At the end of class today, the student I've been calling The Brit stayed to talk to me. He hesitated, unsure how to say what he wanted to say, and then finally said, "You don't like me very much, do you." Turns out, he'd read some of my blog posts. I can certainly understand why both the content and the tenor of my remarks about him would have led him to think I don't like him, but in fact I actually do like him. And he isn't British, nor is he trying to adopt a British persona: he said that he's often been told that he sounds like he has a British accent and the only reason for it he can imagine is that he has a lot of British friends. I have to say, that would make complete sense to me: I start talking with an Ozark twang when I'm around my father's family, and I'm about as Yankee as a person can get. In any event, I'm very glad he was brave enough to talk to me about it: confronting a personal issue with any authority figure takes real guts, and he did it charmingly. I did tell him that, of all the students in the class, he's the most obvious A student--or would be, if he had the time and energy to devote to the class that would be required for him to produce his best work. I want to go on record here as stating, very clearly, that he learns. That would seem like an obvious statement to make about a student, but in fact, seeing demonstrable evidence of learning from any student in a semester is relatively rare. In his case, the main evidence is in both how he phrases his critiques to his classmates and his sensitivity to how much time he takes over what he has to say. Both are much improved from where he started. And I'm looking forward to seeing his "portfolio" story in its final incarnation: he made a good choice for which story to revise further, so it will be fun to see what he can do with it.
Thinking about that class in general, I have to say that most of them show significant improvement in their ability to critique writing in progress. The substance of their comments is now aimed at a deeper and more significant level: I haven't emphasized terminologies, but in fact they're noticing things like character arc and character consistency/internal logic. I love teaching the class, and it breaks my heart that I don't feel I can ever in good conscience teach it again--unless every faculty member with an MFA has already turned it down. Including adjuncts. It's such a delight to teach, and I feel I do a good job of it--and would continue to do better at it, if I had more opportunities to teach it. It sucks having a sense of what is right that is strong enough that I actually feel compelled to act on it.
Today had such an inauspicious start that the class stands out even more than usual as a delightful experience. I won't tell the whole, long, detailed version, but the basics are that, on my way to the 9:30 Assessment Committee meeting, I stopped at Dunkin Donuts for a "box of joe" for the committee, and when I went back out to my car, it wouldn't start. After two good Samaritans, one guy with a portable battery dispatched by roadside assistance, a tow truck and a visit to Enterprise Rent-a-Car, I made it to campus--at 1:30, which is when my time in Advisement usually ends. That comes out of my sick leave: I cannot possibly make up the three hours between now and end of the semester.
But the good news--and yes, even in all that, there is good news--is that I had more time than I thought I would to read and comment on the stories for today's workshop, so I was able to get them all done and eat lunch: a rare and beautiful thing.
And now, I'm about to call the mechanics to find out if they know anything about my car (no call on the cell-phone as yet). I won't know how long I'm keeping the rental car until I know what's happening with mine, and that may throw a wrench into my plans to meet tomorrow evening with a colleague to talk about ecocriticism (as I may have to dash home to retrieve my car before the shop closes). I'm facing a ridiculously complex skein of if-then variables, but the main thing is, I want to get the hell out of here for tonight. Everything else can wait until tomorrow. You know: tomorrow, when I'm stronger.