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Thursday, December 17, 2015

Comin' in tomorrow, goin' home tonight

That sounds like a country music song, don't it. But no: it simply describes my frame of mind. It is--by my usual schedule--wildly early, the roosters have barely opened their eyes (OK, so maybe I exaggerate a bit), and yet, I'm about ready to pack it in and head off into the rainy night. I didn't get very far today in terms of working on the adjunct schedules, so that has to be my first priority tomorrow. The office is closing early, too, so I have to be sure to be here in plenty of time to get in there before they lock the doors.

As I was in there, working on the scheduling, I gave Bruce a little bit of a hard time because he was apparently going to work right through the department "meeting"/party--which ostensibly he has to be there to run. I had no intention of going to the party part--being the raging introvert that I am--but I was going to be there for the department meeting part. However, Bruce decided not to make any announcements: he felt they'd just be downers, and he didn't want to end the semester on that note. Fair enough.

So I returned to his office, went back to scheduling--and suddenly remembered that I actually had a class to meet at 1:00. It was 12:55. Bruce very kindly didn't harass me in turn for getting so involved in what I was doing that I forgot I actually had another responsibility--and the students didn't mind that I was a few minutes late.

Both classes weren't really classes, as such. I made sure they had their names and a page number in the upper right hand corner of each page of their papers; I made sure they had works cited pages; I made sure that those who wanted to know their paper grade or to receive comments made a note to that effect on the first page of their essays. I distributed the self-evaluation assignment--which is barely an assignment at all (as I went to great lengths to point out): informal, personal voice, no need to think about it very hard. But I did explain the rationale for the assignment. First, as I explained, I think it's important for them to look back to what they knew at the beginning of the semester and recognize what they've learned. It's particularly important for them to have learned something about the actual literature we've been reading (and I didn't mention this point, but this is actually a kind of test for me: if they haven't learned anything of substance about the genre in question, I need to reconsider how I approach the material). However, they can also talk about anything they've learned (like "never take a class from Prof. TLP"). The other reason for the assignment is that it helps me make adjustments, depending on what works and what doesn't--and most important, why X or Y works, or doesn't.

Most of the students were there on time, but there were a few stragglers, so as I waited for them, I started grading papers--particularly the ones for which the student had requested comments.

Between classes I didn't even try to get back into the adjunct scheduling thing. I don't quite know what I did: it was another time of shreds and patches. I know I did some photocopying of poems I may teach, and I shuffled some stacks of paper around for various reasons ... who knows. Anyway, the M&D class ran essentially the same way the SF class had earlier: same spiel, same use of the time while waiting for stragglers.

My favorite bit was the last of the stragglers. She's one of the young women with a train-wreck of a home life but who is dazzling and delightful in class. I'd gotten an e-mail from her earlier today, indicating that she was floundering in trying to find a thesis--but I didn't get her message until so late that all I could say was, essentially, "Finish it any way you can so you have something to turn in." And I told her I'd be in the room until 5:15, so she had until then to finish the paper, print it, and bring it to me. She arrived maybe a few minutes before 5, and we ended up having a great chat. One part of the conversation with her I'd had earlier with two of her classmates (a triumvirate of lovely young women): all three said that they'd had to write their way into a thesis, and two of them said that--for the first time--they'd started with the evidence instead of with a thesis-esque idea. All three of them  had the "ah-hah!" moment, when suddenly the point one is actually making reveals itself. The issue then, of course, is to have allowed oneself enough time to go back to the beginning and rework the whole essay to focus on that point, from introduction/thesis all the way through to conclusion. And that takes time.

As I was talking with the young woman at the very end of class, I realized that this is the first year I haven't given my "panic earlier" speech, nor my "college will change you" speech. Maybe I'll give those speeches at the end of the semester, instead of at the beginning, like I usually do. Maybe those set pieces of mine will make more sense to the students now.

We'll see.

I confess to feeling more than a little anxiety now. That calm, sanguine feeling of yesterday has been replaced with just enough subterranean rumblings of nonspecific worry for me to be aware of it, but not enough for me to do anything much about it. I could, I know, try to manage some of the worry by staying here longer to get more work done, but you know what? I'm coming in tomorrow. Tomorrow is soon enough. I'm with Scarlett again: I'll think about it tomorrow, when I'm stronger. (Always assuming I will be stronger, of course, but I suspect an early night might help restore some of the diminished intestinal fortitude.)

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