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Student Readers: A Warning

I welcome students readers to this blog. However, be aware that, although I do not use anyone's actual name, the descriptions of behaviors and conversations are not disguised. This is a space in which I may rant, vent, and otherwise express responses that I would do my best to mask or at least tone down in professional interactions with students. This is my personal, gloves off, no holds barred, direct from the gut expression of what it feels like to do my job. If you think you might be hurt or offended or upset by that, read no further. The person I'm ranting about could be you.

Hi! And you are...?

My readership has suddenly blossomed, which is a lovely development--but I don't know who is reading the blog, how you found it, and why you find it interesting. I'd love to hear from you! Please feel free to use the "comment" box at the end of any particular post to let me know what brought you to this page--and what keeps you coming back for more (if you do).

Not you, Barry. You already told me--and thanks!

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Thursday, May 22, 2014

A bit of a break now...

After a lot of internal back-and-forth about having to get up early enough to make it to today's colloquium, I ended up going--and am glad I did. I didn't stay for the whole thing, in part because the second of the speakers for the day was not holding my attention (however important his points) but in larger measure because of a whopping sinus headache, which finally said "go home." But the first speaker was very interesting. There were no real surprises in what he said, but it was damned nice to listen to someone say it--and in front of administrators, too: stuff about the fact that the SUNY strategic plan says a lot about "commercializing" and "markets" and nothing about academic freedom or critical thinking.

The state of education as it now stands. The burning question is, what will it take to get those in power but not in the trenches to listen to those in the trenches but not in power?

I intend to take these ideas to my students in the fall. Legislators and administrators tend to discount anything faculty say, because they think we're being self-serving (and they're not always entirely wrong, quite honestly). But if students--and, for the K-12 system, parents--get vocal, people start to listen. (I guess politicians forget that faculty are also both tax-payers and voters.) I did a teeny bit of research the other day from the office, looking into the kinds of articles available on our databases: I need to do some more checking around so I can start to choose articles to use as idea generators and, even more important, so I know what students can find where, which will be crucial for the structure of assignments.

Right at the moment, however, I'm posting primarily to state that this blog is going to enter one of its quiescent periods: the term is officially over for me as of today, so although classes and assignments and committees (and my application for promotion) will all be on my mind throughout the break, I won't be posting much if at all until the new semester is ready to gear up. I do want to emphasize, however, that the thinking and planning--the mental work--goes on all the time. Being a professor is not just what I do for a living, it is an important component of who I am as a person: I am deeply invested in the educational process. The speaker was talking today about intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation, and although the extrinsic motivation of promotion does fuel some of my choices in terms of how I allocate my time and energy, the real impetus for everything I do in my career is entirely intrinsic. When I left a highly secure position at the Metropolitan Museum to take my first academic post, not only was there a significant decrease in my salary, I had a two-year non-renewable contract. I took the risk in part because, as my father succinctly put it, the choice was between being scared shitless or bored to death--and I chose the former. But I also took the risk because I didn't think working at the Met was of tremendous social value, and apart from being a parent, I can't think of anything more socially significant than being an educator.

So, as I head into a break from being in the classroom--and setting aside the ad hoc committee I'll be serving on, or the work helping Bruce with adjunct scheduling--I'll still be "working"; the work will just become internal rather than external.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Neither commencing nor concluding

The commencement ceremony is tonight. Usually I can consider that a sort of period on the long sentence of the semester (and the pun on "sentence" is apropos)--but since there's a big college-wide symposium tomorrow (or is it a colloquium?) and in a few weeks I'll be back working on scheduling, plus trying to get my head wrapped around what I want to do in the fall when I return to teaching 101, tonight's ceremony doesn't wrap anything up for me. I also know all the lovely things people say in commencement ceremony speeches about commencing meaning to start something (your new life, blah blah blah), but I don't feel like I'm about to embark on a glorious adventure, start something new. I will enjoy creating variations on the theme of my work life, but I'm feeling spectacularly grouchy and crotchety, as if I will have absolutely no time to relax and recharge over this summer. I know that's not true, but the feeling persists nonetheless.

I've been such a good girl: I think I've been to every commencement ceremony since I started at NCC, one of the few faculty members who can be counted on to show up. (There is a certain percentage of faculty from each department that is "required" to attend, but since we don't force anyone to go, we never get even close to reaching our quota.) Today, I would dearly love to bail--but last night, I agreed to take Bruce's place as marshal, so he can get home to his dogs, and now I'm stuck. Well, I have the sabbatical next spring; that may well be my year to skip commencement.

As for students and final grades, I got a plaintive e-mail from the one student who failed: she hadn't gotten her final grade yet (though it was posted); she wrote to find out how she'd done, as she was very anxious about it. I wrote her a very gentle response, saying that she'd missed too much work to pass and that I thought she'd honestly be best served by repeating the course. She was sad but understood. Another student also wrote to inquire about his grade: this reminds me that I need to clearly state that they can check Banner (and when they can check). I liked him very much--he was one of the two dads in the favored 102--so I told him his grade instead of writing a snippy "check Banner" reply (though I did mention that he could have checked). I could give him better news: he needed to make at least a C in order to have some old, bad grades expunged from his record as part of a program for students who've been away from school for a while--and I gave him a C+.

There is some irony to the fact that all my handouts say, "Professors don't give grades; students earn them"--and here I am juggling grades to "give" a grade that the student has not earned, not looking at the grade simply from the math. But I'm in a touchy-feely, subjective discipline, so the grading gets a bit touchy-feely too. I'm hoping I don't hear from anyone else, but I won't know for a while. Students are often lax about checking for those grades, so there is sometimes a long pause before I hear a metaphoric "Hey, wait a minute. Why'd I get...?" Well, we'll see, I reckon.

In the good news department, we finished scheduling very expeditiously today, with a minimum of juggling at the end (sometimes we have to do three-way swaps in order to give people reasonable schedules, and it can get hairy). We took a break and double-checked the work. I'm sure there are still errors--there always are--but we did manage to catch at least one mistake, and we also managed to improve on a few schedules at the end, with the courses that remained unassigned. So, that can be crossed off the list entirely: we'd thought we might have to do the final double-check tomorrow, but both William and Andy (the third member of the committee) are leaving for long overseas vacations on Friday, so they're both thrilled to bits not to have to come to campus tomorrow.

And I'm happy I can focus on doing just one thing tomorrow: I'll go to the colloquium (or is it symposium?) and can bail whenever I've had enough. I will have to get up at 6 (ick), as the main speaker is first thing in the day, but if I need to bail early, I will.

