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Thursday, December 22, 2016

Not quite the midnight oil...

When the alarm went off this morning, at the usual time, I just couldn't. I couldn't be up yet. I went back to sleep--and slept much later than I intended, so I spent the late morning having repeated little anxiety attacks about how late I'd have to be here to get everything done. Answer: about 8:15 p.m.

I had a little fit of ... I don't quite know what to call it: I realized that I could actually mathematically figure out what the equivalents of number grades would be if the A+ equivalent was a 35, or 15, or 20, or whatever, and that my guesstimates had been pretty far off. I almost went back through to re-do every grade form for the class I'd already finished--but I checked a few, and the error made zero difference to the outcomes: the number values were easily within rounding range. But I will change those equivalents for myself ... sometime. I am sure as shit not doing it tonight.

All my grades have been recorded on hard rosters and submitted to Banner. A few students who came in with last-minute withdrawals managed to get the withdrawals processed before I submitted grades. A few students who got withdrawal slips some time ago never submitted them--and now have the "ouch" of an unofficial withdrawal, which affects GPA as if it were an F.

Each class had one or two F's. Each class had one or two A's. There are more D's than B's in the comps; about an even spread in the SF class. A whole lotta withdrawals in the SF in particular. Perhaps slightly fewer in the 102s--but I did lose a bunch at the end, over the novel. Shame, that.

The office closed 6 hours ago, so I'll be leaving my hard rosters on the office door--and I'll live without the photocopies of them that I usually make. My desk is a bit of a disaster area, but it will just have to be like that until January.

I got an e-mail today from the Distance Ed folks, saying that there is some kind of problem with my 102s, so I can't simply copy the information into next semester's courses. I don't know how big of a problem this is going to be, but if I have to reinvent the wheel, as it were, I don't think that will be too problematic. It's mostly a matter of uploading the files I use for general purposes; the syllabus and Turnitin links and all that stuff would be new anyway. I haven't heard from them yet whether I can just say "These are the bits I'd like to copy" and have them sort it out or whether I have to sit down with someone and work through it: I'm hoping the former. But we'll see how it goes.

I imagine I will post to the blog from time to time over the break, as I sort things out for spring, and as I'm back on campus dealing with adjunct scheduling. Oh, speaking of which: come the start of the spring semester, I can look forward to meeting with the adjunct I observed, Cathy, and the adjunct union rep: apparently, the students said that the adjunct was horrible to them when she found out there'd been a complaint--and the students said, "When that lady came to see the class, she [the instructor] was great: if she'd taught us like that all semester, we'd be really happy." Imagine my delight at the prospect of trying to hash things out with this woman. Cathy has already said, union or no union, the adjunct won't be teaching 001 again--and that we're going to start proceedings to have her removed, whatever that entails. The fun just never stops around here.

But that's for January. More immediately, I have a day packed with life maintenance tomorrow (cat to vet, riding lesson, violin lesson, grocery shopping), but I hope I can get some prep done on the Nature in Lit on Saturday, as a Christmas gift to myself. But if I don't have the oomph for it, so be it. Somehow it will all come out right in the end. It always does.


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Not quite as much as I'd hoped

I really hoped I could have the numbers crunched for at least one class today, but that isn't going to happen unless I stay very late--and I'm tired enough I'm afraid I'll make mistakes. I did get everything marked for one section of 102--the smaller, later section--but only because I also had to do an assessment of informational literacy for that section, and I'm already more than a week late with my response. It really wasn't hard to do: I just had to evaluate how well students had understood, used, and cited the critical material in their essays and do a simple tally on an Excel spreadsheet, but I kept forgetting to do it, having to back up, remind myself what I'd read...

I also was hampered a bit in my forward progress by the need to actually comment on essays. I have all that work done, so things should progress more rapidly tomorrow--but I really need a new calculator. (Yes, yes, I know I can use my phone--but it doesn't work as well as an actual calculator does.) The little charge panel on the one I've used for years is apparently fried, won't hold a charge...

One more thing to get at Staples. I had a list of things I wanted to remember to get at Staples. It's with those two missing files and the lost book. (Rowf, growr, bazz-fazz.)

The students today weren't terribly interested in getting into a discussion of the semester, what they learned, what worked, what didn't. A few expressed disappointment that future students in 102 won't be reading The Left Hand of Darkness, but a few clearly stated that they fell apart at the end over that novel.

I come back to it over and over: Every time I think I have come to an understanding of why they find the novel so hard, I find myself returning to "yeah, but ... why is it so hard??" We all agreed that they probably could have managed it better if we'd spent more time on it--and I'm sure they're right, but if I'm going to have conferences (which all but one student felt were extremely helpful), I just don't have time: there aren't enough weeks in the semester.

But as much as I will miss individual students, I did not feel at all sad to say goodbye to those classes, a markedly different reaction to how I felt saying goodbye to the SF class yesterday.

And today I ran into Bruce as he was on his way out to do a workshop on online teaching. I apologized for not being at the party and told him I'd miss him. I know he'll be around a lot; he's going to keep adjuncting for us, bouncing back and forth between his house in Atlanta with his husband and his place out east on the Island. But I'll still miss him--and when he walked out the door, I was close to tears. He has driven me bat shit on occasion, annoyed the hell out of me, not handled things the way I think he ought, but he's been a truly wonderful boss, and we made a good team. I know Cathy will be wonderful in her way, and she and I will work well together too, but ... well, it's Bruce. I'll miss him.

Shifting gears: I had hoped I might be able to have a leisurely morning tomorrow, not set an alarm, that sort of thing--but if I'm going to get all my work done before I'm literally burning the midnight oil, I'd better get up and in at my usual time. (I cannot bring myself to come in earlier, even though it would probably be a good idea.) Even so, I may be here pretty damned late.

But that's tomorrow. Tonight: a quick stop at the grocery store then home and winding down ASAP. We'll see what tomorrow brings tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The 15-minute post...

I have to be out of here in 15 minutes in order to meet William, Paul and Kristin at our favorite steak place. I've been looking forward to this ever since I set it up, but especially yesterday and today. It will be delightful to spend time with them not in the office.

The final meeting with the SF class was lovely; I'm going to miss working with them. They were a great bunch by the end, and they all were happy about what they learned. Some of them were more talkative in this last session than they'd been all semester--and generally, their feedback was that all the assignments worked. There was some disagreement about which book was the least useful--of course--but when I asked them what I should ditch entirely, not to replace with something else but just to remove, there was no consensus, and ultimately the response was, "Nah. Keep it all."

What was particularly gratifying was that they all agreed about two basic things: the reading notes were valuable, though it took a while to understand what to do with them; and they read differently now, with more detailed attention. One student said there was kind of a down-side to that: he reread some books he used to really like--and doesn't like them any more, as he finds them shallow and badly written. Using my gourmet meal versus fast-food analogy, he agreed: he doesn't like McDonald's any more. (He was joking about it being a down-side, of course; they're all happy that they have a deeper appreciation for literature.) A lot of the feedback was really interesting; one student said he found it easier to take notes and write his essay on the books he didn't like as well--because he didn't get caught up in just enjoying the story. Fair enough.

And across the board, they all felt Paradises Lost was the richest, most rewarding and interesting of all the texts we read. Thank you, Ursula.

I have marked the essays for the SF students who wanted to actually see comments, and--as I planned--I've gotten my hard-copy rosters ready to fill out with the numbers. Interesting to note that students in the SF class were smarter about processing their withdrawals rather than simply disappearing: I guess many students have to feel the ouch of the unofficial withdrawal a few times before they get the message. Some of the students in the 102s are generally good enough that even though they bailed on my class (or for other reasons were unable to complete the semester), I don't want them to take the hit to their GPAs, so I've e-mailed them one last time to remind them to actually process the withdrawal.

I haven't made up my mind yet what I'm going to do about the students who--once again--"forgot" to upload their essays ... but I'll probably let it go, unless they don't take care of it tomorrow. I'm in a generous mood. It's almost Christmas--and I'm too tired to fight much any more.

And that's my 15 minutes. Two workmen are in the office plugging up the huge cracks around the window AC units (which were blasting arctic air on me the other day when it was cold and windy)--and all is Hunk and Dora.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Choosing to be cheerful

There is much I could complain about, much I could bewail, much I could allow to frustrate or infuriate me ... but today, at least, I choose to sweep all that aside and focus on what's good.

I just created the tally sheets for my classes, so I can more easily add up the numbers when it's time to crunch final grades. Tomorrow, in addition to providing comments on essays for the students who want them (only a few from the 102s, more from the SF class), I'll write in the column headers on the ridiculous paper forms that we still need to keep. (But I'm not complaining about how completely, utterly stupid it is that we have to keep paper grade rosters.) And then I think all I'll have left to do is the actual crunch of grading.

Of course I'd love to do work on my spring syllabi. I'd love to get some pieces in place for the online version of Nature in Lit--and I've taken the step of starting to get the signatures all over again (embarrassing as it is that I have to do that, but I'm giving up on finding either the book or the folders), though I still haven't constructed anything online.

I keep getting distracted by little bits and orts: reminding the 102 students to upload to Turnitin and changing the settings to re-check some of the essays for the SF class (though I think they're fine, as Turnitin sometimes can't seem to tell the difference between quoting and plagiarizing); reprinting the DEE pages for signatures; making a list for myself of those who have and have not uploaded yet... I know that seems a small list, and not in order, but that's what my mind is doing: it's bouncing around, back and forth, nothing seeming to cohere very well.

And I'm oddly OK with that. I have regained the equilibrium that tells me everything that really, truly needs to get done will, in fact, get done--or it will turn out not to really, truly need to get done. And even some of the things that really, truly need to get done will have very little impact on the state of the world if they don't get done.

