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Monday, October 6, 2014

The usual calculated risk

Officially, I should be here until 7 tonight, for my evening office hour, but I am already ready to sign off on today and leave everything else in a steaming pile on my desk until tomorrow. I had to stay to talk to my ESL "conversation partner," but that feels like more than enough for one day. I don't have a meeting prior to P&B, thank God, but still, I'm taking a risk that I'll be able to evaluate the revised stories for the Fiction Writing class (plus their critiques of their classmates' stories): if I don't get it done tomorrow, it won't get done until next week--and I really would like to return everything to them so I have the decks clear for the next round of 101 papers, which will arrive tomorrow.

I'm sort of having fun, knowing that I've got the computers and internet connections available in both 101 classrooms: I'm going to see if I can find any fun, brief videos to show tomorrow on any of the ideas that have come up in the readings so far (environmentally friendly zoning, permaculture, "Transition Towns" (a term I'd never heard before: love it when I learn something new, too), community-supported agriculture...). I'm going to look into information about local agriculture (there are more working farms around here than students likely realize). Anything I can find for fun visuals and ideas to augment the discussion tomorrow, I'll trot out as needed to keep things lively. I want to keep the students--and Bruce--engaged, after all.

I truly am awash in a sea of paper at the moment--and will be for the foreseeable future. Student assignments, promotion folder, committee crapola: it's all mounting up. And writing that, I just remembered: I have to start reviewing sabbatical applications as of tomorrow. Fortunately, I already reviewed two of my three mentees, but there will be at least three other applications, plus the third I'm supposed to be keeping an eye on, all of which need to be reviewed by next week's P&B. Part of my brain immediately says, "Well, then, you should stay here and do more work before you go." Another internal voice answers, "Nooooooo! I want to go Hooooooome!!" God, I feel like a cranky toddler half the time.

I actually had this post half composed when the phone rang: I had sent an e-mail to my ESL conversation partner; we're supposed to meet Mondays at 5:30, but since I hadn't heard from him, I thought he wasn't going to come today. He was calling from his ESL teacher's office (she also administrates the conversation partner program), and once we sorted things out, I realized he did want to meet today. However, he thought I was going to head over to the building where the language immersion program is housed, and meet him there. No. I told him to come here. I was a little concerned about whether he actually understood what I was saying--not just because of the usual difficulties of making certain of communication when one person is talking in a language in which he or she is not entirely comfortable but also because he may be on the autism spectrum. His teacher did give me a heads up about that, which I appreciate--and I agree with her assessment. I must say, whatever it is, it adds a very interesting additional layer of challenge to the conversations. He did say something in our conversation that indicates he's also had to work to overcome a stammer: that's courage and determination, to work on learning a second language while overcoming a stammer and working on an innate difficult with social interactions. I'm not quite sure how this is all going to work out, but it will be interesting to see.

Class today went well--though, as usual, we finished up about 20 minutes early, despite doing some additional work on freewrites. I rather liked the exercise: since we all have an innate tendency to head for a particular voice--especially to head either for high drama or for humor--after we all talked about the initial freewrite, we all used the same opening sentences and took it the opposite direction: those who usually go for drama had to go for humor, and vice versa. In addition to wanting to get their stories evaluated to return to them on Wednesday, I also hope to look at their exercises in voice: maybe I can use something there as the basis for a little workshop sort of action on Wednesday. I did ask our departmental tech person if we can get the room set up so I can type stuff up and project it so we can all see things in real time (easier than trying to make photocopies all the damned time). I'm improvising here, but so far it all feels like it's working pretty well.

Ah, hell. Thinking about everything I want to do, I'm now thinking that perhaps I should stay for a while longer, try to get a little more work done. I'll at least look at the next story in the stack, and if I can actually see it and make sense of it in any substantive way, I'll see how far I can get. But if I look at it and it might as well be written in Sanskrit, I'll go ahead and fold my tents for the night, taking the Scarlett O'Hara approach, as is my wont.

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