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Wednesday, December 16, 2015


It's been one of those days when I'm not quite sure what to do, whether there is anything I can actually complete or whether I just need to make at least a little forward progress on as many different fronts as possible. I've tended rather toward the latter, though I have cleaned up a few little dust bunny type chores that have been drifting around. Among other things, I got my preliminary final paperwork all set up, so once I've actually read all the dang-blanged papers, all I'll have to do is use my trusty calculator, plug in the numbers, and that'll be that. It's fussy, noodly little idiocy, I know: I don't know that it actually saves me any time or energy, but it feels cleaner and neater somehow, so even if it actually takes more time, just the fact that I don't feel like those pearls are bouncing all over the floor is worth the futzing around.

I also noodled around with the Poetry class prep. I want nice, neat, clean copies of the poems, and I want the poems separate--not two or three all photocopied together in a clump--so I can pick and choose in a more dainty fashion. Again, fussy and futzy, but hey. I'd like to have a selection already pulled together of way more poems than I think we'll actually read, if at all possible. I don't know whether we're likely to get through five a day, five a week, what. A lot will depend on the poems, I know, but I'd rather have too much and have to cut back than have to scramble to find more ideas as the semester is getting hairy.

I'm also trying to get some mental themes going, so I can try to come up with more structured paper assignments. The last time I taught the class--five years ago--I had the students do 1-2 page papers that were close reads, and those were supposed to lead into their longer papers, but it didn't work very well. The smarter, stronger students can come up with themes/thesis ideas through in-depth exploration of the poems; the vast majority need more guidance and structure. But at the moment, I'm looking at the poems I'm pulling out and thinking, "Damned if I'd know how to pull a paper out of this." Well, I probably could now, because of that whole "I have a doctorate" thing, so I could do mountains of research until I felt like I knew enough to say something marginally intelligent. But I don't want to make students use critical sources any more: they had such a hard time with it, and honestly, I got tired of the plagiarism. Still, this class may need a little critical backup, just to give them something to hang on to. I do have some stuff already copied that I used before, and I'm sure I can find some more. I don't mind providing it (in fact, I prefer that: again, it's the plagiarism thing). But all I can think is, "Oh, Christ, that's yet one more thing I have to wrap my brain around and then actually do..."

(Would you like a little whine with that?)

I must say, considering how the day started, I'm feeling remarkably calm and collected. I had to get here early (and of course was much later than I should have been: had a hard time getting out of the house and then hit bad traffic)--because I had to meet with Bruce and Cathy and the problematic adjunct: I may or may not have mentioned this before. The meeting was uncomfortably contentious: there wasn't any good way to address the problems with the guy, and he was primed and ready to read everything we said as hostile (including "and" and "but"), but I did feel that my role was largely to act as the diplomat and mediator: to calm everyone down and get to the heart of the matter. If it weren't for the fact that I hate confrontation so profoundly, and feel so physically disturbed in the wake of it, I'd have made an excellent diplomat, I think. I freely confess that I have my moments when I put both feet squarely in it, for sure: my diplomatic sensibilities fail me utterly on occasion. But by and large, I think I'm pretty good at presenting things in a way that is honest, accurate, but emotionally neutral, so no one gets knotted knickers. So, the meeting ended with everyone's panties pretty well untwisted, I think--though I don't think it would take much at all for the parties concerned, probably including yours truly, to get wound pretty tightly again.

In any event, I came back to the office to find Paul in a hell of a state because he'd blown up at students in his class--quite rightly, I must say--and he was both angry with the students (who were being whiny, irresponsible, immature little shits) and with himself for blowing up and thereby upsetting the rest of the class. So  he and I had a nice little exchange of "This is why I'm in a snit, how about you?" He really is too hard on himself (and again, he really was quite right to blow up at those students), but I understand his frustration. We're all stretched pretty thin, and Paul even more than most, because of all the unmitigated shit he has to deal with in trying to do his job as a member of the Academic Senate Executive Committee.

I hope he's feeling better, has forgiven himself, is in his little apartment down here doing something to relax and take care of himself. I am about to try to straighten out the piles of crap so they won't come crashing down on the cleaning staff; then I'm heading out--unflustered, unruffled, surprisingly sanguine. Maybe I'm just too tired to feel anxious: I have been here almost 11 hours, and on only about six hours of sleep. Or maybe things are that good.

I like that option. Let's go with that.

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