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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Swamped

Tonight I'm realizing how much I rely on the time in Advisement to get work done. Now that it's busy there--not frantic, but still, back-to-back meetings with students, no time to grade--I'm feeling like I'm trudging through some pretty deep muck, trying to get through all the marking of student assignments. None of it is particularly difficult (well, some of the poetry papers may be ouchy), but it all takes time and some organization: the triage stacks keep moving, shifting (sinking below sight, only to bob to the surface again).

Feeling as I do, I'm going to try to reschedule my one-on-one session with one of the folks from Distance Ed who's there to help train faculty. I'd been (rather blissfully) forgetting that I'm supposed to meet her tomorrow after my classes--and if I do, no matter what she shows me, it won't compute. (Cue sound effect: computerized tone and mechanical voice: "[Ding!] Brain already full." I get that "error message" a lot, it seems.) Of course, I only just now sent the e-mail asking for the reschedule, so it may be too late to beg off, but I'm hoping.

We're also officially into the "hang onto the safety bar and scream" part of the semester roller-coaster ride. I see each of my classes 9 more times (not counting the final Monday, when I'll be available for grade conferences but not in the classroom). Yikes and likewise zoiks.

As for the report on today in particular, it was rather nice (apart from the frantic "I have to get this marked tonight" bit). I saw both my official mentees. One is the Mystery Enthusiast, who mostly wants my feedback on his writing (and who was very glad to accept a suggestion for how he might go about developing the "voice" for two of his characters). The other I'm not sure I've said much about, but he's lovely. He's in Honors classes, very smart, planning to get a degree in engineering--and I found out today that both his parents went to college but didn't graduate, so there's a lot of pressure on both him and on his older brother. Add to that the expectations that come with being an Honors student, and he's feeling some significant weight.

And that weight is part of why we met. He e-mailed last week, sounding rather frantic, wanting to set up an appointment to see me. The problem is that he realized he was not doing well in his calculus class--the first of a whole series that he needs to take for the engineering degree here, never mind when he enters the four-year program of his choice (Stony Brook, if he gets accepted). He talked to the professor, who agreed to let the student continue in the class to learn as much as possible before withdrawing--the withdrawal to happen right before the final. I think he wanted to see me primarily for reassurance: he'd already made an excellent decision, but my impression was that he was afraid--as an Honors student--it was a problem that he is struggling.

I relayed again the story of Ed's son Adrian, who struggled mightily to pass chemistry and threw a party when he got a C in the class. Sometimes even the brightest of students will hit something seriously difficult--by my young mentee knows how important it is that he truly, completely nail calculus, as everything from then on will rely on having a strong foundation there. We looked at the courses he might take over the summer, talked about how much to load onto himself in any one summer term (especially when he knows he's facing a daunting challenge), that sort of thing. And I praised him to the moon and back. He's got the chops; I can tell. He may change his mind about whether engineering is really for him, but if he wants to go in that direction, he'll do it, and he'll do it extremely well.

I'm interested to notice that I am as deeply invested in this young man as I would be if he were one of my students--and I've only talked with him four times or so. He's just one of those gems that NCC throws across our paths from time to time. He won't need anything I'll be teaching to finish his A.S. degree, which is disappointing, of course, but I'm happy to keep on mentoring him--and to keep in touch no matter how far he goes. He's one of those.

My 101 students today were in their usual beautiful form: lovely, animated discussion, lots of openness with each other, laughing, getting excited--even the most shy, retiring (and, frankly, struggling) student in the class was willing to start the conversation. That's a triumph right there.

But my favorite moment was when we were talking about how difficult it is for many people to unplug from their devices for any length of time. One young woman said that, on Good Friday, her mother is very strict: no TV, no music, no computers, no smart phones. "We have to just sit there and enjoy each other's company," she said, in an aggrieved tone. One of the brightest students in the class immediately responded, "Oh, man, hate when that happens." The whole class broke up, and I laughed so hard I almost couldn't stop. I actually may not have his wording exactly right, but the timing and tone were perfect. Imagine how awful, having to enjoy each other! The class got a kick out of seeing me laugh; the bright student was very gratified at how well his wit had been received; the young woman who'd been complaining laughed along with everyone else.

The M/W class is torture in comparison. It's sort of torture anyway, but especially in comparison to how brilliant the T/Th class is. But the great thing is, I end my week with the brilliant class. How wonderful is that?

Now, however, it's late--again, dammit--and I have to be back here in 13 hours (ugh), and I still have a lot I need to do just for my actual life, you know, the part that doesn't happen on campus. So, off I toddle.

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