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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Fleet-footed time, goddammit

I have no idea how class could end so early, I could do so little, and it still could end up being so late. I truly thought I'd be home and cozy by now--and I've been fighting the desire to play hooky all week. I know we just had a break, but still: I'm feeling whiny and petulant, and there's nothing better for that state than a day of doing absotively nothing useful on what should be a work day.

However, the 101 students are turning in their final versions of essay 2, so, well, I have to be here. But class today was astoundingly brief. I collected papers; I read the "quotation for consideration" for the final paper; we talked about it a little; I sent everyone home. Total class time, about 30 minutes. The very bright young woman was late, and I was just sitting down at the computer in the classroom to see if there was an e-mail from her stating that she wouldn't make it to class when she came in. She has to take three buses to get to school, and she'd missed one of them. But her paper was there, on time, so ... all good.

On the way back to the office I stopped to talk to Cathy. She'd rather lectured us all in P&B about attending the party she's trying to put together for the retirees--and it pissed me off. I wanted to simply let it go, but I found it was rankling--just the teeniest bit, but there, and since she and I are friends, I didn't want to let that fester. As soon as I brought it up--before I could even explain how I'd felt--she apologized, and of course there was a rather complicated back-story to what she'd said and the way she'd said it. She couldn't tell me the whole story (for reasons of confidentiality that I can respect, though I don't quite know what I wouldn't be able to know, as one of Bruce's assistants and a member of P&B), but she told me enough that I completely understand why she'd have behaved as she did. She was grateful I'd not let it fester, and I was grateful that she was so clear in offering both an apology and as much explanation as she could.

I then talked to Paul for a while, though not as long as we might normally, as he has a huge pile of papers that he has to finish for his class tomorrow morning. (We all empathize with that.)

Then--best part of the day by far--a student from the poetry class came by for her appointment with me. We ended up talking for more than an hour, and it was great. She's wanted to do well all semester but hasn't been doing as well as she'd like; she registered late and has sort of been behind the curve since. She said that she was sorry she hadn't come to talk to me earlier in the semester, but truly, better now than later or not at all. Perhaps the most lovely moment of that entire discussion came early on: she wanted to know what to do to make her responses better, so I pulled out the ones I had in my "To Be Graded" folder. Looking at them, she could see that she was doing little more than summarizing the poems, but I found one remark that was closer to analysis/interpretation: I asked her to say more about it, then asked another question--and her answer was brilliant. I'm not exaggerating: it was great. I was gobsmacked. I truly had no idea she was capable of that kind of thinking, so most of the rest of the meeting was about how she could convey  more of that terrific thinking in her writing, both her responses and her papers.

I truly love those one-on-one moments with students, especially those that contain that kind of very happy surprise. I don't know how much of what we discussed she'll be able to demonstrate: there's often a significant time gap between when a student grasps a concept and when that person is able to actualize the concept, put it to use. (This applies to me as a student, too: I frequently grasp the concept of something I'm supposed to do in dance, or riding, or music, long before I can actually do it--especially do it anywhere near well.) But just that she has the concept now is glorious. Watching her have realization after realization as we talked was beautiful.

Again and again and again: this is why I do it. This is why I teach. This is why I put so much energy and intensive thought into how I do what I do: because when it works--those few, gorgeous moments when it works--are so exhilarating.

Of course, I have an enormous bolus of work to be done--student assignments to mark, P&B whatever to take care of, god alone knows what other pearls to retrieve or plates to spin--but I'm going to toddle off. I have to put in some make-up time in Advisement tomorrow (and again next Thursday); I know it will probably be just busy enough to make it difficult to accomplish much in the way of work, which means I will still have a lot to get through--tomorrow, Monday, whenever (not over the weekend, I don't think). But I'm ready for tomorrow: I read over the creative samples that I got from the Mystery Enthusiast, so I'm ready to meet with him, and I have work packed in a shoulder bag to carry to Advisement, and for tonight, that's enough.

So ... oh, shoot. What's tomorrow again? It's not the same day; it's, it's .... well, I'll think about that later. When I'm stronger.

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