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Thursday, March 17, 2016

Saved by my 101

After a beautiful, leisurely start to the day, at 3:15 I went downstairs to have a little preliminary meeting with Bruce: he, Cathy and I had to meet with an adjunct whose syllabus was alarming. The main point of concern is that the guy is teaching from a volume on Victorian Literature in ENG101--beginning composition--and that among the required readings is a selection from Sartor Resartus. (I inaccurately told Paul they have to read the whole thing--but still: Carlyle in a freshman comp?)

The meeting started out with a lot of rancor, and with Bruce and the adjunct getting increasingly loud. The adjunct had brought a union rep with him--which is utterly fine--and mercifully the union rep stayed out of the fray, but the whole communication was going from bad to worse, and the adjunct very clearly said that he hadn't been aware of our textbook policy, but that now that he knew, he'd be happy to use one of the specified texts. I jumped in and managed to calm things down, because I started to think that perhaps we were nailing this guy for stuff he legitimately didn't know. (I still have problems with the very notion that he thought he could teach Sartor Resartus, but he was willing to give it up, so, OK.) After I talked for a while, Bruce very magnanimously said that he had to take responsibility for a lack of clear communication with the adjuncts over changes in policy--or even creation of policies--and he outlined his idea for how to make sure that all the adjuncts know exactly what's expected in each class (which was part of a chaotic and, for me, stressful P&B meeting on Tuesday).

But then Cathy intimated that the adjunct might be pretty hide-bound and unwilling to change. He denied the charge--and things fell apart all over again, with each of them demanding an apology from the other...

And I was frantically looking for an opportunity to say, "I'm sorry; I have to go teach a class." By the time I did, I was running quite late.

Fortunately, Ed is here, so I could unburden myself to him all the way across campus--and Cathy just now called to apologize to me for upsetting the apple cart in that meeting, but it was one of those situations when a person just can't sit silently and not make disdain known. The union rep and Bruce got things calmed down and apparently all is now well.

In any event, when I got to class, I told the students I'd just been in an upsetting meeting and might need a minute to shake it off. They were curious about the meeting, so I told them just enough so they'd understand that it had to do with a completely different part of my job--and then we started talking about documentation and MLA versus APA.

And that's when it got good. As soon as I started talking, they were taking notes, writing down what I was putting on the board--asking questions for heaven's sake, can you imagine? It was great. Then I put them in groups to talk about the article--and as I was mixing up the groups, I booted the pot smoker who had come to class and promptly fell asleep. I'd even asked the student sitting next to him to elbow him awake at one point, and he promptly fell asleep again. I simply said that I'd see him after the break; he tried to do the "no, no, I'll stay awake" thing but I insisted: I'll see you after the break. (And Mr. Maybe Snarky said, "That was cold blooded; that was really cold-blooded." Ah, well, I have to maintain my reputation as the evil bog monster from hell.)

They did great with the article, animated discussion, conversation--Ed eavesdropping on one group, three of the best students in the class, loving what they had to say--and I could probably have stretched the discussion out a little longer, but instead, Ed and I did a little tango demonstration for them. I prefaced it with the fact that we're both students, so we would make mistakes (which we did)--and they absolutely loved it.

Nice. No, better than nice. Utterly, totally beautiful. And it completely changed my mood: I left the classroom happy and energized and loving what I do.

Which is a good note on which to end. I won't be posting over the break--unless something highly unexpected arises--and posts in the week after the break (when Ed will still be here) may be shorter than usual, but I'll be back at it on March 28. I'll check in with you all then.

1 comment:

  1. Even bog monsters need protection from Carlyle, snarky students, and Gustavo Rivera. Keep on tangoing through Easter.

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