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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.

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