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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Is it over yet?

Lord love a duck, I am so tired and so far behind on work, I've already reached the point in the semester when I want to say, "OK, give me a few months' break and then let's start all over again." Or just, "I quit." I did not go to either the Assessment meeting or Advisement today: I was feeling physically pretty ragged, so I let myself sleep a little late and then just came to the office to try to chunk through some work.

I have no idea what I did with the time between when I arrived and when I had to leave for class. I know I was actively engaged in getting things done, but damned if I can remember what any of it was. Some was tying up the last of those raveled bits from the torn-apart schedule (getting a new conference sign up sheet ready--though I ended up having to reprint it something like four times, as I kept making mistakes; blocking off the seminar hours on the regular mentoring grid for the times when I'll be holding conferences; things like that), but somehow it seems like I must have fallen briefly into a worm-hole or something and lost an hour somewhere.

Despite how exhausted and whiny I feel (like a tired toddler), I have to say there were some bright moments today. Both 102s did a pretty good job with "Ile Forest"--and I was happy to get any discussion of it at all, as I felt that this was the time to talk about plagiarism. They got the plagiarism idea pretty well (which may or may not keep them from doing it), and they had lots to say about "Ile Forest," a lot of it very smart. I hope we have time next Wednesday to touch on it again, but I also have to show them how to access the Turnitin submissions through Blackboard and how to set up an essay in MSWord. (They can do all sorts of magic tricks with their phones, but they can't figure out how to change margins or spacing in a Word document.) We also have to talk about "Dance Me Outside," the last of the stories we'll discuss before they write their first essays.

And then we're really off to the races--despite three weeks in a row when those classes meet only once. I'll be very happy to get past the last of the scheduling weirdnesses and just clunk through the routine.

I'm also pretty pleasantly surprised, so far, with the notes from the SF class. Some are just as crappy as they've been, but some are turning around, getting much better. I did use the language I discovered for the SF class with one of the 102s; I forgot with the other, but I have to remember to harp on it. I don't remember what I said about that last night, but here's what I came up with:

Art exists to make us feel or think more deeply, to raise questions or issues. Non-verbal art more often works with feelings, instead of ideas/issues, but verbal art--literature in particular--exists to raise questions, to make us think about concerns in our lives, as well as to feel something. The work of literature probably won't answer the question in any clear way (or even at all), but you can use evidence in the work to make a case for what the author wanted us to consider about the question or concern. The role of notes is to help us uncover the question or concern being raised by the work--and to help us figure out how the work addresses that question or concern.

(I just copied that into the Reading Notes instructions handout. Next semester, I'll have to figure out where to put it, or how to word it more succinctly, or both.)

I did expound on that some yesterday with the SF students, and I told them that I would only mark improvements: if they're doing the same thing, they won't get feedback (except the comment I'll put on their notes that says their marks will continue to go down unless their work improves: what's getting the equivalent now of a C-/D+ will eventually slip to an F...). But given the ways the notes I've seen so far have improved (mostly), I think they're starting to get the hang of them.

Of course, the Truculent Cheater did plagiarize his second homework, as well as his first. I fully expect he'll try to argue with me about it (which I won't do)--and he may go to Bruce or Cathy to complain about me. Whatever: I've got him dead to rights--and I hope to hell he decides I am prejudiced against him and drops the class.

Meanwhile, the student who was in my fiction writing class a while back is knocking everything out of the park. It turns out she earned her B.A. and wants to become a professor. I'm not sure why she's taking the class, whether perhaps it fulfills a requirement she may need to apply to a grad program, or whether she just wanted to take it for her own edification, but I'm thrilled to bits to have her in the class. I'm going to call her Rose in Bloom, because she's gone from being a sweet rosebud to full blossom.

One weird little frustration about that class, though: on the roster are two Vincents, two Michaels, and two Ryans--and I'm having a hell of a hard time getting which one is who sorted out. (I also tend to confuse one of the Vincents with one of the Ryans.) An advantage to when the attrition starts is that I'll have fewer names to remember (not to mention fewer assignments to mark).

Speaking of assignments to mark: I "should" keep marking tonight, but I know when I've hit the wall, and I've slammed into it so hard I'm almost literally reeling. I'm going to trundle off to my car--and hope that I get here on the dot of 10, and that doing so gives me sufficient time to mark all the remaining assignments so I can return them tomorrow. I have an enormous bolus of assignments to mark for the 102s, which is what I'll be doing over the weekend. I have to get my feet clear of all this, because I'm going to be hit with the first round of essays soon--and god alone knows how I'll get all those marked in time for the conferences, even with the additional time I've allowed myself.

I'm hoping I have enough conference times for everyone. Unfortunately, not only do I have a meeting of the Strategic Planning committee during my conference week, I now have a subcommittee meeting prior to that overall committee meeting. There's a huge swath of unavailable time slots as a consequence--so I may end up having to get pretty creative about when I can meet with students. One way or another, I'll figure out a way to meet with them all, even if it's on the phone.

But that's all a worry for another time. Tonight, I'm stick-a-fork-in-me done.

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