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Monday, November 28, 2016

I quit

I'm not quitting my job, but I can't teach The Left Hand of Darkness any more. It's too frustrating for the students and for me. The later section of 102 is getting it a lot better, but the earlier section is filled with students who are just completely lost. I've sent them information about the "cheater sites": the ones that do all the digesting for the students, so they don't have to actually read the novel or think. If we had more time, I'd just drop the novel entirely and go with something else--which is what I'm doing for the spring--but we're too far into it now for that to work (when would students buy any new book, how would I come up with paper topics, blah blah blah). So, they're going to have to do their best with it, and I hope the cheater sites work.

And as I'm looking at all the materials I so joyously put together over my sabbatical, I realize they don't work: they're too wordy and dense. "Too many notes." If I want to pursue getting the student guide published, I have to take a machete to what I did and simplify the hell out of it.

Apparently, it's almost impossible to overestimate just how little students can read and comprehend.

I am so miserably depressed by this, I would like to quit my job--but I realize it's the nature of ENG102. The SF class is nowhere near as frustrating (even though a few students can't do even the simpler reading required), and ever since I did the whole-scale reboot of ENG101, I've felt a lot better about it than I used to. After this spring, no more ENG102 for me for the rest of my career--unless I end up teaching somewhere other than where I am now. I'm going to stick with 101s and my lit electives.

The weekend also was nowhere near as productive as I wanted it to be. I got most of the essays marked for the SF class; I have one more to grade tomorrow morning--and I need to see if I have reading notes that I've collected but haven't yet marked--but I think I can get all that done before class tomorrow (even subtracting out time for a seminar hours committee meeting). I may have to bail on Advisement for Wednesday in order to get reading notes back to the students in the 102s--and I have not even started on their essays.

That's another reason for despair right now: a number of the students have not uploaded their essays to, and at least one hadn't submitted the hard copy of the essay (along with all the previous steps, which are required as part of the process). There just doesn't seem to be any way to get some of them to do all the steps.

And the excellent but anxious student who was the subject of a blog post some time back seems to have gone AWOL. She missed all last week because she was out of town for the holidays, but she also missed today, and I didn't get all of the pieces of her essay submission.

One of the 102 students who was in my 101 last semester has also fallen by the wayside, apparently: today was his eighth absence from class--and my attendance policy says at the sixth absence, it's withdraw or fail time.

If I were to maintain all my standards, apply all my rules with no flexibility, most students would not pass.

Let me say that again: most students would not pass.
So, my standards keep going lower, and lower, and lower, and lower--or I have to deal with the misery of failing the majority of my students. And that is a misery to me: I don't like it--partly out of empathy for them but also because I feel like a failure when I can't get more of them to legitimately pass, never mind pass at the level I think is appropriate.

I can't think of any good way to reframe this so I don't feel so despairing and trapped. I know that every semester at about this time, I'm ready to consign the current term to the ash-heap of history and move on to designing the next semester, which I can still delude myself into believing might be successful. The desire to be just plain old done with everything having to do with this term is part of why I'm finding it a challenge to make myself sit down and get the work graded and out of my hair. I know, intellectually, that I will feel better when I'm not staring at those essays any more--but even so, I resist marking them: I'll find just about anything to do instead. (OK, I don't clean the house. But I'll read, or watch something on DVD, or play dopey computer games...)

So, my aim for this week is to get through all the 102 essays before I leave on Thursday--whatever that takes. I'll probably still have to take work home over the weekend, but if I can take home reading notes, not essays, I'll be a lot happier. Getting everything done will take a huge push and a few late nights--and even at that, I may not be able to get it all done--but it's a good goal to aim for.

The best I can do at the moment is to remind myself that very soon, this semester really will be over--no matter what I accomplish or have to just let go of, unaccomplished--and I have gotten good reminders of what not to do in the spring. I have a hell of a row to hoe in getting together the readings for Nature in Lit--and I may reconfigure parts of the 102s as well, in addition to the necessary adjustment in the final essay, which now will be on The Word for World Is Forest. It's not as thematically rich as The Left Hand of Darkness, but it's brief and if the topics end up being a bit simplistic, ah well. There are scholarly essays about it that I can direct the students to, so I address the course requirement for research--and that's enough.

In fact, that's enough for today. I feel both bloodied and bowed--but all I can do is leave it all here in the office as much as possible for the night, and return to the trenches tomorrow.

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