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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Not even close

This was a "Let's go to Plan C" sort of day. I set the alarm for 6. When it went off, I promptly reset it for 6:45 (my usual wake-up time). No "early to campus" for me. I got here at about 10, which gave me 50 minutes in which to mark assignments before I had to go to advisement. I don't know why I got so little accomplished in that 50 minutes, but I shoved everything into the bag that I schlepped across campus--and although I took everything out of the bag, I didn't do anything else with it. There were two students waiting to be seen when I came in, and as I was talking to the second, there was a deluge of students. I don't know what accounts for the sporadic nature of the crowds, but if I time it just wrong...

The last student I saw in Advisement ran me past my quitting time, so I was later than I'd expected getting to the office. I sat down, and Paul arrived, breathless from his ASEC duties. We talked for a while (because, well, really, how can we not?)--and I had just turned back to work when the Timid Intellectual showed up, mostly just to check in. We'd not talked in person since she'd been devastated by being rejected by Smith--not since she'd had the elation of then being accepted by Mt. Holyoke. And it turns out, that same week of being whipsawed by the rejection/acceptance, she'd also gotten the news that a therapist she'd had a very close bond with had suddenly and (to my student at least) unexpectedly died. I could have hustled her out of the office, or asked her to wait until my official office hour, but I enjoy talking to her too much to deny myself the pleasure.

End result? I managed to get all the preliminary versions of the final essay marked, plus the attendant homework, but their final versions of the second essay--or seven of those anyway (out of ten)--remain ungraded.

Guess what I'll be doing with at least part of the weekend?

Class was great--as usual, with this group. The conversation followed a number of rabbit trails through the underbrush, getting far from the ostensible track of the class, but it was fun. After class, I gave one student a hard time: she had e-mailed her preliminary essay to me, but I didn't get it (which she should have known, if she'd checked for a response). I had to do the "scare the student" thing, reminding her that my late paper policy is in the syllabus, that it says I do not accept e-mailed assignments, that it specifies how late a paper can be and still be accepted (and that she's past that deadline)--and that, no, the fact that you were sick doesn't mean you can simply submit the assignment the next time you're in class. ("Are you still in high school?" "No..." "OK then.") I agreed to accept it--mostly because I want her to have a chance at doing well with the final paper overall--and she was aware that I was giving her a gift, and she was grateful.

And the Mensch--the young man who did a mitzvah (and does them regularly, it seems, specifically in terms of providing help and support to other young people in emotional crisis)--stayed after class to talk. He didn't have anything in particular to say; he just wanted to connect, I think. I'm happy with that.

Back in the office, I decided to respond to discussion board posts--in part because the Mensch is now participating in them, after struggling to keep on top of them for most of the semester. I wanted to reward that--and I wanted to see the video he'd posted about multitasking (fun, interesting). That took a good while, and not much to my surprise, there were almost no posts from the M/W class, but many--from everyone in the class in most cases--from today's class. (And that encapsulates the difference.)

After that, I checked e-mail--and received two delightful surprises. The first was contact from a young man who was my student back in 2007, in a section of Nature in Literature, I'm pretty sure. (I remember him vividly--he was quietly brilliant--but I'm less sure which class he was in.) In any event, he kept in touch for a while, then dropped off the radar. He's now getting his doctorate at St. Johns; he's enrolled in a course on teaching World Literature, and he wanted to see my syllabus for Native American Lit so he could use it as a model for what he hopes to do, as he plans to include Native American texts from both the U.S. and Canada (so I suppose that would be Native American and First Nations texts, if we use the parlance of the U.S. and Canada for indigenous people). I'm honored to be asked, and delighted to have him crop up again. One of my little fledglings, all grown up (though he seemed quite grown up even when he was my student).

The other surprise was an e-mail from the young woman in the M/W 101 who has often seemed so hostile to me. She contacted me because she wants some academic advisement as well as some career advice. I'm astonished that she'd reach out to me for that kind of help, but I'm delighted to provide it.

I feel compelled to quote her e-mail, as a number of things strike me about it. She wrote:

"This doesn't have anything to do with the class but I am kind of lost and new to everything and I am not getting much help from the school, so I don't know who else to ask. I remember you mentioning that you work in advisement and I was wondering how that all works because the adviser i met with when i applied wasn't much help so what would i have to do if i wanted to meet with you, because i would rather peak with someone i somewhat know and would feel more comfortable speaking to but my friends told me that it works randomly by appointment. Also, if I want to get help with career advise is there someone i can speak to. Sorry I know this isn't relevant at all and if you could just tell me where I need to go or who i need to speak with for more information id appreciate that."

I do notice the lack of capitalization and punctuation (and the misspellings), which I would normally find irritating in the extreme, but the fact that she says she feels lost touches me; that confession, coming at the start of her message, says to me that she's writing from the heart, and for a young person, that means all the formalities of written texts are immaterial. Also, the fact that she'd rather speak with someone she knows points directly to what we've been saying all along about seminar hours: our students want to work with us. Her apology at the end strikes me, too, as if the only reason I'd talk with her is if it directly relates to class--and this despite everything I said about what mentoring is for.

I'm glad we're looking at a whole new model for seminar hours for fall--even though putting together the new model will be a challenge and sure to be filled with unexpected domino-chains or matryoshka of problems.

But now, o my foes and o my friends, today's candle is just about burned to a puddle, so I'm going to pack up and head for the hills.

1 comment:

  1. Update: The student who didn't have her paper didn't manage to submit it on Monday, either, even after I'd given her the break--but she had the good grace to e-mail to let me know that she wouldn't get it to me and understands that she'll get a zero for the assignment. A shame for her, but she's learned something about deadlines, at least.

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