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Thursday, April 14, 2016

I need a pack mule, or at least a little burro....

I'm carrying home an enormous wodge of papers, plus my absolutely gorgeous, nearly indispensable editor's desk, plus the wheelie pack of the usual class stuff and nonsense, plus the almost suitcase that doubles as my purse, plus my lunch bag. Fortunately, I have this nice peasant build, so I can tote that barge, lift that bale, plow that field, schlep all this teaching mishigas without too much strain. (If I can get it on my shoulder, I can carry it.) And although it is relatively daunting, in terms of how much I need to chunk through this weekend, it isn't nearly as petrifying as it looks, as a lot of the mass is made up of all the previous stages of the essay-writing process from the 101s.

Still, I truly do have to turn the crank, as my father would have said: just churn through the work, will-I, nill-I.

But that's for the future. Today was a good day. I had a great time observing my colleague's class, and a great time talking with him about it after my stint in Advisement. I did see students back-to-back in Advisement--though they come in waves; if I'd stayed any longer, I'd have been glad to have my own work with me to do, as when I left, there was not a single student waiting.

In the Seminar Hours meeting yesterday, we were talking about how we need to try to distinguish office hours from what we're doing in our seminar hours, as the administration seems to be rather willfully dense about it. For example, tutoring is one of the contractually sanctioned options--but if we say, "OK, I'm tutoring my students in my office," they say, "How is that different from office hours?" It doesn't seem to matter how often we explain the difference: if we're talking about what we're doing in our offices, it seems we have to use the word "mentoring"--but, even as I'm writing this, I realize that what I do in office hours is an awful lot more like mentoring than it is like tutoring. Someone on the committee pointed out that most of our colleagues do use their office hours for something like tutoring, since they have no other time in which to do that kind of work. Nevertheless, I'm continually frustrated by my desire to wrench the seminar hours structure to suit my purposes, a desire thwarted by the administration's narrow way of seeing ... well, just about anything.

But I launch into that apparent non-sequitur because I was aware today (again) how much of what I do in Advisement is more like mentoring than just academic advisement. Yesterday, for instance, I was working with a student who ended up confessing to me that she has not only ADD but also severe anxiety. She was clearly a very intelligent and highly motivated student, and we ended up talking about where there is help available to her on campus, ways for her to conceptualize her academic progress to alleviate some of that stress--and as we talked, she revealed more and more, about her mother's resistance to the student getting help (especially from a psychiatrist--because the student isn't "crazy"), her concerns about her future....

It was very moving, and I was honored that the student felt she could open up to me that way--and that it seemed what I said was beneficial to her. And saying that, I realize I'm actually somewhat torn. If I really could fulfill my seminar  hours time with active mentoring: if I had enough students that I could meet with regularly in order to meet the contractually mandated number of hours, I'd be more than contented: it would be immensely gratifying. The problem is that we can't seem to get enough "buy in" from the students about the concept. If we did it long enough, and word of mouth had enough time to spread, it might eventually gain some momentum, but we're under a contractual gun here: the negotiations (sure to be rancorous) for the next contract will begin this summer, though this contract doesn't end until August 2017. So we need to find a model that works and works now.


Getting back to today: my 101 students were, as anticipated, a delight. When they sat in the circle to talk about how to focus their ideas, they were talking to each other, offering suggestions, sharing ideas, listening and taking notes.... I suppose some kind of cosmic balance needs to be maintained, but I do wonder why they all can't be like that. It would make life in general infinitely more pleasant.

Having enjoyed class with them (which went right up to the dot of the end of the period and easily could have gone on longer), I came back intending to sort through and organize the aforementioned wodge of assignments to mark--but I got caught up in a few other things that gobbled more time than I anticipated, so I ended up just shoving the whole mess into a bag to be figured out later. (You know, tomorrow, when I'm stronger.) And now, I'm going to take myself out for my usual Thursday night solo dinner and drink (bliss)--at which I will give a silent toast to Paul, who received word today that the recommendation that he be promoted to full professor has been signed by our acting president and will be forwarded to the Board of Trustees for approval. Happy happy joy joy for my office-husband, my dear buddy!

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