I am a great deal more tired than makes any kind of sense, however. I don't quite know what to do with myself at this point--I seem to be staring blankly at the computer screen for rather long stretches between sentences--so I'm going to take that as a sign that I should just stop writing and go home. There will be more to say tomorrow, I'm sure, but for now, I think I'll just let silence have the last word.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Friday progress

It's almost a running joke in my family (and certainly was with my ex) that I have absolutely no clue how long it takes to do anything. Brush my hair? Half an hour. Climb Mt. Everest? Half an hour. I don't know if this is because I am somehow genetically unable to fully grasp the concept of time or whether I simply can't accurately judge my own capability, either wildly overestimating what I can accomplish or wildly underestimating.

In any event, I thought getting the stuff for Nature in Lit all copied and pulled together to send the reader pages off to Printing and Publications would take maybe an hour, certainly not much longer. Four hours later...

But it's ready to go. Of course, the office is closed down, so it won't actually go to P&P until Monday--and I'm praying like mad that my praise and gifts of cookies will predispose them to pull out all the stops and get the thing done in approximately a month (with time off for holidays). I'm asking a lot. I'm already planning the next gift basket and thank-you card.

And again, I'm throwing a dart at what I think will be an appropriate number of copies to make. I may be over- or under-estimating that as well: I've asked for 25 copies of the Nature in Lit reader, 40 of the reader for 102 (and I still have 16 left from this semester, so I may be way over what I need on those--unless the classes suddenly fill to capacity, as happened this semester).

Once I finished pulling everything together for P&P, I was tempted to head off: it wasn't full dark yet, and it is Friday (and it is, I must note, freezing in here)--but I decided to get just one more thing crossed off the to-do list: I wrote up the observation from last week. I am now finished with P&B business for the semester; we'll see what arises in spring.

So I didn't get to any of the noodling I thought I'd do today: no making up of grading sheets, no fiddling with the online Nature in Lit. I did add several readings to the schedule for Nature in Lit for this spring, however: as I was making copies, I found a few things I had decided I really just had to include. I am leaving out the Robinson Jeffers poems I've taught in the past, which I regret--in fact, I'm not teaching as much poetry in general as I have in the past--but I like the stuff I've included instead.

I do realize that I probably would be well served by reading over the assignments myself, not just to refamiliarize myself with things I haven't taught in a while but also to rethink the essay topics. I had contemplated a return to the mini-paper idea--but I decided against it, purely because of the work-load factor. If I had more time and energy, I'd not only assign the mini-papers, I'd have mandatory conferences for the lit students, just as I will for the 102s.

For this last round of essays for the 102s, since I didn't have much time to do anything and did want to allow students to conference with me if they wanted to, I did do more what Paul does, which is to read the essay and talk to the student at the same time, rather than marking in advance. If I do that with the conferences next semester, I'll have to reconfigure the grading significantly--but I'm going to have to reconfigure some anyway, as I realize I was assigning too many points to the mechanics review (which students didn't really understand or do very well)--and possibly not enough to the reading notes.

Of course, I would love to get a lot of next semester's stuff nailed down by the end of next week, so I don't have to scramble to get it pulled together in January, but realistically, I think I'll be swamped enough in essay grading that I won't have time for anything beyond the present moment. I'm more than a bit startled that so many students from the SF class said they want comments on their essays (and of course I wonder if they're doing it out of a conscious or maybe subconscious desire to brown nose), but that means more work for me. And I still have some old homework hanging around for the 102s. I probably should take it home for the weekend, but I'm just not gonna. Sue me.

For now, I'm going to sort of tidy up the stacks of stuff, pack my wheelie-pack for Monday, water the plants--and worry about anything else tomorrow. Or maybe not even worry about it, just do what I can. I've been here long enough for today, and tomorrow is another day. Funny how that works.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

flopping toward the finish line...

The image that best describes how my progress toward the end of semester feels is that of a seal flopping its way up a beach...

https://youtu.be/nvSz7U7pBQQ

I'm not even sure quite what to report today, my brains are so overloaded. It was a good enough day: meetings with students in the morning; the department party (most of which I missed, though I felt rather bad for missing the tributes to Bruce--not bad enough to go down to brave the party again, but sorta bad); meeting students just long enough to collect final essays and hand out end-of-semester self-evaluations; Advisement (not busy, so I got some work done); meeting more students....

The one downer of the day was realizing that several students plagiarized: one in the SF class (a solid--and honorable--student who probably just didn't really think about what he was doing), and two in the later session of 102. One student from the earlier 102 wasn't in class yesterday and didn't pick up her essay today, nor did she meet with me this morning, as was planned: she clearly didn't understand the book at all, so her essay is a lot of meaningless bilge. I like her personally, but I'm not persuaded that she's really ready to move on to the next level--especially if she gets anyone with high standards for reading and writing ability.

I'm facing the prospect of failing students who have managed to hang on this far, and I dislike doing that. But some of them--like the woman I mention above--simply are not ready to move on.

The meetings with students, on the other hand, are immensely valuable. Every student I met with this week was grasping concepts and understanding feedback at levels far above what was possible at the start of the term. I'm proud of them--even the ones who may not pass.

I also liked talking with two students in the SF class today. I don't know why we got just chatting--I think partly because they were happy to sit in a warm classroom instead of crossing campus in this weather (got very cold very suddenly: we're not acclimated to it). We did get talking about politics, which I had to call a halt to, for my own sanity--not because the students were saying anything all that outrageous (though one of them doesn't know a fact from a conspiracy theory, for all that he wants to become a scientist), but simply because I couldn't summon the energy to make any coherent points and because I truly feel that hiding under the sofa for the foreseeable future is a reasonable plan.

Shifting gears: I'll be back here tomorrow...

Whoa: weird: the light in the other side of the office, which is activated by a motion detector, just turned on--and ain't nobody there nor nothin' moving. I think this room is haunted.

Anyway, back on track now, having shifted gears: I'll come in tomorrow to get all the photocopies pulled together to send off for Printing and Publications to make my class readers for next semester--and then that little nagging burr will be removed. I may noodle around with some other stuff as well (sheets I can use to calculate students' grades, maybe some fussing with the online Nature in Lit)... As long as I get the stuff sent off to be copied, I'll be happy enough; anything else I get done will be a little extra dollop of feeling good about having accomplished something worthwhile.

I feel the urge to stay tonight and keep working, in fact, but I'm going to get my little self home before it's insanely late (again). I meet with students three more times, and I'll be doing final grading next week. Jesus, I can't believe it. There is light at the end of the tunnel, and it is not an oncoming train.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Yeah, it's bad

Never mind the students and essays for the moment. The one thing that's been haunting me all day is a piece of information Cathy brought to P&B from her chairs and area meetings yesterday. It's not fait accompli just yet, but there didn't seem to be a lot of ground from which to fight the decision: the new administration have determined that the college will be best served by creation of a new area, under the aegis of a new dean, the area to be called (I think) "General Studies" and to comprise all the departments that offer any kind of remedial/developmental courses: math, communications, reading and "basic education" (our term for students who really shouldn't have gotten into high school never mind college)--and, yes, English. We would no longer be part of the humanities here on campus--because, of course, the only thing we have to offer that has any value is teaching students how to write well enough for their other courses. This begs the question, if we're not recognized as being among the humanities disciplines, what happens to the literature courses?

The mind reels. This new president and academic VP who we welcomed as signs of hope turn out to be every bit as opposed to the values of education at this institution as their predecessors: the only difference is that they are more skilled at blowing smoke. Paul's been saying it all along, and although I've deferred to his knowledge and experience with them, now I see it clearly for myself.

Oh, yes: and we all have to use the same rubrics for the "institutional learning goals"--across disciplines (even if our way of approaching critical thinking might be different from that of say, math) and across all sections of all courses. Cookie-cutter uniformity: no latitude allowed for the fact that we might get to the same end by different means. Pretty soon they'll be dictating our syllabi to us--and then this really will be 13th grade, as we'll be doing exactly what teachers in the public high schools have to do: teach the same thing, the same way, and meet arbitrary benchmarks for success.

What springs to mind is Arthur Costa's much quoted statement, "What was educationally significant and hard to measure has been replaced by what is educationally insignificant and easy to measure. So now we measure how well we taught what isn't worth learning." (I had to look around for a while to find the original source, but here it is: Strauss, Valerie. "The Important Things Standardized Tests Don't Measure." Washington Post, March 1, 2015.) But the point is that the measurement is all that matters, not what is being measured. If we have the rubrics and we all follow them, everything is grand.

We seem to be utterly, totally fucked.

I remind myself that the future is unknown: we do not know for a fact that this new arrangement will happen; if it does happen, we do not know what that will entail in terms of our work. And if the worst case I can imagine (which is bleak indeed) comes to pass, I don't yet know how I might adapt to make it something I can live with--at least until I can comfortably retire.

But--because Paul and I agree that looking for an exit hatch is sometimes important--I've just spent a little time looking for employment possibilities at colleges and universities out west. Research inconclusive.

So, I focus my attention on the here and now--and here and now (broadly speaking), my only task is to get through the semester. I had hoped to spend some time this evening getting the last bits of homework and revised essays marked for the SF students, but instead I spent time conferencing with students from the 102s (which was great) and responding to e-mails (not so great--but good to have it done). I have a few more conferences tomorrow morning before our "department meeting"--which will actually be the department's holiday party, so I think I'm going to load up a plate with food and come right back up to the office to work. I hate parties anyway (raging introvert that I am) and especially those department parties, at which I almost never get to actually sit with people I enjoy talking with. So I'll do two things that I find beneficial to my overall well-being: I'll avoid the party, and I'll do what I can to have things ready to hand back to the SF students when I collect their essays.