I'm well aware that I'm on the typical end-of-semester running on fumes but wired for sound kind of manic energy: I keep thinking surely there's something else I can get done--but in sober fact, my brains are pretty non-functional at the moment. I'm having a hard enough time deciding what I want to do about food and rest between now and when I have to show up at the Coliseum to get ready for the processional. I've noodled around long enough that it doesn't make much sense to go home; I'd only be there for about an hour before I'd have to turn around and come back. A bunch of colleagues are getting together at an Italian place nearby, going to have a drink and some fun conversation before the ceremony, but I'm feeling decidedly antisocial these days, so I'll pass on that--or at least on most of it. I don't have it in me even to tidy up files, make sense of the chaos on my desk, so I figure I'll go somewhere a little more relaxing than here, strap on a feed bag and read until I have to put on the regalia and look professorial.

Let me take a moment here: this very difficult, clunky, awkward, jangly semester is over. Finished. Complete. All the work from here forward is about what comes next. So, I take it back. I have concluded something, and I am commencing something else. If tonight isn't a period, it's at least a semicolon. I'll take that.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Staggering across the first of a series of finish lines

I just finished submitting all my final grades to Banner: I don't know whether to celebrate or simply fall limply to the floor. It's been quite the day today. I did take a brief break to eat my lunch (at about 3:30 p.m.), but other than that, I've been smashing through work all day.

I got in later than I expected (something slowed me up getting out of the house this morning--perhaps a psychological ailment of some sort), so I didn't get a chance to write up the evaluative statement for the last year-end evaluation I had to complete. I'm still on the verge of murdering that particular colleague: he's on P&B, and he's the one who hung me up on those, so I wasn't finished with them when I left on Thursday evening. But it's done now, goddammit.

We slogged away on scheduling, too--and I realized that when William is on sabbatical and I become the senior member of the team, things will not go quite so expeditiously as they do with him at the helm. He and I both rather fell in love with specific tasks in the process, and we've both gotten very good at those tasks--but his is more complex and requires a kind of thinking that he is now used to doing almost reflexively. Since I haven't done his part of the job in millennia, I hardly remember how, so I'll be facing a rather steep learning (or remembering) curve. We really should rotate positions more frequently, so everyone is equally familiar with each task, even if we each have one we like best.

The new member of scheduling, whose service on the committee doesn't actually start until next semester, joined us today--and she's going to be great. She's careful and intelligent and focused: perfect. The other colleague on the committee has the same traits, so those two will be sailing: I'll be the one bumping along awkwardly.

But now all that has to be set aside for tomorrow's day of interviews. William and I are both pretty cranky about the fact that the first interview is scheduled for 9:30 a.m.--and he has more reason than I, as he's at an orientation for honors students that may go on beyond zebra, then he has to commute home to Manhattan and back in the morning: he has to leave about the time I'll be starting to make breakfast for myself and the cats. I feel for him, I truly do, but I reserve the right still to be whining and pissy on my own behalf.

I suppose I should fess up here, too: I did fiddle with final grades a bit, especially in the M/W 102. Some students were getting marks way below what I felt they should get for the course, despite the fact that they were missing enough work to drop their grades significantly: I know I'd been talking about this last week, fretting about what to do. I'm letting go of my role as gate-keeper a little bit and letting a few through. In the instances when I was giving the biggest gift, I sent the students e-mails letting them know what I was doing. And as I do that, I wonder if there will be fussing and screaming from anyone who got less of an artificial boost--or the ones who got no boost at all, because I genuinely feel the mathematical calculation matches the grade I'd give the student if I were to rely only on my subjective, gut sense.

The only one I feel a little bad about is the young woman who was so triumphant about having made it all the way to the end of the semester and having written her final paper, despite the torture. She didn't pass. I teetered on the brink of giving her a D, on the theory that it doesn't transfer--but she truly is not ready to go on to any other level: she needs to take 102 again. She may well take it from a professor who sets the bar significantly lower than I do, in which case she won't learn a damned thing from retaking the class, but on the off chance that she gets someone who has high standards but can somehow reach her better, I'm hoping she'll actually get a chance to learn what she was just barely starting to grasp in my class. I feel particularly terrible about that one because the young woman told us all that she was diagnosed with a severe social anxiety disorder just at the start of the term, so she had been in a screaming panic from jump street, but she found the class welcoming and friendly enough that she stuck with it. I hate doing anything at the end that might take away from her ability to trust the class, me, us all--but as I said: she isn't ready to move on, and ultimately, I don't think I do her any favors if I pass her along only to have her hit an even more painful wall down the road.

I'm not sure if the office is still open: the last step I need to take is to photocopy my paper rosters and hand them in--but I think I'll let that wait until tomorrow, since I have to be here anyway. I think flight is the better part of valor at this point: I need to get out of here molto pronto. That other day thing? It's coming alarmingly quickly: I have to be back in a little over 13 hours. Ick! And oh well.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Last meetings with students

It was another sweet goodbye today with the students from Nature in Lit. Two who were in my Mystery and Detective class last semester hung out for a while after everyone else had left, just chatting, and two of the young mothers had to leave early for various child-related reasons--and at least one student I'll see next semester in Fiction Writing. The young man who met with me on Tuesday about his final paper gave me a hearty handshake and a huge smile as he said goodbye--and he is the only student this semester who wants the paper back with comments. I'm truly looking forward to reading it and don't in the least mind writing comments: he still wants to learn, and I'm happy to keep teaching.

I got all the papers for the Monday-Wednesday 102 read and the numbers crunched, and I was starting to do the paperwork, but I had to stop: I need a little more time to think about whether I want to give the students the grades they actually earned or the grades that I think accurately reflect their skills and abilities. In three instances, the disparity is caused by missing assignments--and in at least two more cases by the fact that they didn't fulfill some of the requirements on the final paper. I find I'm tremendously reluctant to give anyone an F, even the students who probably are not truly ready to move on to the next step, academically--but I know how maddening it is to have students in electives who can't do the basics that they should have mastered in 101 and 102. I also know that, if the students encounter a "real" professor in their next step, they'll probably fail at that level, so am I doing them any real favors passing them along knowing that I'm setting them up for defeat?

But I hate to smack anyone who has made it all the way to the end and has genuinely learned something, even if not enough.

One student in Nature in Lit asked if I'd fail any of them at this point, and the answer there is no. Most of them won't have to take any more English classes and possibly not any more classes in which they have to write, so I'm more likely to invoke the "Mercy D" rule for electives. A D passes, so it allows students to graduate; it does not transfer, so if a student need a literature credit, he or she would have to take one at the transfer institution--assuming such a thing is required in the student's chosen major.

