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Monday, September 21, 2015

Quick(ish) post

I have to get out of here pretty soon, and I feel unduly flurried: I didn't get everything marked for the 101 class today, as I ended up actually doing some advising in Advisement (who could imagine such a strange turn of events?), and I managed to forget the important handout for today, had a huge list of things I wanted to go over, didn't get very far... but it was a good enough class. I hate that I don't see them again until next week, but then we settle down for a while.

I have a lot of stuff to mark for the two electives, too, and I know there is no way I can get it all marked before the first class tomorrow--and there won't be any other time tomorrow, so this time I'll make sure I have everything for the SF class and the M&D class will have to survive without feedback until Thursday. I am definitely taking work home on Wednesday: whether marking student assignments is some kind of atonement, I won't try to ascertain, but I will spend the Day of Atonement doing precisely that. I have to get most if not all of it done, too, as Thursday starts with a Seminar Hours meeting, then there's an MDC event that I will attend if I am not too rattled and exhausted by the madness of all things seminar, then I have the SF class, and one little measly office hour in which to try to finish up anything that's still lingering for the M&D class--but I also want to be at least mostly caught up for the 101 on Monday.

And here we go 'round the prickly pear.

I had two nice one-on-one meetings with students today. They took time I might otherwise have spent on marking stuff, but meeting with students is always time well spent, in my estimation. The first was during my office hour: a student from SF e-mailed me over the weekend to say that she wasn't happy with her marks on her reading responses and wanted to talk with me about them. I am always impressed when a student wants to figure out how to do better while it's still early enough to do something different. She's actually making decent marks, but she was disappointed that her marks weren't improving. English is not her first language, and she has never read SF before, so she's struggling to make sense of things. I realize how much I take for granted about what can be deduced from very little information in SF. There's mention of "the colonies"--and even without other information about where those colonies are located, for anyone who reads SF at all, it's clear that the colonies are off world, whether on Mars or on space stations or in different solar systems doesn't matter. But she was baffled. Part of the problem, however, was that she hadn't looked up the word "colony"--and somehow, despite knowing about the 13 Colonies of the proto-U.S., she didn't know what a "colony" is. So, that's part of what she learned by sitting with me.

But she also figured out something about asking questions--"Is this character an android? Here's the evidence that would suggest yes; here's the evidence that would suggest no"--and about moving from an observation to an awareness of something significant: "I notice that animals are very important; everyone wants one and real ones are very expensive. Why might it be so important to have an animal, especially a real one? Here are all the places where people are talking about animals: what might I gather from what is said and how people in the novel behave?" Then she figured out something about the connection between reading responses and writing essays: "Oh, I want to write something about that thing about animals: where was that? What ideas did I have? What came up in class discussion? What did Prof. P say?"

So I asked her if she'd be willing for me to explain to the rest of the class what happened in our meeting so they can learn from her experience. She also mentioned that she was struggling to understand, and some of her classmates said they'd just gone online and looked up a summary; I assured her that she is doing the right thing, and her classmates are doing themselves a deep disservice by going to "cheater" sites.

That, in turn, leads me to reflect that, in the future, I will not ask for any summary: just for their questions, ideas, thoughts. Hard to have any of those about something specific in what you've read if you  haven't actually done the reading and are just relying on an online summary.

The other pleasant encounter with a student was the young woman who came to see me as a mentor. She's highly self-motivated and probably doesn't need mentoring at all, but I'm happy to help her out. And she may be the only student I see all semester, the way things are going.

But the bells just rang, telling me that it's time for me to go--so, more tomorrow... whether the sun comes out or not, whether I'm stronger or not....

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