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Monday, November 14, 2016

Hanging on ... so far

I suppose that post title could refer either to me or to the students, but I actually meant it as a comment on the students. I know we haven't embarked on the novel yet, and that's often the hurdle students can't get over, but so far, as I've said several times now, they're still mostly hanging on, staying with the class. And most of the SF students are hanging on, too--and if they've already gotten over the hurdle of the Atwood novels, the rest of the semester shouldn't present any major obstacles.

(And writing that led me off into a series of tasks: print the preliminary drawing of an Athshean (the humanoids in The Word for World Is Forest) done by a young friend--so the SF students will be able to erase the image of Ewoks or the World of Warcraft character one of my students showed me today; print the final essay topic for SF--which entailed revising it and e-mailing the revised version to myself at home; print signs to go on the box containing the printed copies of Paradises Lost for students to pick up... then in writing that, I ended up doing a Google Search to see if I could find the name of the character or race or whatever from World of Warcraft: tasks inside of tasks inside of tasks, like a task matryoshka doll.)

Hi. I'm back, focused on a recap of the day.

Backing up to the start of the day, the onslaught has truly begun in Advisement: students were in a holding pattern both inside the Advisement area and outside in the waiting area, the list of students to be seen was a mile long, some were waiting over an hour to see an adviser... And tomorrow it will get even more hairy, as that's when registration opens for everyone, regardless of number of credits. It used to be that the "registration priority" rolled out over several weeks--but that meant that students who didn't have many credits were often closed out of classes before they had a chance to register. Now, the only students who will get closed out of classes are those who don't register promptly--which is more equitable but does make for more of a sudden crush of students wanting to talk about course selection.

We all have different approaches to seeing students. Paul takes his time between students, which seems to be the M.O. of a number of the professional advisers (see a student, check e-mail, see another student, send a few texts...). Some of the advisers do more of the driving--"Take this, this, this, and this"--in order to move students in and out quickly. I don't take breaks between students (except what Ed calls "bio-breaks"), but I also don't rush them through the process. I explain carefully; I won't tell them which humanities, or lab science, or history course to take (for instance) but simply explain that they must take something from the requisite categories; I explain the entire process; I refer them to the transfer office, the career center, any other help centers that seem appropriate.

And I like doing it. Occasionally I'll get the kind of student who drives me barking mad or who brings me to despair (the "you cannot possibly make it in college; you simply do not have the right kind of mental acumen" sort). But for the most part, I like being able to make things clear but also to put a lot of the decision-making into their hands. As long as we have a contract that says we can do this as part of our work load, I'll keep doing it.

The 102s were fine, too. Most of the students were present (though a few were late), and they all settled right down to doing the work of figuring out how to apply the corrections I'd noted on their original versions to their revisions. Yes, I said, several times: I know your essay isn't the same. That's rather the point. If all you had to do was to copy my marks onto a clean printout, you wouldn't be learning anything. You have to recognize the kind of error--"I seem to have a lot of comma splices"--and then look for instances of that kind of error in something I have not marked. Yes, I said, I know it's challenging. Exactly right. But this is how you learn.

It was interesting to get a little resistance from one student, who insisted that there was no way to handle a situation in which several quotations all seemed to him to address the same issue except to quote them in a string. I pointed out to him that he didn't have to launch into a long explication of each quotation--but he did have to provide his own connective tissue between them, not just run them together. He didn't like it--because what I said he needed to do takes some thought and skillful use of language. Yep: that's right. That's the work.

I was also flattered that students who were filtering in for the class that follows mine wanted to talk to me once the last of my students had gone, asking what I teach, what my name is so they could look up my courses. One of those students said he wants to retake 102 to try for a better grade. I warned him about the amount of work involved, but he said he didn't mind that. Fair enough. If he ends up in one of my 102s next semester, that's great.

Thinking of next semester, I just checked my counts--and on the very first day of registration, there is already one student signed up for Nature in Lit. I'm not getting my hopes up just yet--one registered, at least fourteen to go for the thing to run--but it's nice to know that someone actively wants to take it. I'll print up more fliers ASAP and hang them up all over campus, pass them out in Advisement....

Speaking of Advisement, I have to make up time from last week, so I'll be in there tomorrow morning at 9:30 for a three-hour stint. That being the case, I want to get out of here earlier than usual: I'm going to figure out what I need to take with me to Advisement, as I'll have to go straight from there to class, and straight from class to P&B. It's going to be quite a week, in fact. Wednesday is the usual song and dance, but Thursday I have to observe the only class Cathy is teaching this semester (she needs the observation for her promotion application)--and it meets at 8:30 a.m. (Have I complained about the time already? I don't usually get up that early for anything except a flight somewhere I want to go. Ye gods! I'm barely human before 10 a.m.) After her class, I have a meeting with the subcommittee I'm co-chairing (the one I was so bent out of shape about a while back), then class--by which time, I will be one hell of a crispy critter.

But that's all another day. Today, all is well, and I'm on my way out the door, once I pack my little bag for tomorrow. And, you know, tomorrow, I'll be stronger...

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