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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

That 6 a.m. alarm...

I "should" stay and keep working for a while longer, grade more of the papers for the 101s, as I won't have much time for them tomorrow--and the students need them back so they can start revising. However, I have decided that--painful as that 6 a.m. alarm is even to contemplate, never mind experience--I'll do better getting up early and then burning through the papers (interrupted by a meeting) than I'd do if I were to stay and try to keep working tonight--partly because I'm famished, but more because I can tell my focus is not where it should be.

One reason why I'm not where I'd hoped to be with the paper grading at this point is, after the Fiction Writing class, one of the young men--who had left the room--came back and asked if he could talk to me. I've not talked about him yet, or not much. He's a good student, earnest, wasn't sure at all how he felt about finding his creativity, but his writing has truly improved and his commentary on other students' stories is getting more insightful and comprehensive. He had two questions for me: the first was, whether I'd be willing to provide critique on a story his father has written. I was a little leery of the idea at first, because the student intends to surprise his dad with the critique--and for some, that would hardly be a pleasant surprise. However, the student--I'll call him the Engineer, as I think he wants to become an engineer of some sort--assured me that his father very much wants serious critique and is having a hard time finding venues where he can get it. So, I agreed to do it.

The second question was about courses he could take to fulfill his social sciences requirements. We talked a bit about the various options--but the conversation quickly became more an opportunity for him to simply talk about concerns in his life, and specifically, the relief of being able to do that with someone who is not part of his personal life at all, but a relatively objective outsider. It was lovely: he poured out his concerns about his romantic relationship, the mistakes he's made in his past, his desire to learn more but the frustrations of how the need to make money interferes with the need to get a solid education (and vice versa), his parents, his brothers....

I mostly simply listened--and agreed with him that he's in a difficult situation, dealing with a lot. But I truly feel honored that he wanted to share some of himself with me, and felt he could. He was concerned about taking my time away from work I need to do, but I assured him that talking with students is my favorite thing about my job--and it is.

In fact, that's something about the whole Seminar Hours thing that I can get excited about--even though today's committee meeting was roughly equivalent to a root canal. (I'd say to having a tooth pulled, but I was anesthetized for that--and I'd have given a lot for some anesthesia before the committee meeting so I could just wake up when it was over.) A few times, I looked over at Kristin and saw the same look on her face that must have been visible on mine. I don't want to replay the meeting by describing it in much detail: suffice it to say that the usual suspects engaged in the usual behaviors (tiresome), in addition to which, there were many instances of people talking over each other and consequently completely miscommunicating. However, as I contemplate options for my own personal fulfillment of those hours come spring, there actually are several options I'd be happy to consider. A faculty partnership with Paul would be great, if we can figure it out logistically, but I'd also be happy to have a group of students for whom I would act as a mentor (and I don't much care what target population I'd work with)--and I'd be equally content to put in my hours in the Writing Center in the evenings, which certainly would be the easiest option in terms of logistics (and there's a need for evening tutors, so, win-win there).

I'm hoping that I can do some of that kind of one-on-one with the 101 students for the next three class periods. I have some work for them to do on their own, too (mostly carefully thinking through my comments on their papers), but the advantage of having fewer papers to grade also means I can spend more time with the few students who wrote those papers. Several have not been submitted (of course), so I'll have to decide what to do about those: it isn't fair to give the same kind of feedback to students who missed the deadlines as I give to those who got their stuff to me within the required time frame, but I do want to give as much feedback as I can, where I can.

Of course, the Young Intellectual is among those who didn't submit anything. I've simply given up on that case. At the end of semester, I will again offer the W option and explain why, but he's dug himself into a hole there really is no getting out of.

Still, I can talk to him about his ideas. And I can talk to the other students who didn't submit papers on time about their ideas--even if I don't read and comment on their papers. And I can give more of my time--a lot more--to the students who did submit papers.

But I still have to read and comment on those papers. And that still means I have to be up at 6 (and probably, realistically, should be up even earlier). Still, all that is for tomorrow. For tonight, I'm going to take care of psychic needs (making sure I get my Recommended Daily Allowance of enjoyment, as Paul would say) and physical needs (dinner, sleep). And the cats' needs (dinner, time in my lap, sleep). Easy-peasy. And tomorrow is, self-evidently, another day.

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