Looking at what I have left (and considering that I am not going to get any more work done tonight), I don't know if I can finish up on Monday or if I may have to drag it out until Tuesday, working around our full day of interviews. Today's lot went relatively quickly, so all things are possible, but I do have to put in a chunk of time doing scheduling (full-time schedules for spring 2015; I'll start work on adjunct schedules for fall 2014 sometime in June). I would be completely done with the year-end reports, but a fellow member of P&B called me today to give me the long, sad story of how his sciatica was too painful for him to get it done, so he'll e-mail it to me tomorrow. So, despite my best efforts, I still have a tiny bit of that tangling around my ankles. Fortunately, it won't take long to get it cleared out, but it is annoying as hell to have one of our own screw me up here.

Shifting gears, I had an interesting conversation with a colleague after the department meeting today. She's a full professor and asked me when I would be one, too. I told her I will submit my application in the fall but wasn't sanguine about my options--and she immediately counseled me about it, saying that if I should not make it next year, I should buckle down to do conference papers and whatever else I need to do in order to shore up the weak spots in my application, because I will be much better off once I'm over that last hurdle. It's a thought. And honestly, rereading the first pages of my dissertation again, I thought, "I wrote that? Jeez, I used to be smart"--and it made me itch to do something, write something. Of course, if I don't get the promotion next year, I can hope that my sabbatical project is not only complete but has a publisher: that should push me over the top. The little delusional voice in my head is saying, "Maybe I could write a paper over the summer..." but I know myself better than that. I'm going to feel frantic and robbed of down time as is; I know damned well I won't have the discipline to force myself to also produce anything scholarly.

But it's a fun thought.

I have some time to kill before I head off to dance class tonight (west-coast swing), but the wall has been well and truly hit--and now it's noodle time.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Panic panic! Oh, wait, no, it's OK.

For a brief moment there, I thought either one of today's 102 students had not submitted her final paper or--even more panic--that I'd lost it. Crisis averted: it was simply clipped to someone else's paper. Whew.

It was sweet saying goodbye to that class today. Two of the young men in the class clearly didn't want to go, hanging on to reasons to stay and talk with me--and I felt a lot the same way, as they were two of my favorite students. I did mention that I'll be teaching Fiction Writing in the fall; it will be interesting to see if either needs the credit and signs up. It would be a treat to have them in class again. I also read through the end-of-semester self-evaluations, and I found them very touching. Many of them were quite badly written (making me wonder what I actually managed to teach), but every one of them seemed quite sincere in saying that they were deeply grateful for the class, not despite but because of the difficulty. Each one seemed to believe he or she had gained something not merely important academically but life-enriching from the class--and that's even better to hear.

I realize, however, that my emotions start to get in the way at this point in the semester, and I'm tempted to fudge the grades upward in several cases. I've crunched the numbers for a few of them--including the final papers, which I'm reading as I go (read and grade paper, crunch numbers, repeat for next student)--and when I see the end result, the math makes a harsher calculation than my heart wants to accept. I don't have to actually submit grades until Monday (or later, honestly, though I'm determined to be finished on Monday), so I have some time to think about this, weigh head and heart to find an ethical and just balance.

Another nice note: the young man I met with yesterday just sent an e-mail, including an attachment of his final paper, telling me that he found some perfect quotations and feels that they truly pulled the paper together for him. He wants me to read it before class and tell him what I think; I won't do that (partly as policy, partly because of lack of time and mental energy), but I'm delighted he feels good about it.

Today's assessment meeting even felt productive, miracle of miracles. And I had a brief talk with Bruce about concerns regarding the "seminar" hours we are trying to figure out: in tomorrow's department meeting he is going to mention something about how close we came to losing the work-load fight, and he suggested he might mention some of the things we can do to fulfill our obligation, but I warned him that if he talks about any specific examples, he's likely to get a lot of people very unhappy. I think he's going to be more circumspect tomorrow, simply be reassuring--but Kristin and I talked about it a bit today, and we looked at the actual contract language, which seems to limit us a great deal more than she or I find comfortable. We'll see: the work of that committee will be pretty fascinating, I have to say. But the main thing for the moment is to keep tomorrow's meeting from turning into a melee; it's supposed to be a party, though it will start with Bruce talking about how narrowly we missed getting stuck with that 5-5 load.

Shifting back to the feeling of accomplishment, I also knocked off a few more of those year-end evaluations today. I have three more to do--one of which I need to talk to Bruce about--and I think we've decided to let the fourth one go, as the faculty member in question has been dealing with a difficult situation in his personal life, has even only been working half time this semester to manage it, so it doesn't seem fair to force him to do an evaluation when he probably doesn't have anything to evaluate. I will, by God, get those done tomorrow--and done before I do any more grading. I do not want that mess hanging over my head.

In fact, I'd finish them up tonight, but I have run full tilt into the metaphoric wall. William and I still have some time to fritter away until we head off to meet Paul for dinner, but I can say definitively that the time will indeed be frittered: ain't no more work coming out of this woman tonight. I am in need of a drink, food, and sleep. I don't even need the company and conversation, though it will be lovely. And I profoundly look forward to crossing today off the calendar: that much closer to finished.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The turd in the tureen--and a little bit of sweetness and sunshine

I confess that I get systemically annoyed with several of my colleagues who are gadflies--or, in some cases, metaphoric bomb throwers, the kind of people who like to say something explosive and watch the sparks fly--but I've discovered the issue where I might well turn into one of them, or, as I just said, I may become the turd in the tureen. The issue arises from the provision in our new contract that in some way, in lieu of teaching a fifth course, we in the English department need to clearly demonstrate to the administration that we're doing an equivalent course load. We are, we know we are--I'm not going to get into that argument here--but the ideas that have been floated regarding things we might do in order to put in those extra hours are absolutely not going to fly with me, and I will fight tooth and nail--and not stop fighting--to make sure what we do works for us and for our students.

Specifically, among the ideas that have been floated is that we could be conversation partners with the students who are in the pre-college ESL program (as I've been doing this semester), or that we could advise liberal arts students--and I refuse to consider such options, for two reasons. The first is that those are things for which we have always gotten promotion credit: they are service to the college, not our specific students, and if those become something that is required of us, it has just become much harder for English department faculty to get promoted, as things that other people get credit for doing, we won't. The second is that the whole point is we are supposed to have the same number of contact hours as our colleagues: that means contact with our students. Our students, not the general student body.

The tricky part is going to be to find a way to make sure A) we are serving our students in a way that actually helps them (and, incidentally, alleviates our paper-grading load), B) that how we do that is flexible enough that different professors can determine how best to go about it and C) that whatever we do is documented well enough to satisfy the administration.

