I tell my students that they may not be able to figure out the title for their papers until after the paper is written. I've had about six different ideas for what to use as the title: it keeps changing as the day has progressed.
A lot of the day was spent working on a seminar hours issue. We're trying to get a specific cohort of honors students into the mentoring process, so one of my colleagues who knows a great deal more about honors than I has been working with me to figure out what we need to do to roll out the option in fall. This is one of the pearls that slipped through the floorboards last semester (over which I spent a bit too much time in self-castigation), so I'm determined to stay on top of it this semester. Whenever this kind of work goes on--at least in the English department--there's always a rather bizarre oil-and-water mix of theorizing and pragmatics that makes it a challenge to finalize anything. Still, I think we've made good progress--just in what we did today. I'll be happy and relieved if we can get this thing off the ground, and there is some urgency that we get it figured out and in place rapidly, as we're about to send out the seminar hours preference forms: the forms in which faculty indicate how they want to fulfill their hours, among the options we currently have in place. I want the honors mentoring option to be on there, but I'm not sure if it's premature to do that.
...and in the "stream of consciousness" vein of this blog, I got half-way through the preceding sentence, suddenly thought, "I should e-mail Scott about this," and ended up spending about half an hour crafting my e-mail to him and responding to several other e-mails that had come in as I did that, all having to do with this same issue.
Class today was, as usual, great. The students were interested, engaged, willing to talk about the new paper topic with a lot more enthusiasm--and pre-existing knowledge--than yesterday's group. There were two minor downers at the end of class. One was caused by a student whom I've mentioned before, who seems very intelligent and capable but missed some crucial steps in the paper process because he was on vacation. He asked if he'd lose points because he'd missed one of those steps. Answer: yes. Not a lot, but some. He asked if there was any way to make that up. Answer: no (which he knew even before he asked): how can one make up a peer review without a peer to review? He muttered something about "It was just one class" and that the class "just moves so fast." My response: yeah, well, welcome to college: you miss a class, you may well miss important work that cannot be "made up." Unlike high school, it's not our job to help you make up work you missed--especially when you missed it because you were, I repeat, on vacation.
Pause for a sigh.
The other slight downer was the interaction with one of two students who hasn't turned in any part of the first essay assignment. I should note that I finally read his "beginning of semester" self-evaluation--which he posted about a week ago--and in it he said that he'd always liked English "until we started having to write all these papers."
Another pause for a sigh, this time also with a "face-palm" (or what I call an "Oh, Bernard" moment: long story, reference to Billy Jack, don't ask).
However, today at the end of class he told me that he'd been to the Writing Center--today, without an appointment--and (shock and amazement!) hadn't gotten much help. He didn't know who the tutor was, "an older woman with glasses" (isn't that all the women there?), but in any event, he felt frustrated and although he'd written two pages, he wasn't ready to submit anything to me.
OK, yet another pause for a deep sigh, this one for gathering of patience.
1. Among the lessons learned here, don't rely on a drop-in visit to the Writing Center: make an appointment, so you can be sure to get one of the tutors I recommend.
2. Although I didn't mention it to him, maybe go to the Writing Center immediately after the professor recommends it, not the day when the final version of the paper is due.
3. Talk to the professor earlier in the process, not once it's all over.
I told him to submit as much as he possibly could tonight or tomorrow. Some points are better than no points. But then, shake it off and start working on the next essay. See me early in the process. Bear in mind that you still may not be able to pass.
He told me that he'd been in 001, didn't think he should have been there, was told by his teacher he probably shouldn't have been there but should have gone directly into 101. I should point out that there is a "move up" process, whereby students who are capable of the work of 101 can test out of 001 half-way through the semester and take an accelerated version of 101 in the second half of the semester--which clearly didn't happen. I would think that indicates he was not, in fact, ready for 101 last semester--and his current behavior seems to indicate he's not really ready for 101 now, or maybe just not ready for college in general.
The Young Mother and the Divorcee are really rooting hard for this young man--he's a kid, really: they want him to succeed. If I had to take bets right now, I'm afraid I'd bet against him. But maybe he can pull it together and turn it around.
Not so parenthetically, the other student who has been missing deadlines left, right and center missed another one today--despite the fact that I gave him a chance to turn something in, get feedback, and submit a revision. What he submitted would have been great for a preliminary version, but, well, it doesn't matter now, because he didn't turn anything in--and if he tries to turn anything in on Tuesday, the boat will have sailed so long ago that it will be docking in China.
Now, however, to reframe the week on a positive note: I happened to look a the first paragraph of one of the papers from a student in the poetry class. She's already a teacher and is taking courses to add a certification--and her level of ability is so manifest it's almost blinding. I am going to put her paper on the bottom of the stack so I'll know, as I wade through the rest, that I have that treat coming. And on another positive note, one of my favorite students from the Mystery and Detective class last semester has suddenly reappeared: she sent me a charming e-mail last week and another this week. She's one of that duo of young women whose home lives are such train wrecks I don't know how they manage college, but she does, and I think she's just going to shine brighter and get stronger the more education she gets. She asked for a letter of recommendation, and I'm happy to provide it. I don't see in her the innate intellect I see in the student I've talked about before, the one who was in 101, then in M&D, and whom I've been mentoring unofficially this semester: that young woman is truly brilliant. I need to come up with monikers for these two, as I hope I'll be talking about both for some time to come: let's call the student from 101 the Timid Intellectual and the student from M&D Miss Charisma--and there's no sarcasm there at all: she is truly blazingly charismatic. And I'm honored to have had the privilege of teaching them both.
On which note, it is, my faithful readers, time for my weekend to begin.