So today was set to be the usual Wednesday experience: time in advisement ("it is what it is"--a phrase I detest, but I confess that there are occasions when it is apropos), Poetry class (gawd), 101 (worse than that). Those experiences were as expected. Two of the more talkative (and astute) students from the poetry class were not there today, so it was particularly painful; four--count 'em, four--students actually showed up with essays, three of them late. (The one who was on time? The guy who's seemed borderline hostile all semester but who will, occasionally, condescend to smile.) A fifth student showed up very very late, didn't have her paper printed, went to print it, and came back with (drum-roll, please) two pages (five being the required minimum for this assignment).
Sigh. Whatever. I got some assignments marked. It won't take me long to mark those five submissions. I don't have to struggle with them much longer.
The borderline hostile female student--who surprised me with the cri de coeur e-mail that I reproduced in a post a while back--is going to come see me tomorrow, but when I asked her to select a specific time, she acted as if I were imposing a ridiculously onerous restriction on our meeting. I'm going to be extremely curious to see what it's like to talk with her one on one. I have absolutely no idea who will show up: the hostile student with the sneer or the student who is turning to me for help (or some chimera of the two?).
I have to see them four more times. That's six too many. But I'll survive.
However, the real saving grace of the day was my meeting with a student from the poetry class. She arrived at 5--and we talked until almost 7. I think I may have mentioned her before. She started the semester late and was worried about whether she should withdraw. Probably she should have, as her grade is not going to be stellar (and she wants to go to law school), but she's stuck it out, and a while ago she met with me to talk about how to improve her responses. They improved briefly, then began to slip back into the old pattern of simply paraphrasing/summarizing the externals of the poem, rather than engaging in any analysis.
We talked about that for a bit, but she also wanted to talk about revising her second paper--which was pretty disastrous, I have to say. The two big problems were 1) she was focusing on what a "reader" might experience, not on analysis of the poems and 2) her interpretation of the poems completely missed the barn. (A reference to the movie Cat Ballou, when the drunken gun-fighter played by Lee Marvin is supposed to hit a target painted on the broad-side of a barn ... and hits the weather vane.)
So, we spent most of that almost two hours working through the poems she had used for her paper (poems about poetry), working--pulling impacted "wisdom" teeth--to get to an analysis that made any kind of sense. I had to keep taking her back to, "And how does that relate to the other poem we talked about?" "And how does that relate to the previous stanzas?" "So, what is the poet saying about poetry?" Over and over and over. She's mastered the art of nodding and saying "Got it," but when I'd ask her to say what she got, she didn't, in fact, have anything substantial. Bless her pea-pickin' heart. Eventually, gradually, she started to have some ideas she could hold onto.
Then the last of our meeting was spent talking about how she could manage the fact that her sentences turn into word salad. I opened her second essay and read a sentence at random--and her eyes popped. "What on earth did I even mean?" (Honey, I sure as hell don't know if you don't.) My recommendation: find an amanuensis. She said her dad could help her. Fine, but he only writes the actual words you say. He can ask you questions, like "what do you mean by that?" or "where does it say that in the poem?" or "didn't you just say ...?" But you have to explain your ideas; you have to find the words that make it make sense.
We'll see what the outcome is, but even if the outcome is not much of a payoff for the time and energy I expended, I'm still glad to have expended the time and energy. She got something out of our meeting, even if what she got doesn't bear fruit for years.
So, that made the whole day worthwhile: it's a win of a day, especially as I also found my travel mug. Yesterday, when I was getting ready to leave home, I realized I didn't have it, and I couldn't figure out where it might be. I e-mailed to see if I'd left it in my cubicle in advisement--but no. I was about ready to order a new one, when I suddenly thought, "Maybe I left it in the bathroom of the building where Advisement is?" As I walked into that building on my way to Advisement this morning, there was my mug: not in the bathroom but perched on top of one of the drinking fountains. Howdy howdy hooray! That's about as good as a Wednesday can get. I'm taking that and going home.