As I write this, Paul is at his computer, writing up an e-mail to Kristin about how he does conferencing--and why it's important for him to be able to do his conferencing in two big chunks rather than in little bits throughout the semester. However, some professors may prefer to meet with students in a way that is spread out more evenly through the semester. But the point is, we meet with our students. We conference with them. The language in every contract up to this point has been that we have conference hours that are not scheduled but are nevertheless kept: what is now required is that we at least prove that we're keeping them.

I have to say, too, that I'm relatively pissed off by Bruce that he simply appointed one of his favorite faculty members to chair the committee--I don't necessarily have a problem with his choice, but I think at least P&B should have been involved in that decision--and he has determined by fiat who will be on the committee itself. I can't bitch too much about that, as I'm one of those people: those of us who worked up the rationale about why we need to keep our current work load are on the committee, plus one other faculty member who has been deeply involved in union issues.

We'll be meeting in June, and I'm not entirely thrilled about that, but this is too important to whine about too much. I'll give up my June--and more, if need be--to make sure we don't get fucked on this one. My little bulldog teeth are clamped onto this issue, and I ain't letting go.

Cleansing breath.

On a much different level--getting to the sweetness and sunshine part of this post's title--I had a lovely meeting with a student from the Nature in Lit class today. I don't think I've talked about him, or not much, but I truly see him as a success story. When the semester started, I'd have taken even money that he wouldn't make it to the end. He looked so dubious and borderline hostile about everything I said--but I've come to know that this is simply his expression when he's thinking hard, trying to make connections. He does challenge but in the best way: he is challenging in order to learn, genuinely working to understand. I remember the first time he smiled in class, and he has the sweetest, most lovely smile I've seen on a young man in a long time. I can't quite categorize his type: he's not exactly preppy, but he's definitely not a stereotypical Lawn Guyland "lunkhead" (and thank you, Paul, for the term)--and he's really learning this semester. Going over his paper ideas with him was great. When I pointed out to missing connections, or places where the ideas didn't quite add up, he saw what I meant, and I could hear the mental motors revving as he worked to reach the ideas he has almost but not quite nailed down. I'm truly looking forward to reading his final paper.

At the end of our conference, he expressed his surprise that no one else had shown up--but I wasn't surprised in the least. I said, "Well, it's early yet; someone might still show--but I doubt it." He laughed, but he also told me that the session had been very helpful.

I find it beautiful, there is no other word, beautiful to watch a young mind suddenly start to get a sense of the power of ideas, the difficult and rewarding work of finding something big and expressing it clearly. I'm not doing any of that very well at the moment, I feel--the language I'm using isn't quite capturing what it is I see happening in students when they suddenly latch on, but it's a lot like the coming of spring. Everything looks grey and lifeless--and then there is a little hint of life, and a little more, and suddenly everything is filled to overflowing with aliveness. Sometimes, in the best of cases, it happens in student minds, and when it does, it's literally awesome. I feel honored to witness it.

And that's essentially the note I'd like to leave on for tonight. I have collected all the papers from 102 students, but I won't start reading them until I'm absolutely sure no one wants comments. No one asked for them in writing, but they may have forgotten. I could simply tell them that it's too late to suddenly say, "Oh, yeah, and could you give me comments?" but if they want the comments, I want to give them. On the other hand, I really don't want to have to go back to re-read a paper I've already finished in order to provide comments. My sincere hope is that no one forgot, that no one wants comments--because then my life becomes infinitely easier over the next few days. I got through a couple of year-end evaluations today, too, and may get another done before I leave today. I'm still waiting for a few, but if I get one more done tonight, I'll be caught up with everything I have in hand, which would be sweet. Whether I'll have the energy to get to tango tonight is an open question, but I hope so. We'll see. And tomorrow is another day.

Monday, May 12, 2014

It's not the kids, it's the committees

I am not in the least concerned about getting all the papers marked and the final grades crunched for my students--if I can only find the time around all the committee stuff that's piling up around me. Even as I cross things off the list, it seems more gets added to the bottom. In addition to everything else, I'm trying to ensure that I have documentation of my college-wide committee service for my application for promotion, and in a few instances, that's proving a bit of a challenge. Also, of the nine year-end evaluations I'm supposed to handle, writing the P&B evaluative statements, I have finished one (the one that was messed up but which I decided to submit as is); four are in a holding pattern as I clear other stuff off the triage list; two that should be fine--as they're from members of P&B--are still AWOL; I should get another one soon but it's being done by a recalcitrant old fossil who doesn't know how to use a computer so I'll get some mess of a hard copy (and I'll have to talk to Bruce about what to do with it); and the final one I wonder if I'll get at all. It would surprise me if I did. I feel a definite log-jam forming here.

On the other hand, I finally wrote the last observation of the semester--and wrote the letter of recommendation for a former student--so that's two things off the list for today.

I collected papers from today's 102, and we ended up in the kind of conversation we usually have on the day their self-evaluations are due--but we'll simply get into it in more detail on Wednesday. I'll try to remember to take my dissertation with me, too; I rather love blowing their minds with that. Even the little reduced-size paper-back version is impressively thick, at least for students who struggle to write a five-page paper. I'll be sorry to say goodbye to them, and I think the feeling is mutual.

I'm actually rather surprised that none of them have signed up for the fiction writing course. They may not need a Fine and Performing Arts credit for the specific degree programs they're in, but if they're in general liberal arts, they do, and it qualifies. I am, however, delighted to see that the student who was in last semester's 102 and is now in Nature in Lit has signed up for it: that will be fun.

She's been blossoming beautifully this term. She's still shy about talking in class, but she's talking to me more than she did last semester--by several orders of magnitude--and I feel like I know her a great deal better as a consequence. She's a lovely young woman; I think she's heading into some kind of medical profession (she almost certainly told me what but, with my swiss cheeze brains, I've forgotten), so I know that the humanities stuff does not come readily to her, and yet she does a fine job. I have no complaints on that score.

I'll be interested to see which students from the Nature in Lit show up to the office tomorrow to talk about papers. Several have said they will, but one never knows: when it comes right down to it, they may decide it's more important to study for a chem final or something--which I fully understand. I will say that suddenly, for many of them, their last few logs have shown a sudden shift of gears into something much closer to what I consider appropriate. I wonder how much of that came out of our discussion about papers and what they need to include: note to self, to repeatedly point out not only the connection between logs and papers but also remind students what papers are meant to do.

