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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Omens and absences

This morning, as I was trying to get all my bags and my coffee out of the car, while holding my umbrella against the howling monsoon, I thought, "I need to be careful not to spill my coffee"--and not 15 seconds later, managed to knock the mug off the roof of the car, promptly spilling every single drop of coffee into the lake of rainwater in the parking lot. I swore, I ranted ... I went upstairs, dropped off all my other crapola, and drove back to the place where I like to get my coffee and bought another cup, dammit.

I wondered if that might be some kind of omen or forecast for what kind of day I had in store, but it didn't turn out that way. Allen and I did as much scheduling as we could without tearing everything apart trying to cover the remaining classes--and that includes a number of electives (one of them, "my" Nature in Lit). I'm going to interview four adjunct candidates in the next week: if they're all OK, that will help us cover the classes that need an instructor. A few people wanted a class but didn't get one because they didn't give us days and times that would work; if any of them can add more days/times, that will help, too. And there's always the chance that Bruce will have to cancel classes because of low enrollment. Taking all those factors together, we may have everything covered--but we may still end up short a few faculty members, in which case either Allen or I will have to dip into the "B" category of applicants to see if any of them might do.

Allen and I ended up gossiping a bit, too--mostly just talking about the ratio of assholes to decent people folks and that it's pretty much the same ratio whether one is looking at the full-time faculty or the adjuncts. The same is true of those who aren't assholes but who simply are so decrepit they really shouldn't be teaching any more. When full-time faculty try to put all of that on the adjuncts, I'm always quick to jump in with a correction: nope, we've got 'em in the full-timers, too. And we have a pretty powerful bunch of adjuncts, to counter-balance the negatives.

I got a little bit of work done in the time when I'd usually have had to be in P&B, and then I went to my classes. I actually ended up doing my comma lesson (or an abbreviated version thereof), because the Young Intellectual said that his brilliant friend said you use a comma where you would pause. Nope, I said: that's a fallacy. He then amended it to where you'd take a mental pause, not necessarily a physical one. That's closer to right, but no: there are actually specific instances in which a comma is required and others in which a comma is, in fact, incorrect. One student was very clearly paying zero attention--which is pretty much how she's been all semester. he's clearly blowing off the class--and clearly is still in the high school mindset that it won't matter a damn what she does as long as she's there breathing. She doesn't have a chance in hell of passing, and I can't bring myself to give any more of a shit about it than she does. I've been bending over backward for the Young Intellectual and for Little Miss Arrogance, but for Miss Attitude? Nah. I'll give her the F and metaphorically tell her not to let the door hit her on the ass on her way out.

The second session was easier, in a lot of ways: a lot of students were absent, and those who were there either stayed and got some help from me or split. Fine by me: whatever is going to get that paper written is what they should do.

But one student in that second session--potentially at least a high B student, if not an A (I think he got an A- on his first paper)--has now missed class seven times. My policy states that at six, the only options are withdraw or fail. He also--much like the Young Intellectual and Little Miss Arrogance--has not been turning in much work since that first paper. Today, I got an e-mail (with a letter as documentary evidence) explaining that he couldn't get to class because the streets were flooded. I wrote back and said first, I trust my students when they tell me they have a reason not to be in class (I didn't add that I often know it's bullshit, but I'll still give them the benefit of the doubt where I can), but second, that number of absences puts him in real danger. Honestly, I don't think he has a  chance in hell of passing either. What is it with these very bright students who simply do not show up, do not do the work?

And then there's someone like the Introverted Intellectual, who is constantly petrified that she's not doing enough when, in fact, she's doing way more than she needs to and could essentially sleep for the rest of the semester and still get an A.

Of course, there's also the usual pool of students who are simply AWOL: they've stopped attending and haven't withdrawn, so the only thing I have to do is decide whether each individual has turned in enough work to merit an F or whether the appropriate "grade" is an unofficial withdrawal (UW). I probably need to simply resign myself to the fact that, as long as I have the standards I do, and as long as I demand the amount of work I do, I'm always going to be faced with a large number of students who bail--because nothing else I do or say will outweigh the students' resistance to and/or fear of what I require.

C'est la vie.

I did a teeny bit of work on the promotion application today: I'm really starting to itch with the desire to dig into it, but I perpetually encounter other things I truly must do first. Still, doing even that little bit felt good. And I'm taking the risk that I'll have enough time in Advisement and after to read and respond to the stories slated to be workshopped tomorrow: I started on one before class, decided I'd do better to eat lunch at that juncture, and now have officially hit the wall: nothing more than bilge is coming out of this little brain tonight.

Up early for the last Assessment meeting of the semester tomorrow--and at that point, I'll be handing off all my responsibilities for that committee until I'm back next fall. (Wheeee!) Then Advisement, mini-break, and workshop. If I still have a brain left in my head at that point, maybe I'll be able to turn it to the promotion application. Now, however, the rain has let up, and though I may still have to traverse a few lakes along the way, very soon, I'll be home. (Whew!)

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