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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The wall, dammit, the wall

I really wanted to get more done tonight, but the wall has been well and truly hit. I was about to start marking another student's essay and I realized I had no idea what she was saying. None. And I think hers is a good paper.

But I don't believe I can get the rest done before class and be in Advisement tomorrow. I'd even cancel the Poetry class, except I'm getting them ready to submit papers next week.

Damn, damn, damn, damn. (And blast, and hell, and fucking shitty fuck.)

So, early alarm tomorrow, and a long grind at the desk. I have to really plow hard, too, as I also have to get all the papers ready for the Thursday class--and although my schedule is mercifully open on Thursday, I do have an office hour, and there's always a chance someone will show up.

I actually got a little reprieve today: the Mystery Fan was supposed to meet me for a mentoring appointment today, but he e-mailed to reschedule. Whew. But I realized that last night, as I was thinking I'd have tons of time to mark stuff for the poetry students and to do paper grading, I forgot about P&B.

I'm doing that a lot these days. Maybe I should consider whether to run again, if I'm this tuned out. Also, one of the people I'm mentoring through promotion didn't get his folder back in until late last night--and it still isn't complete. Bruce asked if I could look at it today or tomorrow, and I had to say no. I feel bad about it, but really: I can't do it. Maybe Thursday--but then the person wouldn't have time to make any corrections if they're needed. He's running around trying to get the last bits in by tomorrow--but if he does, I have to come up with a letter for him before Monday. In addition, another of the candidates I'm mentoring had a huge, howling error of pagination and document numbering in her application. I sent her an e-mail about it, but I've not heard boo back. I'm going to leave a message on her voice mail, too: it's not an issue of substance, but it is absolutely crucial that she fix the problem ASAP.

Paul's, on the other hand, is clean, clear, precise, done. I'll try to look at it more closely and carefully before Monday, but I know he doesn't need to worry. Still, for his peace of mind, I'll give it that last look through.

A lot of the conversation in P&B ended up being about retirement. Cathy is looking at it: she wants to retire under this contract, so she's not sure whether it makes sense to go up for full, as she'd retire before the promotion kicks in. It didn't occur to me to ask whether retiring while the next contract is in negotiations would be a problem or whether we'd still get the retirement benefits of this contract. The main thing is that this contract guarantees health care for retirees: it probably won't be fully paid for, as if working faculty have to start paying a percentage of it, retirees would too--but they can't deny the coverage to retirees. That's an added incentive for me, too. One of the members of P&B said that she didn't know what she'd do--or even really who she'd be--if she weren't teaching. I have a little of that in me, too: if I truly do retire, I have to have a very clear sense of what I want to do and who I want to be after retirement. As I keep saying, I don't want to retire from; I want to retire to. And until I've figured out what I'd be retiring to, I don't feel I can retire, even if I risk losing health care or this place goes down in flames. (Metaphoric, not literal. I don't think anyone is ready for the Molotov cocktails yet, though some may be tempted.)

In any event, I was late to class--again--because P&B ran a little late, and then I encountered the colleague who is frantically trying to get his application done and I needed to let him know that a document he had a question about would be OK, and then I remembered that I wanted to check with him about an e-mail I'd sent, regarding my attempts to explain the difference between socially constructed gender and gender identity, especially in light of the increasing awareness of the trans community and the struggle for recognition and rights for people who are trans. (He is; that's why I wanted his take on it.) That took longer than I expected, so I rushed in to class, breathless.

And they were great. Only one student was there without a paper; several more were AWOL (including one young woman who could be very good but who has missed more classes than she's been to, I think, and who is missing most of her work). But the best news of all is that the Divorcee (for lack of a better moniker) was there with the official notice that her immunization situation had been resolved: she has been reinstated in all her classes. That was a great relief, for both of us. I put her to work with the Young Mother (again, for lack of a better moniker): they've bonded anyway, so I decided to let them have this peer review together, though next time I'll split them up. They all worked hard together, and when I said they needed to start sharing their feedback, they did--in their usual collaborative spirit.

I just love that class. They're so great, I can hardly believe my good fortune. It's just random luck, the fluke of chemistry, but they're wonderful to work with, and even though the other class is pulling together much better, this one continues to be smoother, more clear, more focused. happier.... I'm blessed that I end my work week with them.

Of course, I have to get to the end of the work week first--and even though only a fraction of the students submitted papers, marking them still is taking time. I realize, too, that I need to add one layer to the process: I need to give them revision feedback separately from the "mechanics" feedback, so they don't get hung up on punctuation and forget to work on the ideas. However, as the process works now, I have to use the same submission for both sets of feedback. Last semester, I tried using different colored pen to indicate the mechanics problems--but they couldn't ignore what was there, even when I specifically told them to. So this time, I made copies of their papers before I started marking for revision, and I'm marking mechanics on a separate copy as I go along. That seems to work OK--but I don't want to have to make the photocopies of their papers. So, if/when I do this again, I'll need to ask for two clean copies--or figure out how to get an additional submission in there with enough time for me to mark it. I'm not sure I want to devote that much class time to working through submissions--and I'm not sure I want to have to mark their papers twice before the final. I think the two clean copies for me idea is probably the way to go.

Another thing I've realized is that I haven't made a specific provision in the submission guidelines for what happens if a student dutifully submits the hard copy on time and then doesn't submit to Turnitin at all. I have a provision for late submission to Turnitin, but not for when that step is omitted entirely--and it happens enough that I do need to figure out the penalty and codify it in writing. I try to scare them by saying that if they miss the deadlines, they get a zero for this whole submission and all the attendant work, but that really only applies if they do neither one: neither the hard copy nor the Turnitin submission.

Well, it's something to ponder. Meanwhile, I play that part by ear, kinda....

And as I'm writing this post, madly nattering away, it's getting later and later, and the time between when I leave here and when I have to be back is getting shorter and shorter, so ... well, c'est tout. C'est finis. Take your Crayolas and color me gone.

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