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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.

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