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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Some times, it's the little things

There were good things about today, which I want to focus on, as sometimes those small things are actually more important than the bigger stuff.

In terms of the bigger stuff, today was not fun. One of my students from Nature in Lit showed up today to talk to me. First he and his girlfriend showed up 20 minutes before my office hour started; I shooed them away until the official start of the office hour (as I was madly grading papers). He came back--and was (and remains) furious with me, because the class is too hard. At one point I said, "Whoa, you're being very defensive here" and he started in about yeah, he was, because he'd trashed his step-father's car... I cut in and said that, although I could understand that he had a lot to deal with, the situation with the car is not part of what he and I needed to discuss. Although he kept telling me he needed help with his papers, when I'd actually offer the help, he batted it away with increasing hostility--because what he really wanted wasn't help with the papers but for me to make the class easier. I tried to calm him down, but he didn't want to be calm (probably because then he'd have to feel scared and humiliated--and oh, angry is so much more powerful a feeling). When he started "accusing" me of having lied when I spoke to him in Advisement, how I'd said we'd go over things in class but I was assigning too much work and rushing through it too fast, I stopped it: I said, "Then you need to withdraw." He stormed out of the office, bellowing for his girlfriend, enraged--and not to my surprise, she wasn't in class today. She registered because of him, and my concern is that he'll bully her into dropping, too, even though she actually could get something out of the class.

I am a little sorry to lose him because, even though he's a bit out of control--an autodidact who needs to be right always (and a young man who really wants to be a Viking at heart)--at least he could be counted on to bring up ideas in class. Of course, after his outburst, I feel a great deal less sorry to see him go--but the class is dwindling significantly, and today there was no discussion to speak of. Discouraging, but I'm hoping that when a few more bodies are back in class--and when the students have done the reading (which many had not today), it will go better, even without him.

And I have to say, I'm hoping that the Viking's mousy but intelligent girlfriend returns despite him.

The discussion in 102 was a bit better today. I was thrilled that most of the students had done all of the reading and were ready to discuss it, and the brief conversations with them at the end of class, regarding their papers, were also very productive. Of course, one of the students with the most potential seems to have vanished, which breaks my heart, but the others do seem to be picking up the slack. Both the women who came close to withdrawing early on are very lively participants in the group discussion: one of them doesn't get the reading very well but is working hard; the other is getting better with each reading and each draft of a paper. Nice. Of course, there was the moment when a student walked in after class had started and wanted me to drop everything to sign his withdrawal form (I told him to come back later; he didn't), and there's another student who waited to see his second version of his paper but then presented me with the withdrawal form at the end of class. But slowly, the dead wood is being pruned away, and what's left is at least showing signs of life.

Oh, and I should mention that I did get all the papers graded before class. Whew.

But the final "little thing" that put a lovely cap on the day had nothing whatever to do with class. I was walking back to the office after 102, and I saw the "Geese Away" car come by--but then it stopped, and the driver released the very happy and beautiful border collie, who gleefully chased the geese off the quad. It didn't take anywhere near long enough (for the dog or me: we both wanted a longer chase), but it was lovely to see.

And now, even though my stuff is in a chaotic mess strewn across all my work spaces, I'm going to pack it in for the week. I'll figure out what I have that needs to be marked when I return on Monday. I feel like I've been run through a mangle, which tends to suggest that I should at least mentally act like a goose being chased by a border collie and get the flock out of here.

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