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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

An attack of the "shoulds"

I should work on marking the last paper for today's 101 class. I had an excuse not to have it ready for class today--the student has yet to upload it to Turnitin--but I did tell her she can collect it tomorrow.

Even more than that, I should mark the mechanics review for tomorrow's 101, as well as marking the Poetry assignments I have in hand.

I should do as much of that as possible tonight so I can go to Advisement and be there when I'm supposed to be.

Instead, I will bail on Advisement: the only question is whether I take the time as sick leave or whether I agree to make it up next week (the last chance before the semester is over).

OK, that's not the only question: the other question is, how early do I have to be here in the office tomorrow to get everything ready for tomorrow's classes?

I got up at 6 this morning--and got to campus at the usual time, around 10. I sort of know what happened to the extra time I had allowed myself, but I'm still somewhat astonished what I did (life-maintenance stuff) took as much time as it did. I really did think I could get here at least a little early, but apparently not today.

So, do I want to try again tomorrow? I will have a similar amount of time between arrival on campus and when I have to be somewhere: today was P&B at 2:30; tomorrow will be the Poetry class at 2. What I have to mark isn't quite as time consuming (mechanics don't require a lot of substantial commentary, after all), but still, since I have six papers to mark and god knows how much homework, I rather think I'll have to set the early alarm again tomorrow.

All of that planning is just for how to get myself ready for tomorrow's classes. It doesn't address the fact that I have to do the mechanics review on the papers for the T/Th class as well--and I have a batch of articles to mark for them, which they'll need to work on the final versions of their papers.

It's very strange to me that the last few weeks should have felt more like the down-side of a roller-coaster ride but instead have felt agonizingly slow to pass. I can't believe we're still slogging through the morass of student papers.

Of course, today's class was easy and wonderful. One of the best bits was a conversation I had with a lovely young man from the class. I've not talked about him before, but he's charming, personable, and very dedicated to his studies. He had questions about how to focus his essay, and I was rattling off some ideas--and after a bit, he said, "You can do that. You can just roll it out: sentence, sentence, paragraph, new paragraph...." So we talked a little about what it takes to be able to do that--and I admitted, as well, that not everyone can. I used Paul as an example: he's much more intelligent than I and an infinitely better scholar, but he finds writing a grind. I simply have the gift of the gab: I can be readily glib--and too readily verbose. But writing well is a skill that almost anyone can acquire, given enough time, attention, practice, and labor. Still, it was very sweet for him to express his admiration for my abilities, and it was sweet to hear him think through his own process and what he might do to improve.

And then another student--even better as a writer, more earnest, utterly unsmiling--came back after having left to ask more about his essay. His is too long--an enviable position to be in--and he needed to focus. I suggested a way he could marry two of his ideas and ditch a third, and he said, "It's so simple and clear when you do it." Thank you. But a great deal of my facility with an argument is simply that I've been doing this a long time--both writing and teaching.

Most of the students got my comments very quickly and checked in with me briefly but didn't need a lot of guidance. Even those two young men didn't really need much from me: just a nudge in the right direction.

I really will miss these students. I really won't miss the students from the other 101--though the young woman who sent the sad e-mail was smiling a lot more yesterday, nowhere near as much apparent hostility and resistance, so if she were to end up in one of my classes in the future, I'd be pleased.

It seems like there's something else I wanted to mention today, but heaven only knows what it might have been. I think my mind is so focused on tonight's scotch and steak blowout with Paul that I can't think productively about much of anything else. I can noodle around a little more, but then I'm off to meet with him. I'll try to leave my cranky pants here in the office. (I know they're not visible in this e-mail, but don't get me going on last week's "party.") It's always good to hang out with Paul. That will be good.

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