I hope I'm more cheery tomorrow. Even though a number of students did fall apart over the final essay, not submitting it at all, focusing on my students this semester is highly beneficial to my state of mind. A few of the ones who gutted it out clearly didn't read or understand the novel, which is discouraging, but I think I can prop them up well enough for them to stagger over the finish line. And most of the ones who made it this far actually have made real improvements--in their reading, their writing, their thinking. And that's the whole game, folks. That's the point.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A non-post post

Some of my near and dear use my blog posts as a way of checking to be sure I'm not in a ditch somewhere or otherwise in a dire situation. The only dire situation I'm in is the need to grade essays. I have no earthly clue what happened to all the time I thought I had today, but I'm going to be here until god knows when getting things marked. So, for tonight, this is as much of a post as I'm going to be able to manage. I'm "upright and ambulatory," as my father would have said, and I think I'm at least reasonably compos mentis ... but now I have to reapply my nose to the proverbial grindstone.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Well, scratch all that optimism stuff...

It turns out that the real problem with the final essays for the 102s wouldn't be their quality but whether they were submitted at all. About half the students were not in class today and did not submit their essays. This means one of two things, or the combination of the two: either a bunch of students are going to bail now, just before crossing the finish line, or I'm going to get a slew of essays tomorrow just before the "I won't accept it at all past this point" deadline. Neither is a prospect that makes me very happy.

I was almost wondering if I'd given up too soon, too easily on teaching the novel in the 102s next semester, as a number of students have said how much they love it--but those are the good students, the ones who read on their own. If half the students can't get over the hurdle of the reading, that's reason enough to reboot, ditch the beauties of The Left Hand of Darkness and go instead for the more accessible but less aesthetically pleasing (and less profound) The Word for World Is Forest.

That doesn't help me (or the students) this week, however: this week, students are either going to fight through to some kind of understanding or fall flat.

One interesting moment in the earlier section: a student who has seemed to disdain the whole conference process and everything about the novel actively wanted to have a conference time (they're not required this time, given how truncated the time is between versions)--and she was friendly and chatty as she signed up for a time. This may be so much snow, of course, but the interaction was a great deal more pleasant than what I've gotten from her in the past, and I'll take it, even if it's fake as hell.

On a much more positive note, the young man in the SF class that I've been crowing about lately--the one who suddenly has latched on to the books and whose reading notes have suddenly, exponentially improved--wrote on his last set of notes a thank you to me for having awakened in him an interest in reading. I have to share a lot of that with Ursula: it was her books that broke through to him. But I'll hold that little triumph close to my heart as I deal with the students exploding right and left in the 102s.

I will also take a moment here to appreciate the fact that it was mercifully un-busy in Advisement today. Usually at this point in the fall semester, we have students lined up around the block (metaphorically speaking), but there have been chunks of time the last few days when I've been able to do my own work in between advisement sessions. I also had an interesting experience today, being interviewed by a man who is working on his doctorate in public relations and doing a study about conflict management, using our campus as his sample. I think he intends to take his findings to the administration, just to report on what is said, but it was a change of pace to be asked a set of questions about what the conflicts are--from conflicts between students to much larger, more systemic conflicts--and about how those conflicts are managed.

And backing up one more step: this weekend, despite ferocious internal resistance, I did nail down the readings for the spring Nature in Lit. I don't know when I'll be able to make the photocopies of the new readings and get everything pulled together to send off to Printing and Publications (and I need to send the 102 reader materials as well), but ... well, one thing at a time.

If I hadn't already called in sick to Advisement several times this semester, I would have done so today--with more genuine physical reason: I woke up with an incipient migraine, which didn't dissipate until late this afternoon, so the urge to crawl into bed was pretty powerful. I also have had a muscle twitch in my left eye for the last few days. (My ex would have asked, "What don't you want to look at?") I know it's from being tired, stressed, possibly dehydrated--but it's annoying as hell nonetheless. It will go away once the semester is over, if not before, and please heaven, my body won't try to manufacture any other reasons for me to bail on work: I really do need to be here every day of classes through the 21st.

I also really need to get home. It's tired and I'm late, or something like that.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Tired, hungry, done...

So, I didn't get everything done today that I'd hoped. I could stay longer, but I'm too tired and hungry to push it any further. I did a decent whack at the scheduling, though the first hour or so that I was there, Bruce was going over all kinds of things for Cathy. And on his advice, I stopped before I'd distributed all the classes, as we may need options for FT faculty whose class sections don't fill.

I may be among those faculty, in terms of my 102s, but the Nature in Lit has 9 students, which is pretty good for this time of year. I'm still not entirely sanguine about its chances of running, but I'm not feeling morose either.

We'll see.

Of the things I'd hoped to do after I finished scheduling--marking homework (and for the SF class, revisions of their second essay), writing the observation--I managed to mark home work for one section of 102. There is very little for the other section, and I believe I can do the work for the SF class before I meet them again; I'm not holding class on Tuesday but am having conferences instead--for those who want them--so I won't see them until Thursday, at which point I may see them in small bunches, as they race in to hand in their final essays.

I cannot believe how little of the semester is left. It's both wonderful and terrifying. The hardest thing to accept at the moment is how early the spring semester starts--and what that means for my return to campus over the winter break. Usually I have the first week of January and at least half the second week in which to hang out at home, but I'll have to be back working with Cathy January 5. Ye gods and little fishes.

But ah well.

I'll save any further reporting until Monday, I think--because anything else I'd report would be a projection into the future, and those can simply be anxiety producing, rather than productive. I will treat myself to a nice late lunch at a restaurant, then go home and collapse for the rest of the day. Bliss.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

When the Lunkheads catch fire...

The title of this post calls up a rather odd visual image, but today I want to celebrate the fact that two students I had pretty much given up on as lunkheads have suddenly started to catch on, to light up, to think and work... and it's wonderful.

One is the student who was in my office on Monday; he hasn't finished the novel yet, but he says it's not confusing--and he found a critical essay that he wanted to talk about. We talked about how to use critical material, and he's very excited about the possibilities. I reminded him that he must have his own ideas first; he can't use the critical material to do all the thinking. But I believe he understands. He asked if use of material like this was done in any other academic disciplines, and I assured him that it is, with slight variations. For instance, I said, in a psychology class, you might read and talk about something written by Freud--but you might also refer to things that others have written about Freud's work, and I used the terms "primary source" and "secondary sources"--and I think he got it. Very cool.

Even more exciting, however, is the student in the SF class I mentioned a while back; he was one who expressed interest in possibly taking Nature in Lit, much to my amazement. To my further amazement, he liked The Word for World Is Forest so much that he picked up The Dispossessed--and he's liking it: "So far, a good read," were his exact words. His reading notes have taken an exponential turn for the better--not only in terms of what he does on his own at home but also in terms of the notes he takes in class--and today, Hosanna!, he actually had things he wanted to say in his group, not only to his group members but to me. And when I asked him to talk about his idea with the class as a whole, he did. He was truly, completely lit up with excitement about the reading, the ideas, getting it, thinking, o such joy!

This, my friends. This is why I teach. This. Yes, the interactions with the brilliant students are great. I met with the student who had to withdraw from 102 but who is my next potential cat sitter--extremely bright, intellectually avid, concerned about the world, all the things we love to see in young people. It was great talking with her, truly a delight. But she'd do fine whether she ever encountered me or not: she's got good strong wings and can take flight on her own. But that young man in the SF class? I did that. It's not entirely my success, of course: if he hadn't done his part, it wouldn't have happened. But the grain fell on fertile soil, and it took time for it to break through, but it's growing--and I created the conditions in which that could happen.

It doesn't get better. It truly doesn't.

I started the day with an observation of one of my most bright and charming colleagues, and I met with the adjunct I observed on Tuesday, a meeting that went well. I just finished writing up that observation, a good solid thing to mark off the "to-do" list.

I'll be back tomorrow morning to work with Cathy and Bruce on adjunct schedules, so I won't stay longer tonight. I have canceled my violin lesson for tomorrow (since I didn't practice at all this week, a lesson seemed pretty pointless), and it will be too cold to ride, so once I finish with the scheduling, I plan to stay in the office and mark the homework I've collected the last two days, write up this morning's observation, and have the decks completely clear for the onslaught of essay grading next week. If I can get all that done tomorrow, I even have the rest of the weekend to work on pulling together the spring Nature in Lit--and the online edition. (I've given up on finding the book and folder; I'll reconstruct what I had to the best of my ability and get all the signatures again next semester.)

It was a good day. I'm happy. Immensely tired, but happy.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Whee-hawken

(A little Pogo reference is always a good thing.)

I have no idea what to say about today--and I'm not entirely sure why I feel so addled about it. It was too all intents and purposes (or, as my students would say, "all intensive purposes") a relatively normal day: Advisement, classes, miscellaneous bits and orts after classes. Yet I feel like several strands of pearls broke all at once.

Maybe this state of mind explains why I still haven't found that book and the folder. I'm at the stage where--short of making sure I didn't put it in the freezer--I need to just accept that it's lost and reconstruct as much as I can, when I can.

And that's not now. I would dearly love to use this weekend to get a good whack in at constructing both my syllabus for the spring section of Nature in Lit (assuming it runs) and the potential online version, but we'll see whether that's realistic. I have to be on campus Friday to work with Cathy on adjunct schedules, and I do have a life to live.

