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Monday, April 28, 2014

Yet another attack of the "shoulds"

I "should" be evaluating papers. I have approximately zero time between now and Wednesday's class in which to mark the first versions of final papers for today's 102, and yet, I find that I'm doing anything but marking. I have no clue where I'll squeeze in the time to do them--along with getting rolling on the summer adjunct scheduling, which I really do need to work on this week--because of the usual obligations (meeting tonight with my Chinese student "conversation partner"; P&B, in which we'll be conducting interviews for job lines that may never materialize; Advisement; another observation; other meetings...).

Speaking of meetings, the good news is that a tentative contract agreement has been reached, and tomorrow there will be a meeting about the proposed contract and a ratification vote. It seems that at the Nth hour, the cavalry--in the form of our inestimable Bruce--had to ride in and support the union in its fight to maintain the English department's work load: the threat of a 5/5 load has been averted for now. For years, the contract language has stated that we'd have three non-classroom contact hours, unscheduled but nevertheless kept, but that's never been monitored or enforced. Of course some of us--Paul, for instance--probably exceed that requirement in a week of conferencing, but the agreement that saved the day was that a process will be hammered out to ensure that we hold such hours. There's a fair amount of brouhaha in the department about what that means (and some interesting interpretations of the requirement, which I believe are completely erroneous, in particular the notion that we'd be meeting with random students rather than having additional time with students from our individual classes). Still, the financial and other contractual concessions are all reasonable, in my estimation, so although it's possible that there will be a huge uprising of faculty from other departments saying they want a better deal and demanding that we be thrown to the wolves if that's what it takes to get it, I think we're going to come through this OK.

However, tomorrow's union meeting means that the Chancellor's Award committee can't meet, and we're supposed to be collecting and beginning to evaluate the next crop of applications. I wrote a message to the chair of the committee about that--and apparently there is some confusion about whether I'm even on the committee. I should be: I was appointed in 2012 for the typical two-year term, but if I'm not, I'll happily bail on any further work. On the other hand, if I am officially part of the committee, I need to be ready to join in on the final push--and that means finding time for still more work.

In any event, all this means I can't opt to mark papers during "club hour" tomorrow, because that's when the contract meeting will be held, and I can't bail on P&B, because we'll be interviewing. So, when the hell will I mark those papers? Especially as I will get another batch of them tomorrow--not to mention at least three, possibly four, from today's students that will be submitted late. I have another meeting on Thursday that I can't miss, but there are fewer students in the Tuesday/Thursday class, so I'm less concerned about that. It's really getting through the papers for Wednesday that has me flummoxed.

Ye gods. The sudden end-of-term collision of committee obligations with student papers is causing quite the maelstrom in my already addled psyche. If nothing else, it looks like I'm setting the alarm for 6 (maybe, shudder, even earlier) the next few mornings, and praying that Advisement is as quiet on Wednesday as it was today, though the spites of life almost certainly will determine that since I had a quiet day today, when I had no work to do, I will be mobbed with students on Wednesday, when I'll be frantically looking for a few more hours. Ah well.

Today's class was pretty good. The one young woman who contributes to discussion was absent (again), but all the intelligent young men were there and in good form. We're all getting a little lumpy at this point, but they're still working on a beautifully sophisticated level. When the conversation about the end of the novel dried up, I asked the students how they felt about their papers, and most of them said they hated them and were sure I would, too. I said that what's happening is that they've lost confidence--which is appropriate, as they've let go of old, bad habits, but they're not yet sure what the new habits feel like, so they doubt everything, and are probably harder on themselves than I will be. I told them that what they're feeling is an indication that they're learning. Indeed, for the last five days, I've had a wonderful exchange of e-mails with the most quiet of the bright young men, and I had the distinct pleasure of being able to tell him that his struggle to write his way into a good idea is excellent, that he is doing exactly and precisely what real academic work entails. I couldn't be more delighted and proud of him--and I told him so. Addressing the whole class, I promised that I'll focus primarily on telling them what works best, and why. I tend to forget that focusing on what works (rather than on the vast amount of bilge that doesn't) also helps improve my mood as I read their papers. Perhaps not a lot, but some.

But not tonight. On top of everything else, last night I didn't turn the light out until almost 1 a.m. and then was wide awake at 5:30, finally gave up on trying to go back to sleep at 6:30 (utterly maddening). So, I'm hoping if I gently roll home in a minute here, I'll be able to do an efficient down shift (bringing the speeding semi to a halt) and get my little self into bed early enough that a 6:00 alarm won't be, well, alarming.

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