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Sunday, November 6, 2016

Clock says 6, sky says 7, body says midnight...

Even if I were to ignore the "fall back" into standard time, I shouldn't be this tired this early. But I am, so I am taking a calculated risk here: I have started on the essays that need to be on my office door at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, and I'm going to believe that between now and then, I can get the rest finished--and perhaps even start on the essays that need to be on the door by 10 a.m. on Thursday.

I am not writing as much in the overall comments as I did on their first essays--in part because I'm running low on energy to comment but more, I think, because they seem to need less. If nothing else, I can remind them of what we went through with the first essay, which saves some time re-explaining. I also am relying more on conversation with them.

The saddest part today was marking the essay for a young woman who cannot, really cannot, get past the most superficial reading of the literature--and even the superficial reading is often missing important things (like the importance of the word "not" to the meaning of a line), She's one of two very earnest, diligent students whom I am probably going to have to gently but firmly persuade to withdraw. I really hate doing that, not only because of the blow to their fragile egos but also because when they retake the class, they could very well end up with Prof. Easypeasy: the kind who will let any kind of babble pass with reasonably good marks--which simply perpetuates the problem of inability to read with any real understanding.

I also think I may have to curve marks--for the first time in my life. Students are generally getting low marks because they're missing key bits of their essays or because they miss deadlines--and I don't want students who really are capable of C or B level work to end up failing or getting a D. I'll see how things shake out, but I'm not ruling out the possibility.

The fact that I'm even considering curving the grades is a huge step down from my old standards, and when I think of it that way, I feel enormous qualms. I do not want to participate in a general trend toward the mediocre or worse, the race toward the bottom, the dumbing down of our society--but I am running out of the missionary zeal necessary to maintain my standards in light of where my students legitimately stand in terms of their skills and abilities.

Every now and then, in moments of utter delusion, I consider the possibility of trying to get onto a board of ed, either locally, in my own town, or maybe at a higher level, so I can batter myself to death trying to stop the problems earlier in the educational process. But I know I don't really have the skills and certainly don't have the fire in the belly necessary to get into that part of the scrum--so I resign myself to doing what I need to do to get through each semester, even each day, until I can retire with something approaching grace. And I try not to savage my ideals to completely along the way, though I find ideals are more malleable and tentative than one might think.

I may set the clock for early tomorrow, since that would suit my body's clock--and I could get to campus a bit earlier than usual, in order to dive into the promotion folders while I wait for students. I'm still trying to keep Wednesday morning clear, in hope that I can go to Advisement after all--but that remains to be seen. For now, it's enough that I contemplate dinner and my gradual gearing down at the end of a day.

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