At the same time, there is not a whole hell of a lot of time remaining for me to get stuff off to the copy center--or figure out a way to limp along for the first few weeks without having everything copied and ready for the students. I did find a really great document online that provides extracts from Of Plymouth Plantation (which is usually where I start the semester)--better, more apropos than what I've taught in the past. I was planning a complete reboot, but I just don't see how I could pull it together in the time I have. It is unbelievably time-consuming to select readings--make sure I have enough material but not too much, figure out how the readings can work for essay topics, know I like the readings well enough that I won't lose my mind teaching them--then make the photocopies, construct the actual reading schedule....

I'm starting to feel waves of panic at the thought. Calm, calm, Dr. P. I can't do any of it right this minute--wouldn't be able to even if I did have the book and folder--so it's a worry for another time. This weekend, I do hope.

This is part of being in the trenches, and I talk about it frequently: the need to balance life maintenance and work responsibilities--and all the things I want to do, personally and professionally, just because I want to do them. Nothing makes me take violin or riding lessons. Nothing makes me reconstruct my syllabi, select new readings. Nothing but my desire to keep things interesting, to expand my horizons, "curiosity, adventure, delight."

And another thing I talk about frequently is the ever-shifting triage list--what comes up to the top of the stack--and trying to clear the space around my feet (metaphorically speaking), crossing off the little things on the list so I don't fret about them (or forget them) when I'm tending to the larger, more important issues.

So, tonight after class, I tried to contact Cathy, to ask her if we could find a time earlier than what she'd proposed to discuss the adjunct I observed last night (which led to a scene that could be comedy: I sent a text to the number I have as hers in my phone--a number I know I've used in the past to contact her successfully--and I ended up getting replies from someone who didn't know who I was (even though I identified myself, twice), back and forth a couple of times, and then the person on the receiving end of my texts said he was "Norman's son" (I have no idea who "Norman" is); when I said I had the wrong number, as I was looking for Cathy Fagan, he said, "It's OK; you may be looking for my father." No: your father, Norman, is definitely not Cathy Fagan. Good lord.) I was trying to explain to Paul what I was doing, and trying to read and make sense of a call for papers that was a paper in itself (and turned out not to be anything I could respond to in any intelligent way) as well as some other e-mails.

One of those e-mails was from the new college president--stating exactly what I feared and what Paul said would be the case: the president sees the vote of last Thursday's committee meeting as his carte blanche to disassemble the committee and establish his own, outside the academic senate--completely removing a huge area of responsibility from the senate. I couldn't just let that go, so I wrote a lengthy e-mail to the chair of the planning committee, the chair of the Academic Senate, and the colleague who wrote up the resolution I read and the committee voted on.

That took much longer than I anticipated. Then there was another e-mail I needed to respond to. This morning, in the parking lot, I happened to run into the new chair of our department's curriculum committee. I whined a bit about the lost paperwork for the online Nature in Lit (which she'll have to sign again, assuming I don't find it), but then I remembered that--as I was getting the original signatures--the dean of our area suggested that I also get it designated as fulfilling the "Western Heritage" requirement. Our departmental curriculum committee would have to handle the beginnings of that process, so I mentioned it to the new chair. She sent out an e-mail to the departmental curriculum committee--cc'ing me--and getting the new designation for the course is on the agenda for their meeting tomorrow. I can't be at the meeting, but--since I brought up the issue--I did a little scrounging around into forms and processes, and wrote a rather lengthy e-mail explaining the process (as I understand it), attaching forms where I could, giving some of the history to explain why the course didn't have the designation to begin with...

(Jesus, did that make any sense to anyone but me??)

Seems like something else came up in there, too: all of this after class.

Classes were OK. Again, the earlier section struggled more with the reading (the introduction to the novel and Le Guin's essay "Is Gender Necessary? (Redux)"), but ultimately, they seemed to be catching on. They're still mostly baffled by the whole idea of what critical research is, but ah well. (That bafflement is true of both sections.) I have no idea what to expect of their essays, but I'm keeping my expectations very low. And we're really feeling the time pressure now.

(Pause while I put together a conference sign-up sheet. If I don't do something the instant I think of it, I'll forget.)

 And now here it is almost 8 p.m., and I was trying to get out of here early tonight. Ah well.

But now I really do have to go. I have to be back here for a 10 a.m. observation tomorrow--and I'll be here until at least 7 tomorrow, as I'm seeing a student at 6:30 (or that's what we decided last night anyway). And back here again between 9:30 and 10 (realistically closer to 10) on Friday.

Hold on to the safety bar and scream...


Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Still lost

The title of today's blog post could apply to me generally or simply to the book and file folder, which I still can't locate. I sent an e-mail to the English department, hoping maybe someone here has seen the wretched thing, but I checked the classroom I was in today, and if it's there, it's well hidden. I checked Bruce's office, the main office, the copy room, my office (again, for the umpteenth time)... Tomorrow I'll check the two classrooms where I teach on Mondays and Wednesdays. I'm running out of places to check. I'll go back to the room where I had the melt-down after the committee meeting on Thursday; that's a real long shot, as I can't think why I'd have had it in the bag I took to the meeting, and if for any reason I had it in that bag, I can't think of any reason I'd have taken it out of the bag. I also just alerted the folks in Advisement; I checked there yesterday, but I didn't dig through cabinets or drawers, so maybe...

What would be absolutely wonderful would be if I either suddenly am visited by a return of my memory--"Oh, of course! That's what I did with it!"--or look up from something and there it is, in a place I either was sure I'd already checked or somewhere completely obvious that I didn't think to check. Or if someone would respond to my e-mail saying, "I saw it in X..."

The fact that I still haven't found it is raising my anxiety levels on a daily basis. I don't know what bothers me more, the awareness that I may have to print out the documents and go get all the signatures again (and revisit with my DE mentor to get the stuff I'm supposed to include before I get the final approval from the VP)--or the concern about what's happening to my memory. I have always been somewhat addled and systemically disorganized (I only seem organized because I'm constantly fighting against my own internal chaos), but this is just nuts. I know there have been times when something--a sweater or cup or something--has gone AWOL for months in my apartment because I put it someplace weird, and it's easy to lose keys or even glasses, which are small enough that they can hide, but this...

Well, enough fretting about it. Fretting doesn't help me find it.

Paul and I had another round of immersion into our fears and rage over what is happening, or might happen, to the campus (not to mention the nation)--and together worked on a reframe. All my soothing words that I share with him are meant as much to soothe me as him. I need the reminders too: that I am not my career, that I am a person with something valuable to offer the world even when it seems the world can't see it or doesn't want it, that nothing is forever--neither joy nor pain--that I can only do what I can do as one human being, one flawed mortal... And so on. It does help.

What also helps is meeting with students one-on-one. I love the classroom dynamics as well, but those individual meetings are just great. Before class I met with the remaining female student in the SF class (apart from the senior observer). She has great ideas, but her essays are somewhat problematic, both in terms of focus and in terms of some of her sentence structures. But our talk about how she can revise her essay quickly changed into a conversation about books, authors, reading, processing written language, Le Guin, book publishing...) I asked her if she likes cats--but unfortunately, she's not potential cat-sitter material: she cares for a disabled mother, so she can't stay anywhere other than home. It was just a thought, better to have several possibilities than to rely on one (who has allergies), but I'll have to keep looking.

The second meeting of the day was after I observed an adjunct's class. (Side note: some problems with the class, but my rating is probably going to be "needs improvement" rather than "unsatisfactory.") The student is from 102, and in class yesterday, he seemed completely despondent over the novel. I was anticipating something much more fraught than what happened; he said he hasn't read far in the novel, but that's because of a lack of motivation--and sleep, and food. He's on the wrestling team, and that is where his heart and soul obviously live. But when we talked, he said he actually finds the novel pretty easy to understand, and he was a bit baffled about the essay topic because it seemed too easy and obvious. Maybe the gender stuff is easy and obvious, but making an argument about it may not be. Still, by the time we finished talking, he was laughing and relaxed--and ready to go get the work done, no matter what. And we'll probably meet again on Thursday to talk about using critical material. Cool beans.

Now, however, I need to tie this up and head home. I didn't think I'd be here so late tonight, and I have much to do in the next few days--all the way through Friday, when I'll be on campus to work with Cathy and Bruce on adjunct scheduling. I haven't practiced the violin since my last lesson, and I won't practice when I get home tonight (I don't like bothering the downstairs neighbors with it after 9 p.m.). But tomorrow is another day, as we all know. And maybe I can make a really nice frock out of some green velvet drapes...

Monday, December 5, 2016

Completely maddening...

Apart from the fact that, in my personal life, I am in a Verizon hell, I am also being driven mad by the fact that I cannot find a book I was looking at for the Nature in Lit course--nor the folder with all the information for the Distance Ed Equivalency, including the signed approval forms. I have looked repeatedly around the house, around the office, the house again, the office again... Over the weekend I thought, "Oh! I know! I left it in Advisement!" I sailed cheerfully into the Student Services Center this morning, sure I would see the book and folder there in my little cubicle ... Nope. I haven't looked in my car (though that's a real long shot), but I truly cannot imagine anywhere else it might be. I know I had it last week at some point, as I was debating whether to take it as my lunch-time reading, but now I can't remember if I might have had it with me somewhere else and inadvertently left it behind. A while back, I left my folder of Advisement information out in the waiting area (and was going nuts trying to find it; if the office administrator hadn't stumbled across it, I'd probably still be looking), which makes me worry that I carried it somewhere and now can't even remember having it in my hands. I haven't looked behind the bookcase or under the bed: it's getting to the point where one starts looking in all sorts of unlikely places (closet floor? file cabinet? some restaurant or other?).

