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Monday, December 15, 2014

Um, ah, er, um....

I have reached a state of pretty much permanent brain fry. I can't keep track of anything, neither can the students. The strand has snapped and pearls are bouncing everywhere, through the cracks, behind the furniture, god knows where.

I can't even remember what happened today: it's all a blur. I got up early, to be sure to have time to get all the stories read for today's workshop session. (OK, it's starting to come back to me now....) I also got all but one of the needed signatures on my promotion application (not that I needed many--mostly needed Bruce to sign a bunch of things); I made a photocopy that I needed. I do have to report that after I so smugly reported that I had nailed the application on Friday, as soon as I turned off the computer and was packing up to leave, I thought of two more things I needed to include--and found a third on a sheet of notes that's been sitting in front of me for over a month, being ignored. Advisement was modestly busy until noon, but then the professionals decanted themselves into another building again to deal with new students, so I was left in solitude for the last hour of my stint: nice. I don't remember if they're doing that again on Wednesday: I don't think so, and it may be busy, as now is when it suddenly dawns on some students that they don't have long to get themselves registered for spring: classes are already filling up. I keep trying to anticipate what Wednesday will be like--and even more what Monday will be like--and it's a futile exercise. It will be whatever it is, and I'll do whatever I have to do to make sure I'm off campus by 3 p.m. the latest on Monday afternoon. And if that means I drive myself into the ground over the weekend and end up twiddling my thumbs on Monday, so be it.

One nice event today was that I had a visit from the young man whose life fell apart earlier in the semester. I was expecting mostly to sign his withdrawal form and maybe talk a bit about what I'll be teaching when, but he wanted to actually chat a little--and although he didn't tell me a lot about what his situation was, it's clear that he's still dealing with a lot of stress. I truly hope he does well in the spring and that he gets into an upward spiral of success leading to more success. He also came out to me; he'd said before that he had been taken in by a "friend," but this time he referred to the "friend" specifically as his partner; I don't think his telling me was so much that he was honoring me with a confidence as it was that he's more comfortable being forthright about his sexuality. At the end of our chat, he said, "Give me a hug; I like hugs"--so I did. I don't generally initiate physical contact with students (the stupid specter of lawsuits ever above our heads), but if the student initiates, I'll reciprocate--and he gave me a real bear hug: it was very sweet.

Class was good, too--and to my relief, we got through all five stories. In order for the class to end on time, I did have to skip my own critique to allow the last student his chance to speak on the last story--but I knew the young woman who wrote the story could hang out for a bit after the end of class: she's the one who asked for a letter of recommendation last week. And Young Not-a-Brit stayed, too: he'd had a thought he wanted to convey, but after I said my bit, he said that I'd covered it--but he hadn't wanted to get up and leave, as he thought it would be rude. Very sweet of him to have that consideration, not just for me but for his classmate.

One student was missing today; he's the other "real" writer in the pack, and I know he takes his writing very seriously, as one of my colleagues told me that this young man goes to all the readings and workshops that he can. I found an e-mail from him when I got back to the office: his car had been towed, and he had to go to the impound lot in Manhattan and pay an insanely huge fine to get it back. (I've been there and it ain't pretty, folks.) What I appreciated, though, was that he was concerned to have missed giving feedback to his classmates and wanted to know if there was some way he could reach out to them via e-mail so he could be sure to give them his comments. I told him not to trouble himself about it, just to give the commentaries to me (as they are part of his grade)--but that if he had particular feedback he really wanted to pass along, he could send it to me and I'd forward it to his classmates.

Oh, yes, and the young man who honored me with some of his life story last week asked if I'd be kind enough to look at a paper he'd written for his literature class. His professor had told him he needed to either go to the professor's office hour or go to the Writing Center--and he couldn't do either of those things, so he asked if it would be OK to talk to me about it instead. His professor, my colleague, said that would be fine--and I was ready to give him a lot more guidance, in a lot more depth, than the student really wanted (or had time to receive, at any rate).

But I like that they have formed a real group, and that they seem to also look to me as someone they can trust, someone they can be honest and direct with. I wish I could find a way to get that into my application for promotion. I may be something of a scholar and a reasonably good colleague, but despite the doubts that frequently show up in this blog, I know I'm a good teacher. I don't really have anything to do with it, even; it seems to be just how I'm made. (Brown eyes, short in stature, is a compulsive teacher....)

That's not to say that there aren't times when I'm happy to duck a chance to teach. My conversation partner apparently got word that the program had ended; I didn't realize that it was officially over last week until I got the exit survey, but I had been prepared to meet him today anyway. However, when I got out of class, the book that I had loaned him was in the box on my office door, and he has not been seen since. And I'm relieved. I'd have been fine with giving him more of a, what, triumphant send off? But I was spared one more difficult "conversation," and right now, that's lovely.

And just before I sat down to write this post, I went back through my promotion application and added the three things I needed to add, reprinted the pages (reprinted more pages than I needed to: I'm sorry for the trees I slaughter), and renumbered the documents. I need one more signature, which I'll get tomorrow--but I am aware that I may have to do the whole reprint/renumber thing yet again: there are two documents I'm counting on that I may not actually get, and if I don't, I have to delete mention of those claims from the application and reprint/renumber accordingly. However, I'm going to operate in the belief that I will, in fact, get both, in which case I can simply initial them (we have to initial every single piece of paper in our applications--even the cover page) and slide them into the designated clear plastic sleeves. And that, my dears, will be that.

And for tonight, that, my dears, will be that. I'm sure there is something I intended to do tonight, but I have no earthly clue what it might have been, so unless it leaps out at me when I walk over to my desk to pack up my bags, it'll have to just lurk wherever it is until I remember it--or it goes away entirely.

Tomorrow, after all, is another day. And I'll think about that tomorrow, when I'm stronger.

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