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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Early warnings

Oh, I forgot: that's considered too harsh these days. We're now obligated to give "academic progress reports." But the mechanism for that hasn't geared up yet--and I already see signs of drowning among my students, so I'm letting them know they're about to go under unless they reach out for help.

And sometimes that means the attrition begins. "Wait, you mean I have to come to class? On time?? Forget it, Bitch, I'm outta here."

On the other hand, at least one student got the actual message: she came to me during class to find out when she could meet with me. I told her to send an e-mail so we could find a time that works for us both. She may still drown, but there's hope for her, if she's willing to not only come in for help but make use of the help.

The student from that class who came to me before--smart woman--apparently tried to see me yesterday, but in a fit of insanity, I'd gone down the hall to talk to the agitated colleague who has been concerned about the distribution of online courses. That colleague had sent me an e-mail over the weekend, asking me to call her. I actually did try, though I considered keeping my weekend sacrosanct, but I kept getting a "call could not be completed" message. Since neither she nor I have class at 2:00 on Mondays, I said I'd drop by--yes, I admit, rather forgetting that I have an office hour at that time. The student was a little annoyed, but I was abjectly apologetic--and she'll probably come on Thursday, or if not, then on Monday next.

And in the M&D class, I was handing back assignments, and a student right under my nose complained about how he always seemed to get the same (low) mark on his responses. Without looking up, still looking through the stack of papers in my hand, I said, "Maybe it's time to come see me to find out what you can do to make them better."

Oh. Yeah. That.

Shifting back to the SF class, the two very bright young women who talked to me about problems with their experience in groups talked to me again after class. It's a long, complicated story, which I won't get into here and now, but I do think it's about time for me to start micro-managing the groups, making sure that the good students are together--though there are times when I want the good students in groups with the not-so-good, so the shakier scholars get a sense of what is possible. That's a difficult line to walk--but now that the early warnings have gone out, I will start getting more cold-hearted about cutting the life lines.

Both classes were a little lead-balloony today, but I have hopes that on Thursday, they'll both be cooking along better. The SF students are a little overwhelmed by Oryx and Crake, the M&D students have a hard time shifting from the TV Sherlock to reading (or vice versa). We're reading The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, and I had fun talking a little about the "manor house" mystery (a student said the book felt like a game of Clue: dingdingdingding, give the woman a cigar!) and about stock characters. Next class, I'll talk about how Christie was also in some ways inventing the genre--but about how we can see traces of other literary bloodlines in her work: I'm noticing a tendency toward Dickensian naming of characters: Major Blunt, the nosy butler Parker--or is it Palmer? I have name aphasia today. I need to do what I recommended the students do: create a character "cheat sheet" that gives a quick reminder of who's who and what they're up to, why they're potential suspects.... 

But getting back to the idea of life lines, I'm pretty annoyed with a student from the 101. I will give him credit for engaging in e-mail conversation with me, but he missed a lot of classes, including the library class, so he sent an e-mail from the library--clearly expecting an instant response--saying, "I'm at the library and typing in 'articles on education,' but I know that isn't right." Oh god, where to start? I sent him a rather lengthy e-mail in response, but I did say that I couldn't possibly re-teach the entire library class, that he's learning a painful lesson about missing class, and that the help I offered in the e-mail was as far as I was going to go in terms of helping him research for tomorrow's assignment.

I'm so afraid of where that class is going to end up. William and I were talking about it today, and he put it beautifully: when the bright students have poor attendance in a class that small, we're essentially held hostage by the smart ones. We don't dare enforce our rules because god forbid we should lose that precious student. I don't think I'm going to lose the best student(s) from the 101, but I may lose most of them.

Well, we'll see.

On a completely different front, a colleague came into the office today right before I had to go to P&B, asking if I did MDC. I said "no," not really understanding what she was asking, but after she talked to William a bit, I realized she was looking for someone to be on a round-table she's formed for the Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA) conference, specifically talking about interdisciplinarity. Thinking about the panel at last November's CCHA, I said I could do it. I did ask her the dates, but she wasn't sure, and I agreed without knowing. Turns out, it's immediately before our spring break. Shit. I don't really want anything to interfere with spring break--even the run up to it--but aha! The conference is in Hartford, Connecticut, so unless our panel is frighteningly early in the morning (and possibly even if it is), I don't have to be at the whole conference, or even spend the night. I can go up for the presentation, maybe have lunch with a colleague or two, and head home again, all in one day. Despite the fact that Kristin is one of the conference organizers, and that another colleague used to be the president of NeMLA--and despite the vast horde of colleagues who go regularly--I just don't want a lot to do with that conference: it seems too big and unwieldy and formal to me. The only conference I've ever been to that I've thought "Oh, this is great! I want to come all the time!" is ASLE. I've considered going back two others--one because of the focus (fantasy and SF) and the other because it's usually held in Albuquerque (where I have family)--but generally, my innate introversion makes conference going a bit of a trial for me, so if I can get the jollies of presenting without having to do the full immersion, I'll be thrilled to bits.

As a final note, I have to admit, sheepishly, that I am finding it somewhat difficult to summon up the energy for a full, normal week of classes. Part of me would like very much to bail on Advisement tomorrow morning--but Paul's right: it's best to save up those days for when there's actually a grind of work in Advisement, not for days like we're having now. (OK, another annoyance: because I'm in a cubicle that's out in public, and the professional advisers are all tucked back out of sight, I end up seeing almost every student who comes in the door. Yesterday, I even said, "Am I the only one seeing anybody?" But I digress.) I'll do my best to be a good little girl tomorrow, sit in Advisement and crank through 101 homework so I can return it to the students in class.

But that will be tomorrow.... For now, I'm toast. I'm going to crunch my way off campus.

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