Right now, I'd rather have lost my mind than have lost that folder. I do not want to have to go through the process of getting all those signatures all over again....

There are moments these days when my absent-mindedness is so profound that it scares me. I'm not quite as alarmed as I was a number of years ago, when I would periodically realize I had no earthly idea where I was: I'd be on a bus, or walking down a street, and I'd have no clue where I was or where I was going. I mean that literally: no clue. I could tell I was in a city, and generally assumed it was New York, but further than that, I was completely unable to ascertain. I'd have to stop moving for a few minutes (get off the bus or subway, stand still on the street), and slowly the awareness would seep back in. I know that when I'm deeply engaged on interior work of any kind, I can get lost--and apparently I'm doing more of that interior work than I'm aware of, as there are moments when I suddenly "wake up" in the middle of a sentence and don't know what I was saying--or the time when I held my violin bow in my hand and had no idea how to hold it, had to carefully reason it out: "The hairs on the bow have to go over the strings, so this side has to go down..."

I am grateful, however, that most of the profound moments of bewilderment don't often take place during class. I can come to class without needed materials; I can forget to relay important information, but when I'm in class, I'm usually present in the moment. I joke with my students all the time about my being the absent-minded professor, but it's no joke when I lose track of something very important--and a rather large physical object to boot.

Well, I can do nothing about it until I get home. I looked through the office again to no avail; I'll check the car and the apartment. I trust both the book and the folder will turn up eventually, but I'm hoping they turn up before I decide to start all over from scratch.

Shifting gears to something I completed: I managed to get all the assignments for the 102s marked and back to them--including a small batch that I had missed bringing home with me over the weekend. I got the bulk of those last bits done in Advisement (a stream of students but with occasional breaks) and the rest marked between classes. I haven't yet looked at what I have for the SF class; that will happen tomorrow morning.

Today's classes were not as reassuring as last week's were. The later section did much better again--but in both classes, a frighteningly large number of students have not finished the novel. Today I did a relatively significant reboot of the essay assignment: I told them that finding critical material through the library is highly recommended but not required--despite the fact that I'm supposed to do an assessment of "information literacy" that includes their ability to find and evaluate relevant sources. They do still have to include something in the way of "critical analysis" from an outside source--but they can use either Le Guin's intro to the novel or her essay "Is Gender Necessary? (Redux)," which I provided in their class readers. I am trying to get them over the finish line, even though I know I'm not doing as good a job preparing them for literature electives as I should. And I'm making zillions of mental notes about next semester--among those notes a return to scheduling a library information session. My little quick zip through how to locate sources left them more baffled than anything.

That statement led me on a little side jaunt: I decided to do a little more test driving of how to locate sources from my stuff on our databases, and I made a little headway ... not a lot, but a little. If I have time on Wednesday to go over the research paths again, I'll do that, but mostly, I'm just letting go for this semester.

I'm sure there are things I should be tending to that I'm forgetting (pearls bouncing around all over the place), but I'm going to allow myself the delusion of feeling relatively caught up for tonight. I may be in for a rude awakening, but I'll take the moment of serenity and milk it for all it's worth.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

The term "whipsawed" comes to mind

Man, what a day.

I read the final promotion folder before the meeting today--and realized I'd read it before but lost my notes. God knows what I noticed last time around; this time, I didn't notice much...

Then the strategic planning committee meeting. It was very heated and confusing--a lot of talking at cross-purposes, unclear language, frustration--and I tried to play my usual role of clarifying what was going on, including trying to point out that we really were in agreement about much of what people thought were points of contention. As the newcomer to the committee, I don't feel the same level of "Jesus Fucking Christ can we stop talking about this and do something" as most members of the committee feel--but ultimately we did need to do something definitive right that minute, before the end of the meeting, so direct progress can be made on the concerns of our accreditation review. Specifically, many areas of the strategic plan need to be brought into alignment so there are clear systems and structures by which decisions are made about what we do, how we do it, and why we allocate our funds as we do.

Ultimately, I ended up proposing a resolution (or something: I don't speak good parliamentese) that essentially said that we support the work of the new president in creating the new institutional committee he wants to create and we agree that members of the existing committee will serve on that new institutional committee. I didn't come up with the language; that was created by the colleague, Pat, who was in Active Learning with me. I think she didn't want to propose the language herself because it would be heard better coming from a new voice. In any event, I proposed the resolution and it passed--but the chair of the academic senate, Evelyn, whom I respect and admire and want to support without hesitation or categorization, abstained. Note she didn't vote against, but she abstained--because, as she cogently pointed out, there is still the possibility that existing structures for governance will be undermined if not completely eradicated in this plan to go forward. When I proposed the motion, I said that we should bear in mind that the wording makes zero mention of what would happen to the already existing committee--and there had originally been talk about possibly putting the committee on hiatus for a while, or even disbanding it (which, Evelyn pointed out, we do not have the authority to do: that would have to be done by a resolution of the Senate). But the language our president used to frame the purview of the new committee is extremely problematic, as it suggests that the Senate has no role but to "comment." That I cannot agree to--but forming the committee in order to break the deadlock seemed the only available compromise. But when the meeting ended, hearing Evelyn restate her reasons for abstention, I started to feel I'd sold my own integrity for the sake of expediency--and that I've now had a hand in undermining the senate and specifically the heroic battle that Paul and Evelyn are involved in. I started to cry. Evelyn assured me that she abstained because of her role as chair of the senate. Pat tried to comfort me. Kim tried to comfort me. They were very concerned that I was so upset--and I couldn't quite articulate why I was. But now it's clear: I feel I leaped before looking and betrayed my ideals and people I care about. It may have needed to be done, but I wish I hadn't been the one to do it.

I ended up talking in the hall for a good while with Pat, and we were joined by a former officer of the senate executive committee; he also was consoling. But it took a while for me to calm down enough to go to class.

And class was great. Class was great. We're at the point now where I feel we're all just having a conversation. I may hold forth for a while, because I have a wider frame of reference than the students, but I wasn't making connections back to things we'd talked about earlier out of a deliberate, pedagogic decision: "Repetition is good: let me repeat this." It just was what happened in the conversation. In one particularly lovely moment, a student brought up the ways in which the story parallels the Adam and Eve story. Precisely, I said--but note that the title has a plural: Paradises Lost. Milton's Paradise Lost is about the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden and the fall of Satan. So, if Eden is the first paradise lost, what's the second? One student said, "The ship"--and almost at the same moment, the student who had brought up the Adam and Eve idea said, "Earth." Ah! Good! Debatable! (Of course, it now occurs to me that perhaps the first paradise lost isn't Eden: perhaps the two paradises are Earth and the Ship... Hmmm. I'll have to remember to bring that up.) Most of the faces had an "oooh, cool! maybe I can use that" expression. Beautiful.

I left class thinking, "I really do love this job. I do." But then Paul and I started talking about the bigger picture, not just on our campus but what might occur under a Trump presidency, and I found myself clinging rather desperately to the thought patterns I have had to construct to keep myself from sliding into depression: reminding myself that we do not know what could occur in the future--and there is no benefit to thinking only about the negative things that could occur. And there are always reasons for gratitude.

Paul and I both acknowledged that there is enormous richness in our lives that arises from the fact that we are fully engaged, emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually, in our careers--but that the price we pay for that rich engagement is that we feel deeply when things go wrong. We can't just shrug it off when the integrity of our institution is threatened, when our society devalues what we have built our lives around, when our students can't or won't reach for the goals we know will be most beneficial to them. In today's meeting, I had the tiniest taste of what Paul has been dealing with for a year and a half now, and no wonder he seems shell-shocked. But I also know that my tears today were only partly a response to what happened in the meeting. This is a difficult time of year for me, personally, and my personal vulnerability seeps into my professional life as well. After all, I am a person, not "just" a professor.

So I didn't get any work done between and around my meetings with students from the SF class about their revisions--but I don't mind. The meetings with the students were good, and the conversation with Paul was necessary for both of us. True, I do not know how I will get everything marked this weekend that I need to have marked--but I'll just have to work that out, whatever it takes. But the emotional highs and lows of today--and the rapid switches from one to the other--have taken enough of a toll on me that I'm going to consider retreat as the better part of valor. I'll be brave tomorrow, when I face the enormous stacks of 102 assignments to wade through. Tonight, I can creep home and hide under the sofa. And maybe Scarlett is right: tomorrow, one is stronger. God willing.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Not so unhappy...

Today was better than I anticipated. All yesterday evening and this morning, I was riddled with anxiety about meeting with the 102s today--so much so that I had a truly difficult time sleeping and woke with an incipient migraine. I turned off the alarm and went back to sleep, e-mailed Advisement to let them know I was using sick leave instead of doing my shift. I got to the office about 11:30, and I worked mostly on reading Cathy's promotion folder (at least the text part of it; I didn't have the documentation). I still have one more to look at--assuming it's back in the cabinet where we store them, instead of in the hands of the candidate--but I'm closer to caught up than I was.

So, that was good.

I also had made up my mind that I would be a bit more directive in pointing students to information in the novel that can be useful for their essays, or at least their preliminary thinking about the essays--and as it happened, both classes felt a lot more solid, a lot less lost than was the case on Monday. I did have to remind students not to stop when they feel confused--and certainly not to keep going back over and over and over the same chapter--but to forge on ahead and trust that things will make more sense. But also, we talked about the value of the various materials that I pointed out to them, and they are starting to realize that they can actually find help. One student brought up the fact that she listens to an audio version of the book that she found on YouTube. (I just had a listen to a bit of it: different pronunciations from what I've been using--and since I know that Ursula was involved in the production of the audio book, I can use the pronunciations to change where I've gone wrong in what I created on sabbatical.) I encouraged others to make use of the audio book, to use the online materials, to use my materials--and to keep going, keep reading.

