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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Same old same old

Different day, same basic post: work to be done, know it may bite me in the ass, leaving it unfinished anyway.

My eyes are burning. I almost literally can't see, and I certainly can't think coherently. Ten students submitted papers in time to be marked for tomorrow's class. Seven of them uploaded their papers to Sigh. What's to be done? Let 'em swan-dive into the pavement, I reckon, and watch the attrition rate soar.

I don't know if I can congratulate myself about today's 102 or if my (relative) sangfroid was merely a function of being too pooped to pop, but a student started the passive-aggressive questioning of grades: "Does anyone ever get an A? Did anyone get an A on this paper? How many people got B's?" I told him--and the rest of the class-that he was asking the wrong question. The real question is, "How can I improve my own work?" He's worried that the semester is passing by and his grades are, if anything, getting worse--yet I notice he's been conspicuously absent in terms of coming to me for help or advice. I explained that some students truly don't give a shit: they get the D; it passes: good enough, they figure. If any student is concerned about grades, that student needs to demonstrate concern by talking to me individually. Everyone may be unhappy about log grades--but the reason for the low grades may well differ from student to student. (In his case, it's because he's turning in one sentence as his entire log--and no class notes. That doesn't indicate too much concern on his part to me.) Then another student started asking about late penalties on the papers: yes, you get a late penalty if any portion of any submission is late. "This is Being an Adult 001," I said: you do what you need to, the way you need to, in the time frame you need to--or there's a penalty.

We spent more of the class than I wanted on that little game, but I did acknowledge that of course they're concerned about grades--but ultimately, the grades aren't the real point. And then I moved to talking about the novel. They did OK, or perhaps OK-ish, OK-esque--and now we move on.

By the way, ostensibly a larger class, but I got fewer papers (or on time papers at any rate; I won't know how many I really have until after 6 tomorrow). Fine by me: fewer to grade.

Speaking of late papers, however: I was in the middle of teaching Nature in Lit when a student from today's 102 was suddenly peering in the door, gesticulating wildly at me, wanting me to talk to him. I signaled, "No"--and then had to signal it again, more emphatically (as he continued to signal his desperate need to talk to me right that second) and finally simply turned back to teaching my class, at which point he went away. As I approached the 102 classroom, he came up to me, panting and breathless and said, "I didn't mean to interrupt you..." (hmmmm, let's think about the logic of that statement, in light of your behavior) and then launched into a story about how he'd lost his hard drive (??), which of course contained his paper, so could he submit it late--and I patiently explained that the late submission deadline is tomorrow at 6 p.m. If he has it to me by then, I can comment and get it back to him for class on Thursday. If not, then that ship has sailed. Same as for anyone else.

Oh, and that reminds me: as I was responding to Mr. "Did anyone get an A," I asked them to recollect that at the start of the semester I had said that I am a notoriously harsh grader but that I also believe that if they stick with the class, they'll learn more than they will in most classes--and that I'm not just patting myself on the back saying that: I know it's true. He said, "You're good at giving comments." Be still my heart: such praise, and from such a source!You can imagine how profoundly gratified I was by receiving a compliment of that magnitude, how humble I felt.... (Yeah. Imagine that.)

On a more positive note, I met with another student from Nature in Lit this morning, and this young woman is blossoming. She started out virtually silent in class discussions, but now she's speaking--I may have written about the fact that she did a particularly laudable job with the poetry we'd read--and she's taking the initiative to talk to me about how to improve her papers. They're not bad: she's getting C's, but that's not what she wants, and I think our conversation today helped clarify for her what she needs to do in order to improve.

Well, enough. I wish I had the energy to go to tango tonight--I hate missing it yet again--but I know the best thing for me is to work to get my body shifted over to daylight savings time. The process usually takes about five to ten days (like getting over jet lag), but I'd like to nudge that toward the "sooner" end of the spectrum. And I do need to hit the ground running tomorrow to get the first versions of papers ready for class. Early to bed and early to rise, and all that rot.

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