I had a sudden realization on that front this weekend, in fact. The poor beleaguered student who's struggled all semester wrote me an e-mail asking how she could approach the idea of war in her paper and told me she was thinking about whether it requires physical strength--and suddenly I realized that she was still trying to write about an idea she has about something, using the book to illustrate her ideas, instead of writing about what the book has to say. The way I explained it to her is, "There are times when the focus can be on your own idea, and you can use anything you like to help you talk about your idea. But you also need to learn to clearly understand and explain someone else's ideas." I don't thing students have been taught that that is something important to do, never mind how to do it--which gives me a good sense of how I'll need to set things up for 101 in the fall.

I'm coming up with all sorts of ideas for 101 in the fall--and I'm trying to remember to write them down as they occur to me so I don't lose them. In the end, I probably won't use the vast majority (I usually come up with way more ideas than I can squeeze into the semester)--and I'm still trying to figure out how I want to work through various versions of papers: the current system works better than what I did in the past, but it still is in need of vast improvement. But I got a great idea from one of the adjuncts I observed: she kept reinforcing that students needed to make a claim first, then provide a quotation or paraphrase to support the claim, and I came up with a new acronym to use to describe the process. Paul and I have used "ICE" for a long while now: it stands for "Introduce, Cite, Explicate" (Paul may use "Explain" instead of "Explicate," but I find "explain" leads to paraphrasing, and although students have a very hard time holding on to the term "explicate," at least I can keep pointing back to it). But instead of that, I'm now thinking I might use CLICC: CLaim, Introduce, Cite, Connect. For some reason, Paul doesn't have the experience of students starting a paragraph with a quotation, which I encounter far too frequently, nor does he seem to struggle with getting students to understand that quotations need to actually follow and elaborate upon an idea.

Well, we'll see (that mantra again). I have a lot of thinking to do about it, and although I have starry-eyed fantasies about how much preparatory work I'll get done over the summer, in sober fact, after next week, I'm probably not going to want to think about teaching again for a long while--and then will suddenly find myself in a flat panic about the fact that the new semester is about to start and I have no clue what I'm doing with the 101s yet.

So now the mantra is "Ah well." (The two do seem to go together.)

For P&B, we have interviews 11:30 to 2:15 tomorrow, but around that, I'm hoping to get a few of those year-end evaluations knocked off. The actual write-up doesn't take very long; what takes time is reading over the document to decide what to highlight. Still, I know it will get done, and soon. Not much choice in that. I'm already getting primed for Wednesday morning's Assessment meeting, too--but I'm palming off as much of that work as I possible can. I feel I've done my share for this semester.

Now, however, it's time to toddle away and begin the wind down process. And not only is tomorrow another day, it also brings me one closer to the end of this madness.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

A minor miracle of a different sort

Today I experienced a minor miracle similar to the one I experienced yesterday: I went to each class feeling stupified with exhaustion and therefore cranky and disinclined to be charitable about student problems--and as soon as I encountered the students, I was able to tap into reserves of both energy and patience I didn't know I had. It does help that the remaining students are willing to knuckle down and grind through the last bits.

The students in Nature in Lit were saying that they have a huge amount of stuff to finish up for my class--and I took some of the blame for that, because I've let them let things slide. Then again, I've put the responsibility for time-management in their hands, and perhaps they're learning something from the fact that I left it up to them and they're suddenly finding themselves up to their eyebrows. In any event, we got through the final poems just fine, talked a little about papers, and I told them that on Tuesday, I'll simply hold conferences in my office: if they want to come to me with papers to work on, I'll be there. If not, they're free to work on whatever they like, as long as I get anything remaining on Thursday. That could come back to bite me, if they truly do turn in a bunch of revisions and missed logs and so on; I could be up to my own eyebrows in stuff to mark for them--but somehow I doubt it will be overwhelming. There are so few of them left, and there is so little time left--and they all have so much else to do with that time.

The 102 students were happy to talk over paper with me, and truly, all of them are getting the hang of it: not just these papers in specific but the writing process in general. Even though there are so few of them left, it still feels like a triumph.

I also didn't see the plagiarizing student today. He may well show up before or after class on Monday, but at least he didn't make today in any way difficult. I'll take that.

I had hoped to leave here with absolutely no student work hanging over my head--and I don't have much, but I find I can't face even the petite stack on my desk made up of logs and "place holder" essays from the Nature in Lit students. I can't face another iota of work today. I was so proud of myself last night that I got into bed within an hour of getting home and was turning out the light an hour after that--that's nearly unheard of for me--but then I was awakened at 3 a.m. by the start of a fight between my two cats (long and slightly distressing saga that I won't get into here), and by the time I had them calmed down again, I was wide awake--and wasn't able to fall back to sleep until 5. So much for a good night's sleep. When I woke up this morning, I was delusional enough to think there was a chance I might go to dance class tonight--and if I could spend tomorrow sleeping, I might have been able to summon the energy--but since I have to be back at 10 a.m. to review Chancellor's Award applications (urgh) and then have to take the problematic cat to the vet, tomorrow's going to be high stress enough that I feel a deep need to collapse tonight.

Still, I look forward, and every day I see less to do on the triage list; every day brings me closer to the end of this semester's responsibilities. Then it's all over but the shouting (at which point my response will be, "shhhhhh, I'm taking a nap").

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

On the whole, a good day

The only truly icky bit today was with the plagiarizing student. I returned his plagiarized paper, and with it the source he stole from and Paul's Plagiarism Letter. As I started working with students individually, he left the room--which I was glad to see, as that way I didn't have to chase him out. However, he came back about 40 minutes later, withdrawal slip in hand, and wanted me to come out into the hall to talk with him. No, I said, not until tomorrow (as the letter clearly says the student must think things over for 24 hours before I'll talk about it). If he comes to my office hour tomorrow, I'm not much looking forward to it, as I will have to tell him that I will not sign his withdrawal form, will not allow him to withdraw. Fortunately, my syllabus clearly states that withdrawal will not be permitted if a student is deemed to have willfully plagiarized, so he has no grounds to argue, except the usual, which is to deny that he plagiarized--but if he goes that route, I'll be very disappointed in him. But we'll see. No telling when or how he may try to get me to sign the withdrawal form--if indeed he persists in that attempt--or how he may respond when I tell him he can't. We'll see.

As I write that, however, I keep thinking about the student Paul was telling me about just yesterday, one who forged Paul's signature on a withdrawal form. It never dawned on me that any student would be that stupid--as if we don't know to whom we've granted withdrawals and wouldn't check--but apparently this is something to keep an eye on. I don't think my plagiarizing student would go that far, but if he kicks up a fuss, I'll be on the lookout for the possibility.