Interestingly enough, the discussion in the earlier class was better, more substantive today; the later class was more bumpy, even though more of the students in that section understand at least the basics of the story. But I no longer feel abject despair at the idea of what the rest of the semester is going to be like in those two classes.

Another positive thing occurred to me when I was on my way to class, even before the students made clear that they're doing better than seemed to be the case on Monday: They're still there. Twenty students from the earlier section are still coming to class at least most of the time; sixteen students from the later section are still around. That's damned good--way above my usual results at this point.

And I hate to admit it--because it would be much easier for me if I were to do away with the conferencing--but I do believe the conferencing is the primary reason why they're staying. So, I want to try to find a way to continue to conference but without quite the same pressure on myself. Having made the decision to switch from The Left Hand of Darkness to The Word for World Is Forest, I know I will have a little more time to play with, as the students won't need anywhere near as much time to read WWIF as they need to read LHoD. But I still have to be realistic about the amount of time I need to turn essays around. (I also realized that--if I really want to continue teaching LHoD--there's nothing to say I can't teach it in SF next time I teach that class. I'd have to reconfigure the thematic threads for the semester, but that's not a bad thing.)

Speaking of turning essays around, however: I did not do any marking after class today. I met with a student from the SF class, and I talked with Paul. It turns out the observation I was supposed to conduct tomorrow morning has to be rescheduled (my colleague has had serious health problems all term, and now he has pneumonia), so I don't even have to have my bag all packed before I leave tonight. I'm ready for tomorrow's Strategic Planning committee meeting--or as ready as I can be--so whatever I do tomorrow prior to the meeting is gravy. And I'll schlep enormous stacks of stuff for the 102s home with me to work on over the weekend.

All of which is matter for the future--which does not exist. All that exists is this specific moment. For now, suffice it that I will be leaving campus before 7:30 p.m., and I do not feel surrounded by despondency and despair: I have some hope that my students will pull through in the end. Thus, in this specific moment, life is very good indeed

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Like a best-laid mouse plan...

My plan to have all the 102 essays marked by the end of day on Thursday has gone out the window. I wish I could consign the essays themselves to the same fate, but instead, I am looking across the room to a mountain of stuff piled up on top of the radiator...

I still hope to get as much knocked off before end of day on Thursday as possible, but I got nothing accomplished this evening--for good reasons, primarily the fact that I met with a student from the SF class, and we ended up talking for well over an hour. I may have mentioned him before: he's one of two military veterans in the class, and he's older. He's also legally blind ... which I feel awkward mentioning, but we did talk about it a bit today. He doesn't really need help getting around campus, but he often accepts it from other students (his science class lab partner, fellow veterans)--and the students in the SF class are very sweet about helping him navigate a terrible obstacle course between the desks and the door, though I note they don't quite know what to offer (hold his hand? steer him by the shoulders? how much help does he need getting into the desk?). I am learning myself: I've watched the people who help him more regularly, and I realize that what's best is for him to be offered an elbow--and that the guide needs to walk somewhat slowly.

All of which is beside the point, but we did talk about the warm hearts of many of the younger students on campus, their willingness to help...

The substance of our conversation doesn't much matter, actually. In my report of the mentoring session, I said that the unquantifiable but crucial aspect of the mentoring relationship is simply how it makes the student feel valued, connected, how it gives the student a sense that this campus provides a rich learning environment beyond the classroom. That sense--that NCC offers something special--tends to seep out, not even so much by word of mouth as by a general sense of the place. Students who have been in a mentoring relationship (or who have truly taken advantage even of their classes here) are very quick to correct the impression that this is just "thirteenth grade." Au contraire. And my veteran student is just one of many who can carry into the wider world the absolute belief in the value of the whole experience available here.

Class went pretty well today (speaking of the value of the experience), and I was particularly gratified that several students actually are interested in taking Nature in Lit in the spring. They don't need the literature elective; the SF class fulfills that requirement. But the class can fulfill a humanities requirement, and two students in particular were interested in that possibility. One of them surprised me in his expression of interest: he's one of the students who has barely been scraping by, essentially silent, low marks on all assignments... I'd have sworn he was only staying in the class out of sheer necessity--but when he asked more about Nature in Lit, my reading of the subtext was that he feels safe in my class: he may be out of his depth, but he doesn't feel like he's drowning. I find that very sweet--and gratifying. I may be the evil bog monster from hell, but some students still feel they can trust me. Perhaps it's just a matter of the devil you know, but if I somehow make students feel ... well, not quite confident, perhaps, but certain that they have something to hold on to, that makes me happy.

The seminar hours committee meeting also seemed to go well enough. There's a lot going on that Scott simply has to handle on his own--and I was unusually quiet in this meeting--but nothing feels dire or disastrous ... yet.

More worrisome was Bruce's report on his meeting with the other department chairs and the visiting team from Middle States. We were told, very firmly, that progress is not compliance: we can be moving toward fixing the problems, but unless they're actually fixed, the sword is still hanging over our heads. The impression I got from what Bruce said today in P&B was that we are still a hair's breadth from getting slapped with a "show cause"--which could lead to the campus being shut down. I suppose the upside to that eventuality is that I wouldn't have to try to figure out when I can retire; the decision would effectively be made for me. But, well, ye gods. I will be interested to hear what is said in Strategic Planning on Thursday, as that committee is in the middle of all of this stuff.

Speaking of that meeting, even before I "lost" a big chunk of time because I was talking with my student, I realized that my hope of getting everything marked before I leave on Thursday is probably a vain hope: I'd forgotten that on Thursday I have to do an observation, after which I go directly to the committee meeting, and from there, directly to class. I also am meeting with students; one tomorrow right after class, four more on Thursday afternoon. I'm delighted that students from the SF class want to meet with me about their revisions, and wish a few more would take me up on it, despite the crimp conferencing puts in my essay-grading time. Truth to be told, I'd far rather just meet with students and talk about their writing than actually have to grade it.

So, I'm kicking that can further down the road--again. I will take a few minutes before I go to sort out the steaming pile of papers that is threatening to avalanche off the radiator, but after that, you can take your Crayolas and color me gone, until tomorrow of course.

Monday, November 28, 2016

I quit

I'm not quitting my job, but I can't teach The Left Hand of Darkness any more. It's too frustrating for the students and for me. The later section of 102 is getting it a lot better, but the earlier section is filled with students who are just completely lost. I've sent them information about the "cheater sites": the ones that do all the digesting for the students, so they don't have to actually read the novel or think. If we had more time, I'd just drop the novel entirely and go with something else--which is what I'm doing for the spring--but we're too far into it now for that to work (when would students buy any new book, how would I come up with paper topics, blah blah blah). So, they're going to have to do their best with it, and I hope the cheater sites work.

And as I'm looking at all the materials I so joyously put together over my sabbatical, I realize they don't work: they're too wordy and dense. "Too many notes." If I want to pursue getting the student guide published, I have to take a machete to what I did and simplify the hell out of it.

Apparently, it's almost impossible to overestimate just how little students can read and comprehend.

I am so miserably depressed by this, I would like to quit my job--but I realize it's the nature of ENG102. The SF class is nowhere near as frustrating (even though a few students can't do even the simpler reading required), and ever since I did the whole-scale reboot of ENG101, I've felt a lot better about it than I used to. After this spring, no more ENG102 for me for the rest of my career--unless I end up teaching somewhere other than where I am now. I'm going to stick with 101s and my lit electives.

The weekend also was nowhere near as productive as I wanted it to be. I got most of the essays marked for the SF class; I have one more to grade tomorrow morning--and I need to see if I have reading notes that I've collected but haven't yet marked--but I think I can get all that done before class tomorrow (even subtracting out time for a seminar hours committee meeting). I may have to bail on Advisement for Wednesday in order to get reading notes back to the students in the 102s--and I have not even started on their essays.

That's another reason for despair right now: a number of the students have not uploaded their essays to Turnitin.com, and at least one hadn't submitted the hard copy of the essay (along with all the previous steps, which are required as part of the process). There just doesn't seem to be any way to get some of them to do all the steps.

And the excellent but anxious student who was the subject of a blog post some time back seems to have gone AWOL. She missed all last week because she was out of town for the holidays, but she also missed today, and I didn't get all of the pieces of her essay submission.

One of the 102 students who was in my 101 last semester has also fallen by the wayside, apparently: today was his eighth absence from class--and my attendance policy says at the sixth absence, it's withdraw or fail time.

If I were to maintain all my standards, apply all my rules with no flexibility, most students would not pass.

Let me say that again: most students would not pass.
 
So, my standards keep going lower, and lower, and lower, and lower--or I have to deal with the misery of failing the majority of my students. And that is a misery to me: I don't like it--partly out of empathy for them but also because I feel like a failure when I can't get more of them to legitimately pass, never mind pass at the level I think is appropriate.

I can't think of any good way to reframe this so I don't feel so despairing and trapped. I know that every semester at about this time, I'm ready to consign the current term to the ash-heap of history and move on to designing the next semester, which I can still delude myself into believing might be successful. The desire to be just plain old done with everything having to do with this term is part of why I'm finding it a challenge to make myself sit down and get the work graded and out of my hair. I know, intellectually, that I will feel better when I'm not staring at those essays any more--but even so, I resist marking them: I'll find just about anything to do instead. (OK, I don't clean the house. But I'll read, or watch something on DVD, or play dopey computer games...)

