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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Level of annoyance: moderate. Level of frustration: moderate to low

I'm making a leeetle yoke with myself in the title of this post. In the overview of critical material that I've been working on (and complaining about), one piece of each precis is the level of reading difficulty. I realize, I'm considering what would be difficult (or not) for my students--again, the thing about needing to run some of this past former students (the bright ones; that's the only kind I keep in contact with) and colleagues from different sorts of institutions--and as I'm rating levels of difficulty, I find I need all sorts of gradations. Hence, my estimation of today's frustration level as "moderate to low."

The frustration level is moderate largely because of one factor that shouldn't bug me but does. My P&B "mentor" for my promotion application finally--at the nth hour--had the letter of support ready and in my folder. Fortunately, I was already on campus, so I didn't have to dash in just to put initials on those sheets of paper (yes, every single item in the entire folder must be initialed by the candidate: idiocy but it's meant to protect us from having things show up in our applications that we might not want there). Unfortunately, her use of language was (is) unfortunate in one particular area.

Bear in mind, I already had to correct some errors of fact. I also let one error of fact go: I no longer teach theme-based 101 classes, but there is still a segment about environmental issues, so talking about my "ecopedagogy" isn't incorrect. (I'll be presenting about exactly that at this summer's ASLE conference, in fact.) I also knew that P&B would ask her to cut it down--it was ridiculously long and way overboard with the enthusiasm. And I will say that one of the errors of fact was corrected nicely. However, in correcting what she'd said about my current project (which she had stated was already finished), she ended up saying that I was working to help students handle material that is "obtuse," and that I am able to make it "palatable."

Now, Le Guin's writing may be a lot of things, but "obtuse" it ain't, by any stretch of the imagination. And I sure hope I'm doing more than just soothing my students' gag reflex.

I came within a hair's breadth of contacting the letter writer to ask her to use other terms--I even had to check in with another colleague about it (Cathy just happened to be there when I was reading over the letter)--but I let it go. In a previous draft, the letter writer had called me "a phenomena." Setting aside whether I'm "an exceptional, unusual, or abnormal person" (students would probably agree with the last of those), I'm pretty sure there's only one of me.

Honestly, I worry about some of my colleagues. Aren't we supposed to have a grasp of the language?

And to focus more on what was good about the day rather than what annoyed me, I also spent a great half hour or so with a colleague immediately after today's meeting, fixing up a preliminary preference form, and not only was it easy to do, working side by side with him, one of his office mates was also there--and made a point of telling me that they'd been talking about me the other day and agreed that I should be chair of the department when Bruce retires. I was grateful for the vote of confidence and for the admiration, even though I'd never in a gazillion years chair the department. We all talked some about the preference form and various other topics branching out from there--but the experience reminded me how incredibly blessed we are in the department. I may worry about some of my colleagues, but many--even most--are bright as hell and know how to be people at the same time. It's a rare and beautiful privilege to work with them. I haven't had as much time to sit with those two in particular as I'd like. I'm almost ready to start holding little parties just for the folks I like best, so we can hang out and talk shop.

The other thing I can focus on--the reason why my frustration level is trending downward--is that the meeting was actually pretty damned good. I didn't need the heavy ammo, even though I started out by clearly stating that even faculty pairs is a compromise, as far as I'm concerned. But all of us around the table had beneficial points to make, and the dean was pretty ready to be persuaded; her concern was whether she could in turn persuade the administration, the college attorney (who has to agree that what we're proposing fills the requirement as stated in the contract), and the Board of Trustees. For each potential argument she put up, we had the answer: no room for argument. I was proud of us all. We were honest, we were clear, and we were civil. Too bad the same can't be said more widely across campus, but then again, I work in the best department with the most intelligent, articulate, and interesting people. Of course.

So the only point of frustration is that I ended up being on campus longer than I'd anticipated (which I should have anticipated), and by the time I left, I was too tired, hungry, and head-achy to embark on any work. However, now is when I begin to feel the relief of having withdrawn from the psych course: originally, I was going to devote tomorrow to that work, but now I can spend the day doing my own work instead. So much better. Whew.

As is usually the case, writing a blog post helps put the annoyance as well as the frustration in perspective, and I can honestly report that both have dropped so low they barely register. Now I can glide into the evening and rest up for a big burst of productivity tomorrow. Ask Scarlett: it worked for her.

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