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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Wait, it's Thursday already?

The one advantage to being swept toward the white water is that things certainly do clip right along. I was packing up after the second section of 101 today, thinking, "OK, so before tomorrow's classes I need to..." and then I remembered: no classes tomorrow. It's Friday. Ohthankgod.

The department meeting was interesting--and Bruce strategically left the seminar hours issue until the last three minutes, so we could escape without spending the entire meeting brawling about them. The next meeting of the ad hoc committee will be interesting--and will pose a significant challenge, as we need to begin drafting up a specific, pragmatic proposal to present to the faculty at the next department meeting in October. Yikes and likewise zoiks. On occasion, it is not beneficial to have too many highly intelligent people in the room, as the focus can become very theoretical and arcane, but I choose to remain hopeful that the specific congeries of minds on the committee will actually yield clear and implementable results.

And for the record, I stayed for the entire department meeting. Usually I get fed up with people yammering and split, but today's was unusually focused and civil.

I just barely managed to get all the student assignments marked and handed back: I had to mark a few between classes and finish up the last one while students in the second class were working, but back they went, so my folders were cleared for the new batch coming in. (I also should note that, indeed, overall, the quality of writing is much more evenly decent than I'm used to in 101s. Thank God for ENG100.) Being able to get through marking assignments relatively quickly is one main advantage of fewer students, and it gives me some hope that I can crank through their papers in the very brief amount of time I've given myself for the task. Both classes seemed to be a little stunned at first, but in both, once again, the conversation quickly turned very lively. I did have to start with a bunch of handouts--including, I decided at the last minute, a revised version of what used to be called the "bozo errors." I now call it all "static," and since I no longer take specific points off, I'm hoping the whole thing isn't quite as scary and off-putting. However, it did occur to me that there is some value in giving the students a broader view of the kinds of static: not only the things we're covering in the "Daily 25" but also, for instance, avoiding any form of the word "you" to refer to people or readers in general, and the problem of misused/missing apostrophes. So, now they have the handout.

I also went over some of my correction marks--and instead of going into vast detail about any of them, I simply referred students to the pages in the handbook that cover various problem areas. In the first class, I was going over them, and after a minute or so, I said, "I find it interesting that no one is taking any notes." Instantly, notebooks are open and pens are out. Uh-huh. They just read a section in the handbook about being a good student, which included the recommendation to take notes about things even when the professor doesn't write them on the board or specifically say "take notes," but it's a clear reminder that just because they've read and understood something, it doesn't mean that they understand how it applies to them personally.

After class, I went to the meeting with the presidential candidate search team. It took me a while to find it, but I did. Along with me was the student who was so excited about the paper topic last class: she's a young activist, and I was thrilled that she was willing to come to the meeting. She spoke up, too, with articulate intelligence. I am very proud of her--and if she isn't running the student government association in two years, I'll wonder why. The search team themselves seemed to be listening very carefully and asking insightful questions. In fact, the whole event was a great deal more informal and relaxed than I was anticipating. Of course, we mostly were repeating what they've already heard, but the two questions that I remember most vividly were, "We hear lots of passion coming from everyone who's been to these sessions: across the board, everyone here seems very passionate about Nassau. What do you think accounts for that passion?" and "How much support do you get for professional development?" The first was more complicated to answer, but essentially it boiled down to the fact that our focus is on the students, and it's vividly clear to us just how much this education means to them, how much they need it, and what they deserve: we're not focused on our own research as much as we are on our teaching (although we are active scholars too, which led to the second question they asked), and because our focus is on that, what happens educationally is of prime importance to us. The answer to the second was easier: virtually none. I used the example of my trip to present a paper at the inaugural conference of the European Association for the Study of Literature, Culture and the Environment--a rather huge deal, and the conference was four days in Germany--and I got $200 to defray my expenses. And that's just one example. We do get sabbaticals: I should have remembered to give thanks and praise for that. But in the grand scheme of things, we sure could use a lot more support.

Anyway, it was a very interesting and busy day, as a capper to a very interesting and busy week. Fourteen more to go.



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