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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Posting late

It's after 8:30 already, and I should be home, but I do want to post--though I'll try to keep it (relatively) brief, just so I can get home.

The debacle here continues. Apparently, at last night's BOT meeting, there was very nearly a brawl--not about the insanity of the "PIP" report that I quoted at length last night, not about the fact that the administration was making insane demands of the degrees (reducing both the Associate in Arts and the Associate in Sciences degrees to only one math and one science (if you did a double take: yeah, you read it right: a degree in math and science that includes only one math and one science)), but about allegations that the presidential search has been tainted. As reported by various sources whom I know and trust, it was either highly entertaining--the way watching "epic fail" videos is entertaining, I guess--or painfully demonstrative of how utterly fucked up this institution has become. Today, the brouhaha continues via the campus e-mail circuits. One desperate soul put out a plea for an end to the finger pointing and vendettas and a call for us all--ALL--to start over in a spirit of collaboration and amity. Normally I'd be firmly in the "can't we all just get along" camp (because I'm either a wuss or a diplomat by nature--or, really, a combination of both). However, what's happening here has gone beyond that point. One cannot speak reason to the unreasonable.

For my own sanity, I will have to write letters to, well, whoever I think will listen. I don't much want to devote the time and energy to it, but if I don't, I won't be able to live with myself.

And for my own sanity, I have to hope that things are so irretrievably broken that somehow there's going to be a demand from an authority that we clear all the slates and start all over.

Finally, for my own sanity, I have to stop running it over and over in my mind for tonight.

So, students. And yes, there's good news.

In today's 101, both the students I'd been worried about as the bad apples spoiling the whole bunch were present. But the class still ran well. I joked--and they laughed. There was a perceptible unclenching in the atmosphere of the class. It started with me being a little more lecture-focused than I like, but I had to get them through the requirements of the essay (and even at that, I decided to hold off on one handout: I'll give it to them when we get to the mechanics review: that will be soon enough). I almost bailed on the little plagiarism exercise that I do with them, but I decided to go ahead with it--and I'm glad I did. They diligently did the work--and they were awake and responsive, in their groups and when we turned to discuss it with the class as a whole. I didn't, as I had planned, go over paper formatting with the whole class: we had 15 minutes left, and I asked them if they could take it in or if their brains were already on overload. Most voted for overload, so I said those who wanted to stay could and the rest could leave. About seven students stayed. I'll run the demonstration again--with the mechanics review.

The only downer was the very smart student who has wanted to bend my ear a lot but who has done zero work so far. He came in to my office hour on Monday, and I gave him advice for what to do to approach the work. He stayed after class to talk to me for "just five minutes"--which turned into twenty-five--because he'd managed to produce one paragraph, "and that was working all night until I just froze up and getting help from two people and" and and and and. He kept making excuses and saying he knew they weren't excuses. I offered advice: everything I suggested either he'd already thought about or couldn't do for some reason--but the upshot was he was telling me that he literally is incapable of doing the work yet that he cannot withdraw from the class. The longer we talked, the more tense and angry he seemed to become--I think because he was hoping I'd have some magic pill that would release him from having to actually come through on the assignments (or that I'd specifically tell him to withdraw so that he wouldn't have to take responsibility for making that decision). I told him that, as far as I'm concerned, he can sit in the class all semester: whether he does any work or not is up to him entirely.

I think it was mostly maddening because he kept saying he already knew what I was going to tell him (in which case, why are we having this conversation?) and because he was saying he wasn't making excuses when all he was doing was making excuses. As Paul pointed out, the student's problem is not how he's reacting to me but that he's lying to himself. But I'm very proud of myself that I didn't lose my cool. I just got more quiet, spoke more slowly and deliberately, and said less. But I did have to come back to the office and rant at Paul for a little while before I could calm down.

Despite that pea under the mattress, the student interactions have been great. I had a lovely interaction with a student in yesterday's 101 that I didn't record. She's not been handing in much work--and after class, she finally stayed for a bit to talk to me about what she's been struggling with. At the end of our conversation, she admitted that she'd been unwilling to talk to me about the problems but had finally decided that she really needed to. I said, "So, you just learned something! When you have a problem, talk to the professor right away." We both were smiling, almost laughing at that point: she was relieved, and I was glad to reinforce that I am there to help. I'm having a hard time conveying how charming a moment it was, but it was the best part of the day yesterday--and went a long way toward making today tolerable.

Tomorrow, I have a mountain of assignments to mark before class. I actually do have a student scheduled for my seminar hour (miracle!) and one or two may show up for my office hour, so I'll need to get here toot sweet and get cracking on the marking if I'm to have any chance at getting it all done. Which means that I really do have to get out of here.

(And that's brief? Ye gods and little fishes. This is what happens when I get my hands on a keyboard.)

1 comment:

  1. "Can't we all just get along" breaks my heart. Like you, i would normally be on the path of reconciliation. But "when a long train of abuses and usurpations, having as their object..." Well we all know the rest. In for a penny, in for a pound: if the above is our national creed, we are obligated almost genetically to stay the course. If corrupt beings bring pain and tyranny to us, we must confront them bravely and rationally I was here 35 years ago. The halcyon age is (as it always is) pure myth. Deep wounds back then were left to fester until now. Now the infection must be cleansed before it destroys the body academic and with all the hundreds of narratives of loss and salvation which are our students' lives! B