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Monday, September 8, 2014

Monday report

Advisement was just busy enough to keep me occupied, without being so busy that I felt frantic. I was prepared to do some committee work there if need be: at this time of the semester, I don't have enough student work to evaluate to need the time in Advisement for that purpose, but by the time I'm there again on Wednesday, I'll have collected homework from my 101s, so with luck, I'll have plenty to keep me busy, even if the spate of students has dried up, now that adding classes is no longer an option.

Most of the students today were intelligent and pretty much on the ball. The only weird event was that a mother had come steaming in with her son in tow and was kicking up one hell of a fuss in the carrel next to mine: she kept saying "This is absolutely not acceptable" and "I need to speak to a supervisor or someone in charge." The poor woman who was trying to help her was at a total loss, as the mother apparently believed everything that had happened with her son's registration was NCC's fault--and, in the "educational institution = store at the mall" frame of mind, believed that any rule need not apply because "the customer is always right." Fortunately, the adviser who was trying to help finally managed to turn the woman over to one of the higher-ups--though the mother (and her son) had to wait until the higher-up finished what she was doing (and was huffing and stamping around the waiting area, irate that she wasn't being tended to immediately)--and once the person with more knowledge and authority was in charge, the noise level decreased. But Jezus it was hard to advise the student I was sitting with: rather mousy student, and I could barely hear her over the opera going on next door.

I hate parents like that. I couldn't get any kind of read on her son, but ye gods, what an example she's setting for him of how to be an adult in the world.

Fiction Writing went well. One student is still AWOL: I haven't met him yet (and wonder if I'm going to). Another was absent. I don't know their faces for certain yet, but I'm pretty sure I saw the absentee in the lobby of Bradley Hall on my way to my office prior to class. I wonder if that really was my student, and if so, why she wasn't in class. Ah well.

In any event, in order to start breaking the ice a little, I started us off with a free-write, then we went around the room: each student said his or her name ("Hi, I'm Betty") and we'd all chorus a hello ("Hi, Betty!). Then the student would read what he or she wrote, no apologies allowed. After the student finished, we'd give a chorus of thanks (Thanks, Betty!")--though I confess we sort of fell apart on that a bit (I think some memory lapses: "What was her name again?")--and then gave a round of applause. They're warming up, but I can tell it's going to be a little while before they're fully into the swing of things. I did make everyone share something from the little conflict exercise they did at home (which I just realized I forgot to collect), and then I just sort of yacked at them for a bit about basic story elements, set them up to do the homework for Wednesday (reading Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants" and writing up some notes about the literary elements), and sent them on their way.

But, getting to the fun stuff: the student with the British-esque accent is poised to be a hoot and a holler. Bear in mind that the story assignment is to think of ordinary conflict: nothing too dramatic, but the kind of conflict that anyone could experience. No serial killers, no mafia hits, no alien invasions (or not yet anyway). But when Mr. Brit shared the conflict he's working on, it's about high nobility plotting to overthrow the Crown Prince of a sort of parallel-universe Britain circa 1547. He was very specific about the date, but when I questioned him about why that date, he said that he was interested in the medieval period: he quickly corrected what he said to include the Renaissance (which started approximately 1450, as usually dated, so 1547 is hardly medieval), but simultaneously was proclaiming himself a history buff, so the error was amusing. Then I pressed him a little further about the date: not just the 1500s, or even early 1500s, but specifically 1547: did something in particular happen that year in actual British history? He said he couldn't remember if it was the end of the reign of King Henry the Second or King Henry the Third--and the "nope, wrong" buzzer was going off in my head: off by five Henrys. I confess, I had to check to be sure, but that's when Henry VIII died. (The blunder also makes me doubt that accent even more. Really, could a Brit get to college age and not have at least a vague sense of when the various dynasties were, especially the Tudors? I know far too many American students couldn't get within 50 years of when Lincoln was president--remember those students who seemed genuinely to believe that he was the first president of the United States--but I expect Brits to know their own history a little better, though I'll exempt the Wars of the Roses.)

OK, so the young man is a little too full of himself, but for now, at least, I'm more charmed by his bluster than otherwise. I didn't call him on his grasp of history, but I did mention that perhaps the scenario wouldn't quite qualify as "ordinary" conflict. After class he told me that he's been working on that story for years. I said that, although I do want him to write where his passion lies, I also want him to challenge himself to take on things that might be very different, just to stretch his abilities. He said he has a couple other story ideas he's working on, and perhaps he'll use one of those instead--but I can tell that the challenge with him will be to rein him in, rather than spur him on. Which is fine by me.

But it does remind me that I need to reinforce that their stories should be short: the requirement is 4-5 pages, and although they're free to write more, their classmates don't have to read or critique more than the first four pages--and I won't read or critique more than ten. If Mr. Brit is working on a novel (or even possibly an epic fantasy series, for all I know), he needs to give us just 4-5 pages of the start of a chapter: no more.

Between Advisement and class, I did some organizing of handouts for the 101s (including clearing the folders of old handouts), so I think I'm pretty well set for tomorrow's classes. We do have a P&B meeting, for which I should review the minutes and find my notes about things to remember to bring up, but otherwise, I'll need to take advantage of the time in my office for other tasks. Front and center is the promotion application: I decided to bring all the various folders and scraps back to the office, so I can work on it here, rather than at home. It was useful to have  it at home over the summer, so I could get a start on it, but now, I don't want work at home if I can keep it away. I've already typed up thoughts I've been working on in the wake of the seminar-hours committee--in an attempt to clarify the issues for myself, if nothing else, though I hope what I wrote out will be helpful to other committee members as well. And the rest of the committee work hasn't geared up yet. I need to keep reminding myself of that: I don't need to be frantic; the strand of pearls is, at the moment, intact. Saying that, I just remembered two little things I want to take care of, both of which will have to wait for tomorrow, when the regular office staff are in (the evening office person is OK for what she's usually called on to do, but she can't handle the "real" stuff that the day folks manage). But I can at least get things set up so I can take care of those two little bits first thing in the morning--and then I can do a leisurely pack up and toddle off.

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