Today was better than I anticipated. All yesterday evening and this morning, I was riddled with anxiety about meeting with the 102s today--so much so that I had a truly difficult time sleeping and woke with an incipient migraine. I turned off the alarm and went back to sleep, e-mailed Advisement to let them know I was using sick leave instead of doing my shift. I got to the office about 11:30, and I worked mostly on reading Cathy's promotion folder (at least the text part of it; I didn't have the documentation). I still have one more to look at--assuming it's back in the cabinet where we store them, instead of in the hands of the candidate--but I'm closer to caught up than I was.
So, that was good.
I also had made up my mind that I would be a bit more directive in pointing students to information in the novel that can be useful for their essays, or at least their preliminary thinking about the essays--and as it happened, both classes felt a lot more solid, a lot less lost than was the case on Monday. I did have to remind students not to stop when they feel confused--and certainly not to keep going back over and over and over the same chapter--but to forge on ahead and trust that things will make more sense. But also, we talked about the value of the various materials that I pointed out to them, and they are starting to realize that they can actually find help. One student brought up the fact that she listens to an audio version of the book that she found on YouTube. (I just had a listen to a bit of it: different pronunciations from what I've been using--and since I know that Ursula was involved in the production of the audio book, I can use the pronunciations to change where I've gone wrong in what I created on sabbatical.) I encouraged others to make use of the audio book, to use the online materials, to use my materials--and to keep going, keep reading.
Interestingly enough, the discussion in the earlier class was better, more substantive today; the later class was more bumpy, even though more of the students in that section understand at least the basics of the story. But I no longer feel abject despair at the idea of what the rest of the semester is going to be like in those two classes.
Another positive thing occurred to me when I was on my way to class, even before the students made clear that they're doing better than seemed to be the case on Monday: They're still there. Twenty students from the earlier section are still coming to class at least most of the time; sixteen students from the later section are still around. That's damned good--way above my usual results at this point.
And I hate to admit it--because it would be much easier for me if I were to do away with the conferencing--but I do believe the conferencing is the primary reason why they're staying. So, I want to try to find a way to continue to conference but without quite the same pressure on myself. Having made the decision to switch from The Left Hand of Darkness to The Word for World Is Forest, I know I will have a little more time to play with, as the students won't need anywhere near as much time to read WWIF as they need to read LHoD. But I still have to be realistic about the amount of time I need to turn essays around. (I also realized that--if I really want to continue teaching LHoD--there's nothing to say I can't teach it in SF next time I teach that class. I'd have to reconfigure the thematic threads for the semester, but that's not a bad thing.)
Speaking of turning essays around, however: I did not do any marking after class today. I met with a student from the SF class, and I talked with Paul. It turns out the observation I was supposed to conduct tomorrow morning has to be rescheduled (my colleague has had serious health problems all term, and now he has pneumonia), so I don't even have to have my bag all packed before I leave tonight. I'm ready for tomorrow's Strategic Planning committee meeting--or as ready as I can be--so whatever I do tomorrow prior to the meeting is gravy. And I'll schlep enormous stacks of stuff for the 102s home with me to work on over the weekend.
All of which is matter for the future--which does not exist. All that exists is this specific moment. For now, suffice it that I will be leaving campus before 7:30 p.m., and I do not feel surrounded by despondency and despair: I have some hope that my students will pull through in the end. Thus, in this specific moment, life is very good indeed