Students in the poetry class were very nearly comatose. I finally had to say to them, "If anything is said about these poems, it has to come from you. I'm not saying anything." They sort of stepped up to the plate, but the silence was about to kill me. I asked them what was going on, and they said it was the struggle of coming back after the break.
Hence my love-hate relationship with that break.
There are, as far as I can tell, about 16 students left in the M/W 101. Seven of them showed up today with papers to work on. Seven. The best students were there, thank heaven, but all the students who are in that "struggling but still capable" category were not. Those who were there did pretty good work--though I felt bad for one of the older students: I paired her with a young man who has turned in essentially nothing, and I highly doubt she got anything beneficial from working with him--nor was she probably able to give him anything helpful, as I doubt he had anything much she could work on.
Miss Confusing was there: the young woman who baffles me (snotty? scared? both? something else?). She started out saying something about wanting to apologize about her paper in advance. I said, OK, thank you--but the apology isn't needed. Everyone is struggling, so we started off with that: what's hard? Why? And essentially I just said, "Yes, you're right. It's hard." I hope simply the confirmation that it truly is hard helps. I think often students assume that, if it's hard, they must be doing something wrong, but in fact they're doing something right.
But I asked Miss Confusing to stay and talk to me for a minute after class. Almost all the other students were gone, and she said, "What did I do?" I said, "It's more what you didn't do..." and I showed her all the zeroes on her record. Suddenly, she seemed very tremulous and afraid, much as she had the first day of class. She looked at the ground and said, in a tiny little mouse voice, "I'm sorry." I explained that I was concerned and wanted to figure out what was causing the problem. I asked a few questions: is it this? "No, Ma'am." (Eyes on the floor.) Is it this? "No, Ma'am." (Eyes on the floor.) Finally, I asked whether she was having a hard time following the assignment schedule, and--still in the tiny mouse voice and looking at the floor--she said, "Yes, Ma'am." OK, I said, let's look at it together. So we did--and I didn't perceive any problems with her understanding the schedule, so I asked if she understood the assignments. She said, "Yes, Ma'am." The only thing she didn't understand was the discussion board posts, so we talked about that a little--and she confessed that she hated them, hated posted anything, even on social media. I explained why they shouldn't be scary--but she said that didn't really help overcome her resistance. I said maybe it was just something she'd have to "white-knuckle" through: just say to herself "I hate this like poison, but I have to do it." She laughed a little at "hate this like poison," and said she'd try. (Mouse voice: "Yes, ma'am.") I said that we probably should check in when we get into the second paper, see how things are going, and I encouraged her to keep in touch with me via e-mail about any concerns, anything--and then I got a flash of the look that reads as angry/disdainful, followed by the flash of what looks like a sneering "smile," and she left.
I have not a single clue what's going on there, which of her demeanors to read. No clue. Well, whatever. I've done my part; now it's over to her.
And I don't know what to expect for Wednesday. Will there suddenly be a bunch of students in the room who think they can submit their essays late? Am I down to seven students? I know that one student--who has been working hard and doing well--was in an "incident" that left her hospitalized for a number of days, and she's not sure when she might be able to return to class: she sent an e-mail to all her professors. I hope she doesn't fall too far behind, as it would be a shame to lose her.
On the other hand, the Bullshit Artist--talks a great game but is lying to himself about just about everything--pulled a 180 today. I ran into him when I was in Advisement: he was in the Center for Students with Disabilities and he told me a story about how his computer "literally" blew up and has been in the repair shop for six days, so he wouldn't have the paper for today. I said OK, have it for me by tomorrow at 6, even if it's only a page or two, just so we have something to go on. Yes, sure, fine--and then he blew in to class with a withdrawal slip in his hand: "I need your signature on this, and then I need to know what to do with it." I told him which parts he needs to fill out; I filled out the part I needed to and signed it, and I said to take it to the Registrar--and reminded him where the Registrar's office is located. I'm now taking bets on whether he manages to complete the withdrawal or ends up with the UW.
I don't mind losing him: all the better. But I am truly saddened that the student in the T/Th class whom I've been so moved by, the divorcing mother who is trying so hard to create a whole new life for herself, is being officially disenrolled--because she didn't provide proof of her immunizations. I don't think there's any recourse there: it used to be that, if the student could present the documentation to the Health Office, he or she could be reinstated, but the information that I got along with the notice that she was being disenrolled seemed to suggest that she's just gone, period, and can't return this semester. I'm not sure how to find out whether it truly is irrevocable: I hope she can produce the needed documentation and return to class, but if she can't, I cannot allow her back. It just seems cosmically unjust to me--but there also isn't a thing I can do about it.
The only other thing to report is that I had a long, long, long conversation with a student in Advisement--really more of a mentoring session than academic advisement. I could--and perhaps should--have cut it short and hustled her out, since I wasn't actually advising her (and I did have a large clump of poetry responses to mark--a clump that is even larger now). But I opted to talk with her, taking the risk that I might have to stay very late tonight to get the poetry stuff marked so I'd still have time to respond to the 101 papers before Wednesday. And since I only have seven 101 papers, even if more arrive tomorrow, I should have plenty of time to mark everything without having to stay late tonight. And that's good.
Tomorrow I have a meeting with the Mystery Enthusiast for my seminar hours, but I think the rest of the day is clear until class at 4. I'll have plenty to do--but I don't need to feel any anxiety now. Which is nice, so I think I'll close on that note for tonight.