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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

One pearl through the floor-boards

Or one plate fallen to the ground, whichever metaphor you prefer for having let something slip, goddammit. Since the start of the semester, I've been looking at the Le Guin novella that the SF students are going to read as the grand finale of the term and thinking, "No, I don't want to have that copied yet; I want to be more sure how many students will be left by that point first." Well, I suddenly realized that we start it right after Thanksgiving and--once again (and all together now)--Thanksgiving is next week.

I was in the middle of writing a long paragraph explaining all about how I needed to make sure I knew by next Wednesday whether the campus printing service could have it for me by Monday, Nov. 30, so I could hand it out on Dec. 1--and then I thought, Oh, Fuck: I have to hand it out next Tuesday, because the first section is due on the 1st. Then I thought, No, wait, that can't be right....

OK, I need to have it ready to hand out to students on Dec. 3, which is a little better than I thought, but still, I've decided I don't want to hassle with the potential slowness of our printing service: I'd rather take it to Staples or Kinkos or wherever and pay for it and know for sure that I'll have it on time.

I need to go to Staples anyway. So, well, there you have it.

So, the pearl fell through the floor boards, but I've managed to fish it back out again. Whew.

Today was a minor monster of a day. Advisement was mostly what one would expect, though there was one student who drove me nearly out of my skull. As I started to advise him, he was texting, so that started things off on just exactly the right foot, as you can imagine. But also, he really thought that I was going to make his schedule for him: not only was I going to tell him exactly which courses to take, I was going to set up the days and times. Um, no, I explained: this is college. You know your schedule, and you have a lot of possibilities to choose from. So, you get to choose which of these many courses you use to fulfill this requirement, and you get to choose the courses that meet on days and times that suit you. He wasn't very happy with that, but I tried to sound peppy and cheerful: "How fun! You get to do this all by yourself! You get to make your own choices with no grown-up person telling you what you have to do! Isn't that exciting!"

But then, just trying to explain to him the various areas I was recommending that he cover in the spring was torture. I didn't even try to explain the whole degree the way I usually do, because I could tell he'd just get hopelessly lost. I don't know if he was stoned or stupid--or both--but I would explain something very simple to him,and  he'd get it wrong. I'd explain again; he'd say what he'd just said (you know: the thing he'd gotten wrong). I'd explain again; he'd understand (hooray! progress!); we'd move on--then I'd review, and he'd get that same thing wrong again.

I came within a micron of saying, "Leave. I don't mean just leave this cubicle, or leave the Advisement Center. I mean leave this campus, this college, college anywhere. Do not go to any academic institution of any kind for at least five years. Grow a brain. Figure out why you need one. Then come back. You don't belong here."

But I didn't. My very strong hunch is that he'll flunk out very soon--and he'll end up having to go out there and try to grow a brain without my having to tell him that's what he needs to do. But ye gods, my patience--which is running thin at this point in the semester anyway--was certainly tried.

I then observed a colleague who has been the subject of some significant complaints by students. I don't feel this is the forum in which I should say much about that except to note that I can see why.

Then class. Most of the students were there, and--what a relief--the best of the brains were there, so there could be a real discussion. They'd done the reading, so we had a great conversation. I suspect they're going to struggle to find a focus for this final paper--and that's largely my fault, I confess. There are so many different angles I see as important to address regarding the ways in which our interactions with electronic communication is affecting our behaviors, our patterns of thought, our expectations, that I'm not sure where I really want students to focus. I'll talk to them about it all next week; we should start trying to come to some kind of focus earlier rather than later. These topics have a tendency to get bigger and bigger instead of more and more precise, and we need to fight against that tendency.

I then came back to the office and marked all the remaining homework for the SF class, so that's all ready to go. I have the triage list for what I'm taking home over the weekend--which looks like I need a moving van to get it all home (and will look even more daunting after I collect papers from the M&D students tomorrow)--but it's not actually as horrifying as it appears, as a lot of it is the appurtenances that attend the particular assignment (previous versions, research for the 101 papers, that sort of bilge).

But as of right now, I'm damned near cross-eyed with fatigue, so I'm going to stare at all the stuff around and on my desk for a few minutes to make sure I have everything with me that I need to take home tonight, and then, my faithful readers, I'm outta here.

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