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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.

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