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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

the drumroll continues...

The "trick" isn't completed yet: no clue yet whether I'll get out of the predicament and land safely or crash. Tomorrow will tell. I've been interrupted so many times today, I honestly still don't know how long it takes me to mark each paper--and as usual, we're talking about an average, as the bad papers obviously take longer than the good ones. I am aware that, paying attention to sentence-level stuff, it's harder to point out positives, though I suppose I should try more consciously to do that. Next time: even though I'm not finished, it's a bit late in the process to try to change my methods for this round.

Three papers did show up today, so that brought the grand total to seven submitted for the earlier class and nine for the later one. Recall that the later session has fewer students, so statistically, they're doing better, at least in terms of actually submitting work.

I realize that tomorrow I'm going to have to talk to them about being college students. Reminders: You can't pass unless you turn in your work. Requirements are just that: requirements, whether you "like" them or not. It's your job to follow the schedule of assignments. You can't do extra credit or "catch up."

If you're not on the ball right now, you're pretty much fucked.

In the first class, there's another student currently AWOL--and again, he's been one of the best students until he suddenly disappeared. One of his good buddies is in the class and is still coming, and I understand that this young man is not ill; his friend said that it isn't his place to explain what's up--true--but I am concerned. If the AWOL buddy is not in class tomorrow, I'll reach out via e-mail, see if I can reel him back in. My formerly AWOL student talked to me after class yesterday and told me that the amount of work he's missed is making him feel sick and he wants to simply take a zero for the first paper. His choice. I'm not telling him yet, but if he sticks it out the rest of the semester and turns in all his work, doing a good job with all of it, I'll talk to him at the end about an incomplete.

In any event, if both those young men stick with the class, my current guess is that those two plus the seven who submitted papers will be it for the rest of the semester. The only other student I really wanted to keep is very ill, so I think she'll end up disappearing entirely this semester. The rest? Seriously problematic.

And in the second class, one of the people who turned in a paper--a young man who has not been able to get with the program or read any instructions, apparently--probably won't make it. There's also a young woman who has been struggling to get to class on time and who has missed a fair amount of work: I'm very concerned about her, even though she's very sweet and earnest and wants to try hard. But mostly, the ones who turned in papers are the ones I expect to stick; the rest, I expect to lose, for one reason or another.

So, all in all, I'm hoping I can end up with about eight or nine students in each class. That's distinctly less than what I'd hoped for--but if I do end up with those numbers, that will represent better retention, less attrition, than usual in my classes. It's way way way too early to make any predictions--the attrition could continue beyond what I see at the moment--so I'm calling on all the classroom gods to help me keep those bodies in the room.

I think I may have lost another student from Fiction Writing--and I think she may be disappearing because she was too sensitive to the critiques, took things way too personally. I hope she returns (and I may send her an e-mail now, rather than waiting to see if her absences continue), mostly because I think it would be good for her to learn how to set up some methods for dealing with critique without being so hurt. But the rest of the students are apparently having a grand time--and to my delight, they actually (mostly) really liked Le Guin's "Malheur County." One young man mentioned that he might have gotten more out of it because of what I suggested they look for in the story, and I pounced on that: yes, how we read can make quite a difference in how we experience what we read. But I'm simply thrilled they were captured by the story.

I had to have a brief chat with the Pseudo-Brit after class, too: somehow, I didn't get his revised story and revision report (even though he says he left them for me last Thursday), so we needed to make an arrangement for me to get all that--but I also wanted to talk to him about his critiques. His remarks could sound very "teachery" and decidedly condescending (as I may have mentioned), so I had to gently let him know that others might not respond well to that tone and that perhaps he should not tell them what to do. I did mention that one of his classmates was hurt--the young woman mentioned above, though she was hurt more by other comments--but the main thing was I want him to rein it in. He may indeed have more experience and knowledge than the others in the class, but (I know all too well), arrogance doesn't tend to win people over much.

The final note of the day, I met with the student who called yesterday to complain about her professor. Mostly, as I suspected, she needed to vent and to feel she was standing up for her rights--but in fact, her grade is not in jeopardy because of the faculty member's (possibly) faulty record keeping, so pretty much I told her to let it go unless it does become a problem. She said, "He can't mark me late if I'm not late." Actually, yeah, he can. He can call you Maria Natasha de Rocheford Smith, if he wants to, and there isn't anything anyone can do about it--and certainly nothing anyone will do about it, unless it becomes an issue in terms of your final grade. Other than that, much greater injustices will occur in your life, so this one? Let it go. Really. What a huge flap about nothing--but I think she simply has a sense that she has to be battle-ready at all times or she's likely to experience real injustice. And she may not be wrong about that. But what an exhausting way to go through life

And once again I'm in the position of having to get up very early tomorrow morning and hope like hell I can get through the remaining papers I have to grade (eight of them). I truly cannot face another one tonight. But I will leave you with this thought-provoking assertion from a student paper: "Students often cannot turn to their parents or pees for college insight." Oh, how true.

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