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Thursday, September 17, 2015

Weekly wrap-up

I'm set for Monday: things loaded into the bag I'll carry to Advisement with me, so I have plenty to do between advisees, and even a triage list created, in case I forget which end is up, or who's on first, or which class I have to teach next.

I was visited by another of those minor miracles in which I actually manage to get the work done before class. OK, well, full confession: I didn't get to reread the entire chunk of A Study in Scarlet that I'd assigned, but I reviewed my annotations and notes, so I was ready enough. I am, however, taking home the copies of both that and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? that I've been reading and annotating, so I can get that done over the weekend. All the assignment marking, however, I'll do here in the office.

I did have a Homer Simpson moment, however, when--after all the students had departed from the SF class--I realized I hadn't returned their previous assignments (which I'd beaten myself to a pulp to get marked), nor had I talked to them about the problems/errors I'm seeing in their responses to the reading. Well, on Tuesday, I'll give them the whole megillah--including what I collected today.

Mr. Hostility was absent from SF today--and strangely, no one seemed to miss him. Two young women stayed after class to say that they'd had the best time yet in their groups: they're both very intelligent and dedicated as students, and in their previous groups, they'd been with student who either couldn't or wouldn't think in any depth about the reading. Today, just by luck of the draw, they were both in groups with someone (or in one case, two someones) who could engage in bouncing ideas around. I told them that I was going to continue to scramble groups for a while, and when they're in groups with students who aren't as prepared or contemplative as they are, they should take charge and model what is possible--but that eventually I will start micro-managing the groups so the good students can have the pleasure of being with other good students. They deserve the enjoyment--and the boost to their own learning. One of them said she didn't want to name names, but I said, "Please do!" They may be aware of dynamics that I can't determine from my position. It was great to see them both lit up, so I may start micro-managing the groups sooner than I normally would--but it would be nice to get some of the lumber out of the way first.

In the Mystery class, I did give them the discussion about how to improve responses, and I did return their previous assignments--but in both classes, I had to boot some people for not coming to class prepared, and I said that today would be the last day that I'd allow students to stay who didn't have their responses and print copies of the reading. I let some stay if they had done the reading, even if they were missing one of the two components, but those who were missing both? Gone. I'm not sure what it says about the classes that the students who left SF were somewhat sullen and sulky about it, whereas the one student who had to leave M&D was completely understanding about it.

Speaking of which, I walked across campus with Kristin today, and she was relating the story of a student who sent her a nasty e-mail about how Kristin had "bullied" her and been inappropriate by asking the student where her textbook was. That's precisely what Kristin said: the student said she didn't have her book and Kristin said, "Where is it?" That was the hostile, bullying, inappropriate thing Kristin did. I swear, some of these "kids" are made of spun glass--or spun sugar: they shatter or dissolve at the least little thing. "Fragile" doesn't cover it. Of course, I want to strangle Kristin's student for her, but she wrote a very clear, rational e-mail--which the student probably will never read. They do that: they throw a bomb via e-mail and then flee any repercussions that may come through a response.

Well, at least it wasn't any of my students. I did have to talk to one student about plagiarizing her response, but I was proud of her for confessing. I hadn't been able to find anything specific online, but she admitted that her sister wrote it. She did say that her sister wrote what she told her to (um, I don't think so)--but I encouraged her to ask her questions in her responses, instead of turning to her sister or online for the answers. I hope she does; I hope she actually engages in the difficult work of learning.

The M&D class seemed to roll just fine: a couple of students are doing excellent work, and so far, what lumber there is hasn't gotten in the way quite as much as it seems to in SF. But the discussion in SF was much more animated: Androids is giving them a lot to think about, which is great. (And I am soon to be the proud owner of a DVD of Blade Runner.)

During my office hour today, I met with one of my former students who is in the M&D class: she's getting ready to graduate and wants to transfer to a small, private, liberal arts college--specifically those that have programs for people who are a little older and who are getting a new start. I think she came to see me just for some reassurance, which I was happy to offer. She was terrific in 101, and she's doing fine in M&D; I recommended that she join the honors program, and I think she has. I'll be happy to write her a glowing letter of recommendation. I also met with a student who was in my fiction class last year: she wants a letter of recommendation, and I wasn't sure whether I could, in good conscience, provide one: she wasn't a great writer back then, but her e-mail was clear, precise, error-free... and after talking with her, I can, in fact, give her a good recommendation without feeling like I'm spinning a line of bullshit. She's not quite sure what direction she wants to take from here: I think she's rather hoping the cosmos gives her a clear indication of where she should go, as she's applying to two prelaw programs and one in educational psych. These are undergrad programs, so she'll have to make it through those before she goes on to the real deal for either career path--but I won't be surprised if she ends up doing something else entirely: neither feels like the right fit for her to me. Not that I'm an expert in her capability or interests, but still.

Shifting gears entirely, I happened to glance at what I got in the way of preliminary essays from the 101 students, and one of them is A) in pencil and 2) more of an outline than an actual essay. This is from the student who cannot make sense of assignment sheets. Two other students were absent, and I've heard nothing from them about submission of their essays. I'll lay any odds that they show up on Monday with their essays and expect that I'll take them.

But this leads me to remember that, for 101s at least, I really do need to go over the syllabus in detail--and the assignment sheets, too. After they've been around the block a few times, I can expect them to pay attention to handouts--but not at first. So, my main question is, should I accept those late papers or not? My inclination right now is to accept them but with a whopping huge grade penalty. Whatever I decide, I will definitely go over the rules and regs in class, in part because we can use that as a spring board into the discussion of whether high school adequately prepares students for college. (In these instances, the answer is "no.") I don't particularly want to lose the two students who missed class yesterday--but the poor benighted soul who cannot decipher an assignment sheet? I'm going to have a very hard time keeping any kind of patience with him. And the Irrepressible Student is driving me batshit in his own lovely way, being surprised about everything (like, oh, that I actually want students to think).

But I need to end the week on a positive note, so I'll note that I have my first seminar hours appointment on Monday, and the student not only responded to my e-mail confirming our appointment, she wants to ask about the honors program. I could not possibly be more thrilled. Ironic that I wanted to mentor honors students and we were told we couldn't (and the colleague who was going to lead that cohort tried to poach this student from me when I told her and Scott about the interest in honors mentoring). I actually would enjoy mentoring students, so I'm hoping we start to get more of them, and soon.

On that note, however, I'm going to tie a bow around this work week and put it aside for the present....

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