So, my aim for this week is to get through all the 102 essays before I leave on Thursday--whatever that takes. I'll probably still have to take work home over the weekend, but if I can take home reading notes, not essays, I'll be a lot happier. Getting everything done will take a huge push and a few late nights--and even at that, I may not be able to get it all done--but it's a good goal to aim for.

The best I can do at the moment is to remind myself that very soon, this semester really will be over--no matter what I accomplish or have to just let go of, unaccomplished--and I have gotten good reminders of what not to do in the spring. I have a hell of a row to hoe in getting together the readings for Nature in Lit--and I may reconfigure parts of the 102s as well, in addition to the necessary adjustment in the final essay, which now will be on The Word for World Is Forest. It's not as thematically rich as The Left Hand of Darkness, but it's brief and if the topics end up being a bit simplistic, ah well. There are scholarly essays about it that I can direct the students to, so I address the course requirement for research--and that's enough.

In fact, that's enough for today. I feel both bloodied and bowed--but all I can do is leave it all here in the office as much as possible for the night, and return to the trenches tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The intellectual critical mass...

All teachers know about it, perhaps especially at the college level. There is the mystery of class chemistry--why some groups of students come together in a cohesive and friendly unit and others never connect--but beyond that, there is a necessary critical mass of intellectual wattage that can make an enormous difference to class discussion. In classes where there are enough students to generate the wattage, even those with slightly less candle power glow more brightly. When there aren't enough minds in the room, nothing ever really shines.

Today was case in point--and it was just today (and Monday), as in the earlier 102, two of the three best students were absent. The one real intellect in the room was stifled by the lack of juice generated by the rest of the students, and we never got to observations in talking about the novel, only the most superficial of questions.

However, in the later section, the best minds were present (unless I'm forgetting someone, but I don't think I am). There were five or six students who are getting it, so we were getting into the deeper waters--and it was great to see the other students start to fire up a little.

In both classes, I asked them what (if anything) I could do to help them in reading the novel--and ultimately, in both classes, the consensus was that they just need to keep plugging away at it in the faith that, as Le Guin put it, "sense will be made." Fair enough. I did remind them that the online materials are there to help them; we'll see if they start making better use of them.

Mostly, though, I hope that slowing down a little allows them to absorb better. One student expressed real dismay that I'm not holding conferences as I did for the first essays--but she was relieved when I said she could still meet with me; I just wouldn't cancel class for meetings. I'll be interested to see how many students want to see me; there won't be much time for meetings, but I'll accommodate as many as I can.

Meanwhile, I have once again filled my "weekend bag": the tote I use to carry student work and my editor's desk home over the weekends. I filled it last night, too: last night, 102 essays (which look more daunting than they are, though they're still daunting enough); tonight, reading notes from all three classes and the SF essays. I don't know how disciplined I'll be about actually doing the work, but I'm hoping that I end up being happy I schlepped it all home instead of realizing on Sunday night that it might as well have stayed in the office.

And now, I am ridiculously tired. It hasn't even been a hard week, nor has it been a full week, but I feel as if I've been here dawn to midnight for months on end. Even though I want to be disciplined about getting work done, simply the fact that I go four mornings in a row without having to set an alarm is something to be truly thankful about. Those little pleasures, right? Sleep--and the satisfaction of clearing work off the desk (or living room table, as the case may be). Gratitude, gratitude.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Hitting the ground trudging

I did not, in fact, hit the ground running today, my best intentions notwithstanding. As William pointed out, perhaps it would be more apposite to say simply that I hit the ground. I am not sure exactly what my thoughts were last night about what I would accomplish prior to class today, but what I actually did accomplish was marking the reading notes for the SF class and then, miraculously enough, rereading the last bits of The Word for World Is Forest, so it would be fresh in my mind when I got to class.

And it was fresh in my mind. However, my copy of the novella was still sitting on the desk in my office. Ah well.

I didn't try to use groups today; only nine students were there at the start, and only about twelve by the time class finished. However, even though they do get more animated and excited in groups, the class discussion is about the same whether I start them in groups or not: they've gotten to the point where they'll do well enough with the reading on their own (those who are doing well with it at all, of course), and they'll turn around in their desks to respond directly to each other's comments, sometimes carrying on a conversation without my having to do any directing of it. Man, I love when that happens.

P&B was moderately frustrating, largely because--once again--discussion of a problematic member of our faculty (who has been the focus of discussion for several meetings now) derailed our need to respond to promotion folders. We got through a few of them, but not all--and we've had them for weeks now. On the other hand, I should be grateful, as the two we have yet to discuss are the two I have yet to read, so I still have a chance to redeem myself. Not much of a chance, perhaps, but a chance.

After P&B, I at last turned my attention to reworking the schedule for the 102s, and reworking the other assignments and handouts that stem from the schedule. I wasn't able to buy the students much more time to read--not unless we ditch the whole revision process entirely, which would mean that one chance at the essay would count for about one third of their entire grade, and that hardly seems fair. But I do realize that--since I will be teaching the novel again in the spring--as I come up with the spring schedule, I need to work backward, not only for the essay assignments but for the reading. It would be best to read the book two to three chapters at a time--which would require a minimum of eight class meetings. Right now, I'm giving them five class meetings for it, and I feel like I'm pushing them through it way too fast.

Well, we'll see. That's all for next semester; I don't have to figure that out right now.

And I need to stop feeling so happy about the prospects for Nature in Lit running in the spring. It's been holding steady at four students for a while--and unless I can get more fliers out (one more thing to do!), that may not change much. Even if I do get more fliers out, it may not change much. But it's at least worth the try.

And again, that's a worry for another time. More immediately is my awareness that I'll be grading essays all weekend. Another little anxiety jolt occurred today when I realized that--because of a SNAFU with the online submission of adjunct availability for spring, we can't even start on the spring schedules until mid-December, and given the disparity in Cathy's and my schedules, I'll be coming in on a Friday to start the process with her. When will I work on prepping Nature in Lit for the spring? When will I work on the online version of the course? When will I look at the remaining promotion applications?

On it goes. That refrain of "When will I...?" leads to lots of anxiety without producing any actions that reduce the anxiety. It feels a little like trying to make one's way through a traffic jam when one is in a hurry: all that can be done is to look for little openings and dart into them while trying to avoid a crash. The openings do present themselves, one way or another. I wrote up the observation of Cathy's class tonight, for instance. I could have headed home earlier, but I wanted to cross at least one more thing off that triage list.

And the rest will follow in due course, as I see the little opening into which I can squeeze a task or two.

Meanwhile, it's tired and I'm late ... or something like that. I would dearly love to play hooky from Advisement tomorrow, but I know it's likely I'll have to do that in December, in order to get essays marked for the 102s (I essentially have a day in which to mark them: ye gods and little fishes). So, I'll be a good girl and go to Advisement tomorrow, and teach my two classes--good Lord willin' and the crick don't rise.

For now, it's enough to pack up my toys and toddle off homeward.

Monday, November 21, 2016

[Insert profanities here]

I'm posting quickly, and I'm feeling outrageously frantic all of a sudden. I got almost no work done over the weekend--the willful ignoring of the amount of work I need to do and the time remaining in which to do it has, as I suspected it might, turned around to bite me in the ass. I'm getting pretty soundly chewed up, in fact.

I came back to the office after meeting with the 102s in utter despair: why do I torture myself by making students read the novel? Any novel--but especially this one? I'm kind of locked into it for the spring, as I've already ordered the books, but after spring, I'm going to stop teaching 102 entirely: I'm going to stick to 101s and whatever lit elective I can get--trying to limit the range of those as well, sticking pretty much to SF, Nature in Lit, and Native American Lit. The students' inability to read and comprehend is simply too painful.

But, thank God, Paul was here and ready to talk--and with his encouragement, I have decided to redo the schedule for the rest of the semester, ditch the last round of conferences, only do one pass on comments for the essays, and give the students a fraction longer in which to read the book. It's still awfully damned tight, but not quite as bad as it was. I knew when I put the schedule together that I was pushing them through the novel too fast--and it turns out it wasn't just a little too fast but WAY WAY WAY too fast.

So, I started to do a reboot this evening, but I can't focus well enough to continue. I'll have to hit the ground running tomorrow, but I will, in fact, hit the ground running--and I'll have to work pretty much the entire holiday weekend, but if it gets me caught up, it's worth it.

I have to dash: I should have been out of here half an hour ago. Tomorrow, I can stay here until all hours, but tonight, I'm going.

fuckfuckfuckfuck...


Thursday, November 17, 2016

Making an early day of it

I am, as is frequently the case, buoyed up by the energy generated from the events of the day: an observation of Cathy's wonderful teaching, an enormously helpful meeting with colleague Christina on the structure of an online course, the subcommittee meeting (complete with fruit bowl and water bottles), and a fine class.

The subcommittee is going to be very interesting. I tend to resent the hell out of the work that is involved (oh, you could tell?), but once I'm actually engaged in the discussions, I often get fired up--and this meeting was one of those that got things flowing nicely. We've backed up to reboot/start over territory--which involves a lot of what academics do best: talk. Not do: talk. There are some elephants in the room that need to be pointed to: we all know about the systemic lack of trust on our campus and how hard it will be to proceed with actions that will heal the trust, but it's important also to acknowledge the ways in which we in the faculty tend to create rifts, pitting discipline against discipline, the job training folks against the scholars. Possibly the most important "realization" of the meeting was something that should be absolutely obvious and weirdly is not: the importance of having a vision and mission that emphasizes the campus as a community. The issue isn't simply that we're situated in a community and have an obligation to be responsive to the needs of that community. The issue is that we ourselves need to be a community, a communitas. We're not. And as open-minded as we want to believe we are, there are often unacknowledged ways in which we see others in our community as second-class citizens. Unless all our voices, all our strengths, are included and valued in the workings of the institution as a whole, we will never be a community.

