The M&D class was pretty quick today: it was awfully clear that the vast majority of them hadn't done the reading, so they didn't have questions to ask (and if they had done the reading, they'd have had questions, as I know they don't understand about Hopi-Navajo conflict, or the cultures of those two peoples, or the landscapes of the desert southwest, or .... I could go on). I let them go way early, but just as I did, a few students showed up with papers to turn in. I ended up talking with one of the young women from class. I'm surprised I haven't talked about her before. I can always count on her to contribute to conversation: she's not super A+ material, but she's plenty bright, and she's enthusiastic and interested and willing to work hard. She told me that she'd seen one of the frankly disastrous tutors in the Writing Center, and the conversation rambled from there to revision techniques to analysis to how to convey to students earlier what is needed from them to the learning curve to I don't know what all, but finally we circled around to the fact that my favorite part of my job is working with students one-on-one (which is true)--and that I am delighted to engage in long e-mail conversations. One of my former 101 students was there--head down on her desk, clearly either miserable or falling asleep--and I said she could testify to my love of e-mail conversations. Her head came up at that, and I asked if she was OK. She started talking about the struggles she's having at home, having to take on lots of family responsibility, and the other young woman chimed in with the same thing. Listening to the two of them, I was struck all over again with the fact that many many many of our students have lives that are beyond chaotic--and it's no wonder they struggle academically. I almost feel like I should start every semester with all my students, regardless of the class, telling me what their lives look like: who do you live with, what's your home life like, what kind of responsibilities do you have to deal with, do you have enough to eat, do you have a safe place to sleep... A lot of what we see as disengagement or hostility is just survival: they're in fight or flight mode, all the time.
And I complain because I have stacks of papers to grade. Dear god, let me remember to be grateful for how unbelievably fucking easy my life is.
It was quite the day in terms of feeling like I was being chased down the cattle chute--and very much unlike my usual pattern, I actually stayed to the very end of the department meeting, despite the fact that I very nearly killed a colleague. (Long story that isn't worth going into, but she got furious about something because she pole vaulted to an incorrect conclusion and said that she thought P&B collectively had gone completely out of control--to which I responded "Thank you very much" and walked away.) But apart from that one moment, we had significantly less of the usual kind of whining and/or snotty conflict creation than we usually have, so I didn't feel I had to leave in order to preserve my adrenal glands. And I did manage to read the five chapters of the Tony Hillerman novel for M&D--because it took me all of about 20 minutes.
Since getting back to the office, I've been answering e-mails, organizing flotsam, taking care of things that have been about to burst into flames because they've been on the back burner so long--but my solution to the problem of developing a triage system for the papers I have to grade is to simply put everything, including the relevant check sheets (which do help reduce my marking time) into a bag--along with my absolutely gorgeous, useful, and supremely pragmatic folding editor's desk--and haul the whole megillah home. I'll do the triage tomorrow. My main ambition for the moment is to get out of here. I promised myself that I'd leave before 8, and it looks like I might even get out of here before 7:30. Wonders abound. Miracles never cease. I offer thanks and praise, and genuine gratitude.