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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.

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