It turns out that the real problem with the final essays for the 102s wouldn't be their quality but whether they were submitted at all. About half the students were not in class today and did not submit their essays. This means one of two things, or the combination of the two: either a bunch of students are going to bail now, just before crossing the finish line, or I'm going to get a slew of essays tomorrow just before the "I won't accept it at all past this point" deadline. Neither is a prospect that makes me very happy.
I was almost wondering if I'd given up too soon, too easily on teaching the novel in the 102s next semester, as a number of students have said how much they love it--but those are the good students, the ones who read on their own. If half the students can't get over the hurdle of the reading, that's reason enough to reboot, ditch the beauties of The Left Hand of Darkness and go instead for the more accessible but less aesthetically pleasing (and less profound) The Word for World Is Forest.
That doesn't help me (or the students) this week, however: this week, students are either going to fight through to some kind of understanding or fall flat.
One interesting moment in the earlier section: a student who has seemed to disdain the whole conference process and everything about the novel actively wanted to have a conference time (they're not required this time, given how truncated the time is between versions)--and she was friendly and chatty as she signed up for a time. This may be so much snow, of course, but the interaction was a great deal more pleasant than what I've gotten from her in the past, and I'll take it, even if it's fake as hell.
On a much more positive note, the young man in the SF class that I've been crowing about lately--the one who suddenly has latched on to the books and whose reading notes have suddenly, exponentially improved--wrote on his last set of notes a thank you to me for having awakened in him an interest in reading. I have to share a lot of that with Ursula: it was her books that broke through to him. But I'll hold that little triumph close to my heart as I deal with the students exploding right and left in the 102s.
I will also take a moment here to appreciate the fact that it was mercifully un-busy in Advisement today. Usually at this point in the fall semester, we have students lined up around the block (metaphorically speaking), but there have been chunks of time the last few days when I've been able to do my own work in between advisement sessions. I also had an interesting experience today, being interviewed by a man who is working on his doctorate in public relations and doing a study about conflict management, using our campus as his sample. I think he intends to take his findings to the administration, just to report on what is said, but it was a change of pace to be asked a set of questions about what the conflicts are--from conflicts between students to much larger, more systemic conflicts--and about how those conflicts are managed.
And backing up one more step: this weekend, despite ferocious internal resistance, I did nail down the readings for the spring Nature in Lit. I don't know when I'll be able to make the photocopies of the new readings and get everything pulled together to send off to Printing and Publications (and I need to send the 102 reader materials as well), but ... well, one thing at a time.
If I hadn't already called in sick to Advisement several times this semester, I would have done so today--with more genuine physical reason: I woke up with an incipient migraine, which didn't dissipate until late this afternoon, so the urge to crawl into bed was pretty powerful. I also have had a muscle twitch in my left eye for the last few days. (My ex would have asked, "What don't you want to look at?") I know it's from being tired, stressed, possibly dehydrated--but it's annoying as hell nonetheless. It will go away once the semester is over, if not before, and please heaven, my body won't try to manufacture any other reasons for me to bail on work: I really do need to be here every day of classes through the 21st.
I also really need to get home. It's tired and I'm late, or something like that.