There was one other minor piece of ick: one of my colleagues submitted a year-end evaluation form that was missing one relatively important piece of information. I let him know about it and asked for a revised form; as a member of P&B, I have to write up an "evaluative statement" for a portion of the year-end reports and his is in the stack assigned to me. He wrote back to say that he's in Brazil at an important conference marking the launch of a book he's published--which is wonderful, of course--but he wondered if he could submit the revised form and have me deal with it "during the summer." Um, no. It's true that I may be around a bit in June, doing preliminary scheduling of adjuncts for fall (just to make life easier for Bruce--and for me, come August), but I'll be damned if I'm going to have this stinky little task hovering around because he was in a hurry to get to Sao Paulo. I told him we could submit the form as is, or I could print out my pages and leave them for him to attach to the revised form when he comes back.

So there.

There were virtually no students in Advisement, so the time went painfully slowly--but I did get all the papers for today's 102 marked, so I could spend the time in my office before class writing e-mails and then, glory be, eating lunch and reading a wonderful old mystery (Josephine Tey's The Man in the Queue, which I haven't read in millennia). I was so exhausted, I wasn't sure I'd be able to do anything valuable with the students in class today--but as it turned out, it was a great session. One student met with me before class to tell me he wouldn't be able to finish the final paper; he wanted to turn in what he had today and have me "give" him a D, but in his case, the "mercy D" is not warranted. This is the young man who was highly articulate and sophisticated in class discussion but couldn't write to save his life--and who only submitted about 10% of the assignments all semester. He'll re-take 102 in the summer, and I offered him a withdrawal, but he said his financial aid adviser told him that it would look bad, so unfortunately, he'll have to take an F for this term. But I reminded him to focus on everything he's learned, and to remember that he'd known all along that the work load was probably more than he could handle--which is not his fault; it's just one of those things.

However, after that discussion with him, I returned papers to the rest of the students, and essentially I was able to have a brief conference with each one. In almost every case I was able to point out how much they've learned, how well they're understanding what they need to do. And now, all that's left in terms of actual work for that class is whipping through their final papers. I'll barely see them on Monday: they'll come in to give me their final papers; I'll hand them the end-of-semester self-evaluation assignment, and off we'll all go. I'll meet with them next Wednesday for the end-of-semester wrap-up, but that's usually relatively festive, and certainly requires little to no effort on my part.

When I got back to the office, although I was (and am) still rolling on the adrenaline of teaching, I knew I couldn't face grading any papers--but I wanted to put that energy to use in some way, so I decided to sit in Bruce's office and do what I could with the summer scheduling. I got as far as I could, and now I turn it over to him. He'll change some of what I did (there are some adjuncts he doesn't consider qualified for certain courses--courses I may have assigned to them--among other potential errors I may have made), but at least there will be a number of cases where he can simply go "yep, good" and move on. My main fear is that I didn't keep track of all the paperwork--and that I may have inadvertently assigned the same course to two different people (it's been known to happen). But he'll also have the office staff check my work, and they'll point out that sort of blunder. The main thing is, I can now stop thinking, "When am I going to find time to finish up the scheduling?" I have. Tomorrow, I can focus just on student assignments--and when I leave tomorrow, I may have every piece of paper generated by a student either out of my hands entirely or at least ready to return. That would feel fucking amazing.

Next week, I'll be finishing up the P&B work (evaluative statements for year-end reports, writing up that other adjunct observation) and trying to pull my head together in preparation to and following up on Wednesday's Assessment meeting. I also have to write a letter of recommendation for a student who was in my classes several eons ago--but whom I remember vividly. And I may well suddenly locate other pearls that have vanished in various amusing places. But it's winding down: I finally feel a little less as if I'm being eaten alive by gnats. That right there is reason to feel like it was, overall, a very good day.

Blooper of the day

I'll write a real post later, but I wanted to record the best student blooper I've seen in a while.

"This novel allows the reader to see into a world where everyone is literally on the same playing field."

The entire book takes place on a softball diamond....

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Always surprises me

I walk into the classroom. I tell the students, "here's what you're going to do." They do it. Somehow, today, that strikes me as a minor miracle.

Of course, they don't all do a good job at whatever task I've assigned--and there have, on occasion, been students who've grumbled a bit--but generally, I say, "OK, get rolling"--and they actually do. Amazing.

Today the experience was having the more slug-like 102 do the "post outline" exercise I ran with the M/W group. This time, knowing the students are not as solid (or most of them are not), I asked to see their outlines before I allowed them to leave. There were two students I was particularly concerned about: they seemed to be diligently doing the work, but my experience with both has been that they are reluctant in the extreme to put in any genuine effort. One of them--Ms I Hate English--is starting to come around (barely, just around the edges, and still with notable reluctance). After talking with her about the problems I saw and how she needed to approach things instead, I said, "This is the hard part: you have something already done and now you have to go back and substantially re-do it." She almost grinned and said, "It's frustrating." Yep, I agreed, it is: but that's the process--and the resulting paper will be much better for having engaged in the process.

The other reluctant student I can't get a read on: I think I've mentioned her before, that I'm not sure if she's genuinely struggling or simply profoundly lazy. But even she seemed finally to be getting a grip on what is required.

The other students clearly were getting a lot out of the process, especially the one, lone, remaining male student: we circled back to his thesis at least twice, and made it better each time. And for each student, I got to iterate, "This is the process. This is how it works."

Nature in Lit was a bit of a bust: we read Le Guin's story "May's Lion," but they didn't have a lot to say about it--and a number of them missed the key passage that explains the whole purpose of the story--but at least we were able to point to the main issue, which is Le Guin's re-imagining of a real event as it might have looked in an alternative society, one that approaches the nonhuman world very differently from how we do.

I'm looking at the day backwards: from last class toward morning--and the morning felt productive but flurried: I got all the student stuff marked, and I was all set to go work on adjunct schedules--but Bruce was in a closed-door meeting (and the scheduling stuff lives in his office), so instead I was able to go to the meeting of the Creative Writing committee that I'd been afraid I'd have to miss. Still, that ran a bit long, and then I had to jet downstairs to P&B for a couple of interviews. Both candidates were very strong, though in very different ways. Many members of P&B seemed ready to hire the second one on the spot; William expressed some stronger reservations--and although I wasn't as skeptical as he was, I must confess that personally, I liked her less well. She may have a better mix of qualifications, but I thought the first candidate was simply a stronger scholar and a more grounded human being. They both were vibrating with nerves, too. I am grateful that I've never been that nervous in a job interview--and please god, I won't be in a high-stakes interview ever again.