So we're getting very excited about the prospect of a full-day symposium, with a guest speaker and break out groups with Active Learning type tasks.... I hope it happens. I might even be persuaded that I should get involved in the planning.

Because I cannot cannot cannot seem to learn to sit on my fucking hands and not volunteer for things--and then I bitch endlessly about how overworked I am. Prof. TLP, do you happen to see any connection between those two things? Any way you might want to reconceptualize something in there?

Case in point: I may have roped myself into being a co-editor of the Nassau Review, the literary journal produced by this campus. No one else wants to do it solo, and Christina (the helpful colleague mentioned above)--who has been doing it solo for a number of years--is sticking firm to her decision to take at least a year's break from it, so someone has to step in or the journal will die. I said I'd "consider" doing it if I could do it with someone else: not solo, co-editor. But even that...? Jayzus, what am I getting myself into here?

And there I go, projecting into the future again. Nix.

Class was great: we really are down to the students who are engaged, responsive, thinking. I have been rather smugly saying how I'm experiencing less attrition than usual--and that's been true (so far, always that caveat) in terms of the 102s. But I counted how many students are still in the SF class--and the attrition is as near as dammit to 50 percent: the numbers have dwindled from 32 to 17. Fortunately, we're not yet at the point where I can be called on the carpet about that--but it does mean that the discussion can get beautifully complex and intelligent. Even the students who are trailing behind are mostly catching on to enough that they have contributions to make, which is very cool. And the bright ones have stopped resisting and are simply grooving on the ideas. Love it.

I have a ton of work to mark for them, of course: I've been collecting their reading notes for more than a week without returning anything, plus I have their second essays. All of that goes on top of the triage stack. In fact, all of that comes home with me this weekend.

It is a mystery to me how my work load seems to change even when what I'm doing really doesn't change much. There was a long stretch of time in there when I could routinely get home in time to ride my exercise bike for 40 minutes and still feed the cats and have dinner myself at a semi-reasonable hour--and I didn't have to bring work home over the weekends. Then things shifted so I couldn't do the bike ride any more, because I needed to stay on campus later in order to get the work done so I wouldn't have to bring it home over the weekend. Now, I stay on campus later AND have to bring work home over the weekend.

What happened to that whole "make full professor and everything gets easier" thing??

We all know the "problem" though: I've said it many times. If I simply didn't give a shit, my job would be much easier. Or if my idea of "giving a shit" was different than it is: if I didn't have such a deeply entrenched sense that this particular way of doing things is the only way I can do things and feel happy with myself.... I keep trying to find ways to address that: to let go of some things I feel are part of my "standards" and recognize that I'm still doing a fine job at important work but accomplishing the work in a way that is more relaxed, that allows me more time that is not devoured by my job.

My life, my teaching: works in progress. I can always do better--and by "better" I don't mean driving myself harder: I mean finding ways to accomplish what matters while being calm, relaxed, and rested.

Yeah. Well, when I figure that out, I'll be sure to let you know.

Now, however, there is still lots of light in the sky--but I'm going to start packing up to depart. I was here ungodly early (for me), so an early departure makes sense, but in addition, I'm trying to put into practice exactly what I was just talking about: creating an opportunity to rest, relax, be calm. (Plus, my right eye is twitching like mad. My ex would ask, "What is it you don't want to look at?" and my answer would be "the image of my face with steamer trunks under my eyes because I haven't gotten enough sleep, thank you very much." I feel energized, but my body knows better.)

Water the office plants. Shove things to be marked and my wonderful editor's desk into a bag. Look around to see what I'm forgetting. Get in the car...

and see you all next week, unless the impulse strikes for a weekend post.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The dreadfully impoverished mental lives of students...

Today in the 102s, I collected the essay and then embarked on getting them set up for The Left Hand of Darkness. I had what I thought was a brilliant idea: I'd present the whole thing as a way of playing "Let's pretend." I asked my students, "How many of you played 'Let's pretend' when you were kids?" Blank looks. "You know, making up something...?" Blank looks, accompanied by shaking of heads: "No, no clue what you're talking about, never did that."

Apparently an entire generation of young people who never made up their own stories: Let's be pirates, let's be a rock band, let's be superheroes ...

I told them that they had lead impoverished childhoods--and I told them that they were going to have a chance to make up for that lack now, by playing "Let's pretend we're in the future, reading the report of a guy who visited another planet." Some of them rather liked the idea. A few promptly fell asleep.

The ones who fell asleep woke back up again, however, when I started saying, "OK, these are people who are hermaphrodites: they have both sets of sex organs." Heads suddenly up: "Did she just say something about 'sex'?" I continued to bend their minds a bit (hermaphrodites, most of the time are completely uninterested in sex in any way shape or form, but periodically go through a "heat" period when either the male or the female organs dominate--but it's a flip of the coin every time...).

To my great satisfaction, I got the question, "But what do they look like?" I told them that I'd asked Le Guin about getting an illustration done of a generic Gethenian, but she nixed the idea. Instead, she suggested that I show my students images of Tibetans, Chileans, Peruvians, Inuits and then ask them, "OK, what do you think Gethenians look like?" And I pulled up the images I culled when I was on sabbatical, not only of people from those cultures but people from those cultures who could easily be either male or female--most very young or very old, but some quite beautiful. They stared at the images, fascinated.

Cool. Now, use your imaginations.

But that rather assumes they have imaginations, and I realize that this may be the biggest stumbling block to their comprehension of the novel: Le Guin provides spectacularly beautiful images--which translate into absolutely nothing in my students' heads. I read several paragraphs, rich in description (and in Le Guin's typically beautiful, supple style) and asked them how they were picturing the scene in their heads.

Using a shorthand I'd not heard until recently but now hear all too often: crickets. (As in, it's so silent, that's all you hear.)

Still, I think they may have a stronger grasp on what they're heading into than usual--not that that means much. Any grasp at all, however tenuous, is more than what I frequently see, and even though I very clearly set them up to expect a bunch of different kinds of "documents" in this report that we're reading, I know for absolute certain that on Monday, most of them will be utterly bewildered by the second and fourth chapters--if not by every single chapter they have to read by Monday.

I don't want to despair. I despair. How can they read a complex and rich work of fiction without having imaginations? This, of course, is why I all too frequently field the question, "Was she on drugs?" They cannot imagine a rational, sane, controlled mind creating something from pure imagination.

And yet I persist in teaching the novel. The Board of Trustees just passed two documents that give all the power in this campus to themselves and allow any and all other bodies--including the college president and his cabinet--merely the ability to "comment." It remains to be seen whether Middle States will respond by summarily yanking our accreditation--as the document so clearly violate any understanding of the word "shared" in "shared governance--or whether the Board will simply be allowed carte blanche, in which case, Paul and I are already trying to envision just how bad things might get: mandates that we have to distribute a certain percentage of good grades, regardless of the quality of work? Never mind a 5-5 load, maybe 6-6? Or shuttering the campus one day, reopening it the next in some other incarnation--but by closing the campus, eliminating tenure, so that we have to all become wage slaves or find some other line of work?

And all that, of course, is assuming that the Trump presidency doesn't simply eliminate any and all forms of federal monies for public education, in which case, what we do here would become utterly moot, even if we could find ways to keep our door open, as god only knows how anyone not already beyond high school or in a private school could be educated.

Grim times. Horrific times. I am more grateful than I can say that Paul, with his moral center and blazing intelligence, is on the front lines of the fight at this campus. I hate what it's doing to him, but I know what he's doing is vital. I know we have other colleagues who also are morally centered and blazingly intelligent, so when Paul steps down, I'm sure we'll still be in good hands--but I know his contributions are invaluable.

So, how to reframe, just today, just right now?

Well, the students in the 102s were coming up with some good stuff, despite their struggles. And I know some of them are going to grab on and really groove on the novel: it always happens.

More good news: Day three of registration, and there are three students signed up for Nature in Lit. I won't celebrate yet: enrollment could stall at any moment. But it feels like a good sign that there are a few in the class already--and that I don't know any of them, so they're signing up for reasons other than the devil they know.

And although the stream of students in Advisement is constant--and they're waiting on average about an hour to be seen--the students I saw today were very happy to have met with me: I received a number of expressions of gratitude, and, in turn, I'm grateful to receive them. It's good to know I'm helping. There were a few times when it took me a while to get myself sorted out so I understood what the student needed, but they were very kind and patient when I got tangled up. Nice.

Finally, although tomorrow is going to be hellish (observation at 8:30 a.m., for fuck's sake: I won't stop bitching about that for a while), next week is a short week. It's sad to admit, but the part that matters most to me about having an extra day off is that I can sleep more. Even if I can't sleep in late, I can nap. That's bliss to contemplate.

Once again, I am steadfastly avoiding marking any student assignments tonight. I can't remember the last time I've gone this many days looking at enormous, steaming--and growing--piles of student assignments and felt, "Nope: doing that later. Kicking that can down the road. I'll get to it eventually." Will it bite me in the ass? Almost certainly. But at the moment, it feels awfully nice to prioritize other things--like getting off campus before 9 p.m., having time to run an errand on the way home, that sort of thing.

And speaking of that sort of thing, I am hosting a subcommittee meeting tomorrow, and I said I'd be a good hostess and provide some sort of beverage and snacky thing, so I'm going to toddle off to the market to see what looks easy and welcoming. Then home. "Dobson! Drive on."