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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Eye to eye with the beast

I just spent about an hour, a little more, with a colleague who is also on the Assessment committee, showing him how Taskstream works (or doesn't). I've said it before, but my meeting with him simply confirms my hunch: I'm going to have to find a Friday in May when I can sit down and work methodically and laboriously through the monster. The inputting of data isn't really hard or time consuming: the difficulty is wading through all the bits and orts to figure out what goes where and how, and how to connect all the dots. Tab B goes into slot A, but our tab B is a dowel, not a tab, and the slot is actually a box.... There's also the issue of translating IT/corporate speak into educator/humanities speak. I've been re-watching Farscape lately, and I feel like I need an infusion of translator microbes.

For now, however, I'm simply setting the whole magillah aside. I won't worry my pretty little head about it until whatever Friday in May. But I need to pick one and actually write it in my calendar, or somehow I'll wake up and it will be June and I still won't have disappeared down the wormhole of Taskstream.

In a stroke of amazing good fortune today, there were almost no students in Advisement: weird, as spring registration began today, but I'll not evaluate the teeth and tongue of that gift horse. I'm simply very relieved that I got all the papers graded for today's 102 before class. I didn't have time to do that and eat lunch, but hey.

And today's 102 students are simply wonderful. We had almost a full house today, so the three I can count on for real discussion were all there and all in top form. They're getting into the novel on a really terrific level, and finding things I've missed (in all the times I've read the book, yes, there are still things I've missed: nothing major, but still, I love it when the students see something new to me). They're also starting to get into responding to each other without raising hands for me to call on them--and I need to encourage them in that, encourage them to just talk to each other, not even looking at me. They're still looking at me to sort of moderate, but I didn't have to say anything or call on anyone: they were just rolling. Man, I love when that happens.

I'm not hopeful that I'll have anything close to the same experience tomorrow--not even in Nature in Lit. I just got a pitiful e-mail from a student who's been struggling all semester: she can't seem to let go of an old "personal response" kind of approach and dive into actual analysis, and she's profoundly frustrated that she can't understand what I want. (Something else would be a start.) I sent her an e-mail trying to explain, but we've already met once, and it clearly didn't do the trick. She's going to the Writing Center tomorrow, and I'm praying like mad she gets one of the good tutors instead of one of the old bats who are more detrimental than anything. I also told her she and I probably need to meet again: I hope we can find a time, and soon. We're running out of semester.

But still, I'm glad she's not giving up, and I'm glad she's looking for help. These are good signs. And I'm prepared to give her not a mercy D but a mercy C--if she hangs in there and keeps trying. She says she always tries for an A but would be happy with a C at this point, so ... we'll see.

On the other hand, my beautiful Calyx seems to have disappeared. I know it's her personal life getting in the way, but it still hurts to lose her. I hope she comes to talk to me, but her own feelings of shame may keep her from it--and if they do, there isn't anything I can do to help.

So, as I say, I'm not expecting to have a blast tomorrow--though I'm quite willing to be surprised by a sudden up-tick in responsiveness from both classes. I'm keeping my expectations focused simply on task completion: not only do I intend to get all the papers and logs graded before classes, I intend to write up the second of the observations--and maybe even see what else is still lingering on my to-do list. Speaking of which, my eye was just snagged by the old final essay assignment for Nature in Lit, which I need to revise--and which I need to distribute to students toot sweet: the first of that assignment's preparatory mini-papers is due very soon, so students rather need to know what they're meant to write about. I'll take care of that before I take off tonight; it shouldn't be too onerous, and it will feel good to have it done. But then, I will call it a day, dear readers, and steal off into the gloaming.

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