Now, however, I have about 35 seconds to make up my mind whether I'm going to go to tango tonight or head home again and try--again--for an earlier bedtime. I was awakened an hour before the alarm by the start of a fight between the cats (there is no joy in catville these days), and was unable to get back to sleep, despite also having had a difficult time going under last night. Eventually, my body is going to make me do a face plant into the pillow and stay there for a while, unless I manage to pry my little bulldog teeth out of each day much earlier and easier. Will tango help? I don't know. I'll sign off now, and meditate a moment to try to determine what feels best.

And tomorrow is another day.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Monday P.S.

I thought I'd just quickly check Turnitin before leaving, to see which students had submitted their papers--and bingo: first blatant copy-and-paste plagiarism of the year. Apart from changing a few words here and there and cutting a line or two on occasion, the student has simply used a paper he found online. I'd have flagged it as plagiarized even without Turnitin, but using Turnitin saved me some time in trying to locate the source. Not even a lot, though: I couldn't get to the original source through the link on Turnitin, so I simply Googled a tell-tale phrase, and ta-da! There it was.

The kid was failing anyway. I don't know if he's actually been stoned all semester or if he just looks and sounds that way, but he's potentially a sweet kid--and might even be potentially smart, if he lays off whatever mind-altering substance he seems to be on. If he's not on any mind altering substances, then he's going to have a hell of a hard time making it in college. It's a shame, but there it is.


I wasn't sure what to do with students today, so I came up with an in-class task they could use as they work on their revisions: I call it "post-outlining." Essentially, how it works is that students have to read their papers and create an outline of what they actually wrote: it approaches the process backward, but it is a wonderful tool to help get some objective distance on a paper and to help evaluate organization and structure.

I had the whole thing very carefully spelled out on the board, telling them first to read slowly and carefully, one sentence at a time. (When I do it tomorrow, I'm also going to tell them to stop at the end of each paragraph to do the outline task associated with it.) They were to use the following format:

Introduction: In my paper, I will prove _________________________.

Body Paragraph 1:   * phrase giving the topic of the paragraph (the instruction being that each phrase should be simply a bullet point, no more)
            This helps prove X about my thesis.

Do that for each body paragraph.

Conclusion: Summarizes ideas from paragraphs ______ (provide the number of each paragraph that is recapped in the summary).
          Final sentence connects back to the thesis because _______________________.

I told them that working this way is very difficult, as they have to look at their work as objective outsiders, which is challenging. I also told them that if they were unable to locate a clear topic for a paragraph, or if they couldn't quickly and clearly state how it helps prove the thesis, that should raise a red flag. I also said that the conclusion doesn't need to recap the point in every single paragraph--but it certainly should hit the high points. I also encouraged them to consider moving things around, and to go ahead and correct any sentence-level clarifications they noticed along the way.

I'm not sure how well it worked: I didn't collect the outlines but sent them home with the students so they could keep working on revising while I'm evaluating their second versions--but the better students did seem to see their papers in a whole new way.

One young woman arrived late, still without a paper at all, and again, she told me that she just sits there in front of the computer and can't think of anything to say. I was about to tell her to withdraw, when I thought, no, let me ask a little about what's happening first. She said, "I have ideas but..." and shrugged. Wait, I said, you have ideas? So why aren't you writing them down? We spent some time talking about it, and she's going to keep trying. Unlike the young man who finally, mercifully, withdrew a while ago, I'm actually very glad this young woman is sticking it out. It's very likely she won't pass the class, which is a shame: she started to pull her socks up a little too late in the game, and she still isn't getting as much help as she really needs--but I give her full marks for working through frustration, and I told her so. She is at least trying, and unlike earlier in the semester, when she said she was trying but showed little evidence of actual effort, now I can see that she's doing what she can. She's just barely beginning to understand what hard work actually means, or how to work not merely hard but productively--but at least she's getting that much, and I'm proud of her for sticking it out so she could begin to have that experience.

A few students I had to send off to work on papers, as they had nothing with them in class (and one student was, once again, absent: If he's back next class, I'll have to talk to him after, as at this point I think his absences alone are enough to prevent him from passing the class.

But the best moment came from the very quiet young man whose work has been getting extremely good along the way: I'll call him the Quiet Man. He stayed after everyone else (of course: he's the closest to getting an A of any of them, which is how it always goes. He said that, the more he looks at his paper, the more he sees to change. I told him that's good, and normal--but then we started talking, and he shared his sense of regret that he hadn't come up with an idea earlier: he suddenly saw an idea that he thought would work very well, but he felt he'd have to rewrite his entire paper to include it now. We talked about it, and he's going to at least play around with the idea, see if he can introduce it as a thread throughout what he already has, instead of taking an axe to the paper in order to create a whole new focus. He specifically asked for some feedback on the final body paragraphs of what he has now, so he'll get that, but since he has an idea for real and substantive revision, I don't want to muddy the waters for him: I'll point out anywhere that I think can lend itself to addition of his new idea, and I'll focus on the sentence-level stuff (which will be minimal)--but simply the fact that he's aware that he needs to reorganize paragraphs and include some different support is enough to set me tap-dancing with glee. The fact that he's going way beyond that to consider revising to the extent of including a whole new thread is glorious. I'm beyond thrilled--and I told him so.

When I can work with a student like him, it truly helps me continue to want to teach. He said he liked me as a professor because I love teaching--and I'm glad it shows. I don't always, but when I can teach a student who is so willing and able to learn? Yes, I love it. I truly do.

I did, however, hit the wall a while back in terms of marking any more assignments. I still have a stack to do for tomorrow's classes, not to mention now needing to get the second versions marked and back to the students from today's class--not to mention summer scheduling and a raft of other committee work. But my ESL conversation partner told me last week that he wouldn't be here today, which bought me a little time, and I think I'm going to go home. I may set an early alarm for tomorrow, if I can get myself into bed and asleep early enough. I'd love to go to this year's final meeting of the Creative Writing committee, which is tomorrow prior to P&B, and I remain open to miracles, but even getting up early, I suspect that getting student assignments marked and maybe getting a little scheduling done will be the best I'll be able to manage in the morning.

