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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Very strange emotional state

I can't quite put my finger on what's going on with me, but my emotional state is clearly all ahoo. I think it's a combination of the usual post-partum feelings (relief mingled with "well, now what do I do with myself")--although with an earlier onset than usual, plus a sense that something is looming: more work, more crises, more ... something un-fun.

After a great deal of debate with myself, I did decide to ask for appointment to the Strategic Planning committee. I feel more than a little sick with anxiety about how much work I may have just created for myself (part of that sense of something unpleasant looming), but what I hear coming out of that committee is pretty alarming, and the one person from our department who is on the committee is fiercely smart and can fight with intelligence and clarity--but she could use some back-up, and I think we'd make a good team.

The Seminar Hours meeting was good, productive, but it also contributed in its own way to the sense of what is looming. Purely personally, I have a fair bit of logistical figuring out to do: we have gotten approval to see our own students (hooray!), and although we're still supposed to be mentoring them, not tutoring them--because the administration cannot seem to understand how tutoring is different from what we do in our office hours--everyone knows that the meetings with our students will contain components of both: the tutoring on a specific assignment will organically contain a mentoring component ("here's how to be a successful student; here's how to communicate with a professor; here's how to look at time management..."). But, I want to do most of my hours in three big chunks: a week of individual appointments with my own students working on a paper assignment. That can be done--Scott explained how it would work, and it's not terribly difficult--but then I need to figure out how to fulfill the rest of my hours, and I guess I just make myself available to mentor/tutor anyone else's students.

This is all a work in progress--but Cathy is already, and probably quite rightly, concerned that we're not going to be able to demonstrate enough "value added" to satisfy the administration that we're doing the equivalent of a fifth course, and that's the really big threat that's looming: that in the next contract, we may very well be moved to a 5/5 load, which is--as anyone who teaches writing can attest (and as all the studies demonstrate) is insane, and completely counterproductive, if we're worried about "persistence and retention."

Yet another source for a sense of darkness gathering is the ever-decreasing enrollment. I was going to try to find some time to work on summer schedules before next week, but Bruce said there's no point in doing any more work until we see what enrollment looks like. Not good, is the short answer, but we won't know just how disastrous it's really going to be until next week. And we'll be facing a really fierce crunch in the fall: he and I are going to be putting in a lot more time than usual just trying to make sure full-time faculty have schedules, never mind the adjuncts.

Not fun.

I started to mark some of the papers that students wanted to see back--and I decided I need to shake off the sense of gathering storm before I do. I'm not quite sure how I'm going to do that, but I know it's important to feel at least relatively positive when I'm facing the usual mixed bag of final papers: some good, some better than anticipated, many worse than anticipated.

So, as a bit of a reframe, I just want to celebrate again how great the students are in today's 101. I told them what we'll be doing on Thursday and said they could bring in pizza if they wanted (though I can't indulge with them)--and The Mensch said he'd bring in an ice-cream cake for everyone. Delightful. The Divorcee is almost all the way divorced: she wasn't sure she'd make it to class today, because she had to meet with the lawyers and the judge, but she and her soon-to-be ex-husband have signed an agreement over the terms of the settlement, which is a huge step forward. And she still managed to write her essay (how well remains to be seen) and to make it to class on time. Kudos.

That will be my good news for today. Tomorrow I'll be in Advisement--maybe I'll be able to get some marking done, though probably not--and then brief meetings with each of my classes. At that point, I'll get serious about the grading and start crunching the final numbers.

I can't believe it's really almost all over, but it really is. Breathe, Prof. P, breathe. We're almost over the finish line.

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