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Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Something about a sow's ear and a silk purse...?

I hate Mondays and Wednesdays. I truly do. The students in the Poetry class are dedicated but the discussion never catches fire. They are responding to each other in ways that I like, but the silences are leaden--and I feel I'm handing them far too much, but they're like a whole herd of Bambis in spotlights.

And the 101 is just fucking painful. Today I got them to loosen up a tiny bit, but it really took some doing. The student in the room who is doing the best work might was radiating piss-off today, and everyone else was inert or resisting, or both. I backed up, talked a little about class chemistry and how it sometimes creates this feeling of silence and lack of bonding--but then I asked them what had led to the painful silence when I'd asked them to talk about some of their ideas from their preliminary papers. One student--bless her--admitted she hadn't done the preliminary paper yet, so she didn't have anything to say. "OK," I said, cheerfully, "Fair enough." Then, gradually, the rest loosened up until I got everyone in the room to explain the source of his or her individual silence. They also all weighed in on when they'd like me to go over information about documentation, and the decision was unanimously that I should do it next Wednesday, when they're about to write their second submissions. Still, I couldn't get them to really engage in discussion: there were more silences than moments of conversation--and being in the circle didn't seem to help (in fact it may very well have been detrimental). After about 40 minutes of struggling to get something going, I asked what they wanted to do next. One student (one of the adult women) suggested we could start reading the article they have to read and respond to for Monday. I asked the rest if they thought that would be productive and got a resounding--and verbalized--"no." I laughed and said, "Thank you! That was a nice, clear response. So, are we done?" Yep. I teased one of the more truculent students a little; he's been starting to open up a bit, so I targeted him, saying, "He's going 'yeah, sounds good, let's get the hell out of here'" or something along those lines, and he smiled and others responded with something between a smile and a small laugh. I am not, I assured them, in the business of torturing students, so if they don't have anything they want or need from the class, I see no reason to keep them there.

And I am reminding myself again about what can and cannot be made from a sow's ear. This section of 101 is never, ever going to be anything remotely approaching a silk purse. I might be able to make a modestly attractive little pigskin minaudiere (isn't that a great word? I just found it, specially for this post)--but that's the extent of how far I'll be able to take that class. And I'm not even counting on that. I suspect it's going to be the ear of a pig all the way through May.

Every teaching career has numerous pig's-ear classes. I'm lucky I don't have them more often.

I suppose the up-side to all that is that I may be getting out of class early on Mondays and Wednesdays, assuming those students continue to come to class with absolutely nothing they want to say. I'll give them what I can without their input, and if they have nothing to add? Buh-bye.

I came back to the office prepared to crank through a bunch of the papers I need to have done before class tomorrow--bearing in mind that I will be seeing a student for seminar hours and may have students during my office hours (though that's a relatively remote possibility), and also bearing in mind that I have a shit-load of other stuff I need to mark ASAP (as I mentioned yesterday). However, Paul and I got talking about the politics here, and I had to ride my own personal hobby-horses around for a while, and he had a lot he wanted to air out, and then I had some P&B stuff I decided to take care of, getting it out from under my feet (following the "if I don't do it now, I'll forget" methodology), and then Paul asked a question about a P&B thing, and I realized others might have the same question, so I sent the info to P&B ...

and the end result was I hit the wall and rebounded a couple of times but never actually got around to grading any papers. And now I've well and truly hit the wall: nothing else of any value is coming out of this woman's head tonight. I need to make a grocery run on the way home--hoping I end up with something I actually want to eat. Paul and I are going out tomorrow night; he has a meeting on Friday, so he won't be doing his usual bolt on Thursday afternoon. So, after I do whatever grading I get done tomorrow, I'll have the class I actually enjoy, a blog post to write (also something I enjoy), and dinner with my office husband. That's a lot to look forward to--so, screw today: forward I look.

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