And now, there are only two more Mondays left of the term--unless something unexpected arises, which is, I suppose, possible. Who knows what the future holds? All I know is that it looks very likely that I'll be out the door and on my way home very shortly here. For which I am grateful.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Drinking the Assessment Kool-aid

Today's assessment symposium was, interestingly enough, interesting--or at least the first part of it was. In fact, I was sorry to have missed the beginning of it all (though nothing on earth was going to get me to campus at 8 a.m.). There was a guest speaker--the assessment maven from Monroe County Community College (which actually offered me a position before NCC did)--and he showed us an organizational strategy that made enormous sense. I spoke with another of our department's faculty who was there--and who also was one of the organizers of the symposium--and she was even more excited than I. I stayed until the end, because at the end there was to be a demonstration of how to create the kind of grids the guy from Monroe was talking about by using Taskstream. However, typically, the person doing that presentation ran through it so quickly that I turned into Ginger from the Gary Larson cartoon, and all I heard was "blah blah blah Taskstream blah blah blah." Still, I offered to work with my colleague in creating a grid for us as a department

 I know I'll kick myself for volunteering for yet another thing to do, but among other things, it will reveal to the rest of the Assessment committee (and who knows, even perhaps the department as a whole) the fact that the language we use is too dense to work for assessment. At very least, we need to unpack the language: we can still keep all the same ideas, but we can't mix them together as we now tend to do. The fact that the language is so dense is part of why we continually rework the language every time we do an assessment of anything, and as I believe I've said before, I'm sick to death of continually going back to the drawing board--almost literally, as every change of language needs to track through about 45 different places where it appears, from course description matrices to assessments to Taskstream.

In any event, the one benefit to the fact that the symposium started so insanely early is that I was back here in the office by 2:15. I confess to a small amount of noodling, instead of productive work, but I did write up one observation while waiting to meet with the other person I observed. That meeting has now come to a close--and I can now leave the rest of the mess messy until I try to impose a modicum of organization on it come Monday. Monday will come a mite sooner than I'd prefer, but still: even including that week of work after classes end, three weeks from right now, I should be free as a bird.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Broke even

Last night's gamble paid off--barely. I finished marking the last of the 102 first versions in class at the beginning of the period, and although I didn't get anything more than that marked and off my plate, still, that was (in terms of papers) the prime objective, so, well, whew.

The 102 class was tolerable, but mostly because I spent a lot of the period working with students on their papers. A few of them did get into a little bit of lively discussion for a brief moment, but I have to admit that I am very relieved that I won't have to try to drag any more responses to readings out of them. From now on, we're just going to hammer away at their final papers. One student--Ms I Hate English--seemed to look a bit askance at that notion (quelle surprise), but she can either take advantage of what I have to offer or not. And another student who has in the past protested about the submission requirements was in that position again: she got her paper uploaded to Turnitin late--and didn't have the hard copy for me until class today. I told her I wouldn't take it to mark and reminded her that the assignment sheet is very clear about the submission requirements. There was a little flouncing on her part when I refused to budge on that, though I did encourage her to get to the Writing Center or to do what she can to try to think through potential changes on her own and fix as much as she can find between now and Tuesday. I doubt she will, somehow, but the main suggestion in my remarks to her (which I doubt she picked up on) was that she made a choice in terms of her time management that led her to the situation she found herself in.

I have a suspicion I'll be making that point a lot on the final day of classes with all my students. If you miss a deadline, don't get pissed off at me for the deadline: take responsibility for the choices you made that necessitated your missing it.

Today's meeting of Academic Standing was quite interesting, and indeed, I'm considering the possibility of writing up a brief report for the English department of the issues that have come up over the past year--among them codifying the policy for granting extensions to Incomplete grades; re-evaluating the UW (unofficial withdrawal) grade, especially to determine whether we think it should remain punitive (right now, it figures in the student's GPA as an F); proposing alterations to the coding for various levels of academic standing so they're easier to understand (I think we actually got that one passed, amazingly enough). I did not volunteer for some thing (I even missed what exactly it was) that would require being on campus pretty much all day on July 29--but I find I'm actually looking forward to continuing to work on the concerns around the UW grade, as I personally see portions of the current policy as problematic. I'm also interested in the debate about extensions to Incompletes. Well, most of it, really.

See? If I just didn't care....

But, speaking of caring: I was very happy with how Nature in Lit ran today. We started with general conversation about papers, what students were still confused about, what they were starting to understand. Two students asked me to address specific portions of their papers and agreed to let me share what I had to say with the class: I think it was useful. The conversation actually did end up being at least partly about learning as a process, specifically about the fact that real learning also requires a fair amount of error, even failure, before one can grasp something new. After we talked out the issues with the class as a whole, I put the students into two groups of three and asked them to talk with each other about their concerns and/or solutions, and those students who wanted to talk to me individually stepped out of their groups for a few minutes. The lovely thing is that they know each other well enough now that they were completely comfortable doing that--and what I overheard truly was on task, at least for the most part. Of course, typically, the student who is having the most difficulty did not seem to feel the need to talk to me individually, and some of the stronger writers did, but overall, I think it was a success.

The other happy moment in that class arose when a student verbalized something I'd just started thinking about anyway: I started to say that I was thinking about their final mini-paper and she said, joking, "It isn't due?" In fact, that was exactly what I was thinking, as I'd just been talking to a student who'd said she had no clue what to write about for her final mini-paper. I said something to the effect that she should simply use the mini to talk about another aspect of what she wants to do in her final paper--and then I thought, "Why? Why not just work on the paper itself?" So, to the immense relief and delight of the students, I canceled the final mini-paper and will instead simply count each paper as 7% of their final grade.

Of course, this also has me thinking about the next time I teach a literature elective, and whether I should do something closer to what Paul does (a draft, which gets comments, and then the paper itself)--or even a version of my own process in the comp classes, albeit not as complex. Thinking about it now, I think Paul's process makes more sense. I don't want to require revisions in literature classes, but most students are not yet ready to simply write papers: they still need a lot of guidance. I need to pick Paul's brains about how he does it.

But--imagine!--I don't actually have to think about it, or have anything in place, until fall 2015 at the earliest. I'm not teaching a lit this coming fall (my elective is Fiction Writing) and then, sabbatical, thank all the gods there may be.

And for this semester, I have two more weeks of classes, but the teaching mode has shifted drastically. We still have some readings for Nature in Lit, but for the rest, I'm just working with students individually on papers. Then the mad crunch of final grade calculations and tying up committee work--which will pretty well fill the week after classes end. I can't think beyond that; I'm just trying to flop across that finish line.

As for tonight, I will send a few work e-mails and then traipse off, leaving everything in its current chaotic state. I will be on campus all day tomorrow, first at the Assessment symposium, then waiting to conference with the adjunct I observed last Friday, so the week ain't over yet--and yes, there may be a rare Friday post this week. If not, I'll be back with you all on Monday.

And, Serious Student, because you said you read the blog, a special hello to you and a wish for a good weekend.