it sit a while, return to it later, look at it a bit more carefully before I send it out there into the world. It's not as if my entire project is riding on this one page--but what happens as a result of that one page can make a world of difference to the scope of my project. I don't often listen to that voice of reason; I'm far more likely to hit "send" and then think "Oh, oops, wait..." when it's too late to call it back. But this time the voice of reason made itself heard in time.

Still, it was a lot more fun to spend that time futzing around with that than with marking student assignments. I think I'm going to bail on P&B tomorrow: I know I don't have it in me to get any more student stuff taken care of tonight, but I need to have the ground clear right quick so I can turn my attention to evaluating final versions of papers, which I began collecting in class today. I'm being very strict with myself: no comments unless to praise, mark rubric sheets only, done. But I still need a fair amount of time, and I do have a committee meeting tomorrow that I really shouldn't bail on. (Honestly, I would without a second thought, if I weren't beginning to seriously think about applying for promotion to full professor.) Of course, tomorrow is another day, so tomorrow I may make a different decision, but I'm going to do all I can to be good about meetings. If I'm on the damned committee, I should go. If I'm not going to go, I should resign. (Which is a thought, actually, at least for this particular committee....)

Shifting gears, class was pretty deadly today--but I had three lovely interactions with students after class. Two were students from 102 who needed help with their logs: one young woman asked in an e-mail what she could do to improve her logs; one young man should be getting high B's if not A's, but he's getting D's and I wanted to know why. Then I also met with a student from Nature in Lit: she was pretty lost with her first mini-paper, and rather than giving her a dreadful grade, I asked her to come see me so we could go over what to do. What I liked is that I think all three of them are closer to understanding what's required--and all three of them seem willing to hang in there and be challenged, learn, improve. All three got a little misty eyed toward the end of my conversation with them--each one because of my assurance that things would improve. They are so sweet, so earnest, so grateful for positive reinforcement, it gets right to the cockles of my heart. Great stuff, that.

(In the latest of my occasional searches into the etymology of phrases I use, I found the following: http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-coc2.htm
http://www.smh.com.au/news/Big-Questions/What-are-the-cockles-of-your-heart-and-why-do-they-need-warming/2005/02/11/1108061860808.html)

And I saw the young man who is my English Conversation partner. I don't remember if I mentioned this, but I've wanted to answer the call for some time now and finally decided that I'd give it a whirl: each semester, the LINCC (Language Immersion at NCC) program pairs students who are just beginning to learn English with native speakers of the language so the ESL students can hone their skills through simple conversation. I don't know if any of my students are participating (though I sent them the information about it), but I signed up, and now once a week I meet with a very charming young man just to talk. However, because he knows I'm an English professor, today he came in with questions about writing essays--so that was the basis of our conversation. He's Chinese, but his family lives in Japan, so today I also asked him to tell me a little more about Japan, which he did, before turning the conversation to what he wanted to know. I felt a wee bit guilty that he had to wait while I met my students--I probably should have scheduled our meeting times sometime when I'm not holding office hours--but we still had plenty of time to talk.

Still, between my three students and my conversation partner, any brain energy I had for marking student work was long gone by the time I could close the door and turn my attention to that part of my job.

Earlier today, in Advisement, I got sucked into a dreadful vortex of problems with web pages and passwords, and would have been ready to tear my hair out except I decided I simply didn't want to get knotted up about it. I ranted a bit to Paul about it, ignored it--and then here in the office, just before starting on this post, I checked one portion of the problem only to find it had solved itself in the interim. I have no clue what happened; I'm just glad it did.

Oh, blah. Blather blather. And more than enough. I'm going to sweep all the detritus into a heap (literally and metaphorically, the detritus inside my mind), toss things into my bag and go home. I'm not sure yet whether I'll go for an early alarm (probably should), but I know for sure that for tonight, I'm done.

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