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Monday, January 23, 2017

Awash in a sea of handouts

This is so utterly ridiculous, but I have spent the last several hours simply trying to figure out what handouts I already have enough of, which I need more of (and how many more), and which need to be changed/fixed/altered in some way before they are usable. The ridiculous part isn't even so much the flurry of lists and folders and hide and seek as it was that I kept turning up more copies of things I thought I didn't have, or didn't have enough of. It's almost like an Easter egg hunt: where might I have hidden more copies of the "Introductory Paragraphs and Thesis Statements" handout? And are the copies in this folder the same as the copies in that folder?

A lot of stuff went into the recycling bin--and I do wish I'd done this a month ago, so I could have sent more of it off to Printing and Publications for them to run off on their big, zippy-quick machines, instead of having to put the wear and tear on the department's more fragile machines (not to mention using up our paper and toner supplies, always a source of wailing and gnashing of teeth when we talk about the budget).

But ah well. Maybe in some future semester I will be more organized and on top of things--or maybe not.

I am reminded, oddly enough, of a tradition at my high school. The last day of classes, seniors would line the balconies around the central atrium and engage in a ceremonial paper toss, flinging all the work they'd saved over the year, or years--and sometimes adding in text books, confetti, and heaven knows what else. (I remember the long-suffering but indulgent looks on the faces of the members of the maintenance staff, standing around the bottom of the atrium, out of the line of fire as it were, with their push brooms, waiting for it all to be over.) I'd rather like to go out on one of the little balconies on this building and fling everything I have in folders over the edge--preferably on a wildly windy day like today has been--and start all over from zero. Except, there is a lovely feeling of triumph when I have a photocopied original out of a book that I can use to make more copies, instead of having to painstakingly copy one page at a time, without cracking the spine, making sure everything is lined up and nothing cut off....

Well. Enough of that.

Class today went well--better than I expected, in fact, which is always gratifying. I had students sit in groups and talk about their own thoughts about what the word "nature" means--and I asked them also to consider three questions as a group: 1. What is "nature"? 2. Are humans part of "nature"? 3. Do you think our ideas about "nature" have changed over time? A couple of the groups ran dry before others did, but it was clear there are some real thinkers in the room, which is lovely to experience. I also tried something I've never done before: when I was about to bring the small group discussion to a halt and talk with the class as a whole, I went to each group and asked them to have some notes so they'd have something to help them remember what they'd been talking about. That's not new, but what was new was that I said, "What happens is, when you're in your groups, we have this" (waving around the room at the animated conversations) "but as soon as I ask people to talk in the class as a whole: crickets." They got it (some laughed), and they were ready to talk. I was especially pleased that the young man who was my student in SF last semester is leading the charge. He was explaining how I work to his group; he was the first to be willing to talk in the whole-class discussion; he is clearly more confident--and therefore more engaged--than he was for most of last semester.

I hope that shows up in his work, too.

It's good for me to spend some time thinking about, reminding myself about, interactions with students--as that's just about the only part of my job that I can stomach these days. The game has changed in ways that piss me off, and I want to take my football and go home. Tomorrow the Strategic Planning committee meets, and we'll find out whether we have been made utterly defunct by the new committee formed by the college president--even though the "only" difference between the two is more hand-picking of the involved faculty and that the senate has no vote in any decision arising from the deliberations of that committee. Paul told me today that the president of the Academic Senate has asked all the Executive Committee members to be at that meeting--to "support the work of the committee" was the phrase Paul used, but I can feel the brawl brewing. (On a side note: I rather love it that when people get riled up almost to the point of fisticuffs in that committee, the secretary for that committee simply records in the minutes, "Discussion ensued.")

Other committees are becoming equally difficult, albeit in different ways. In Seminar Hours, we're being asked to imagine what we'd want seminar hours to look like in our own perfect world. That should be easy--we work with our own students on their writing and reading, if necessary, period--but as soon as we say anything along those lines, the immediate response is that the Administration will never allow it. (If we're going to act for the Administration and nix any ideas we think they won't accept, why are we even having the discussion?) In P&B, the adjunct grievances have "gone away," thank God (though we still have to make a plan for observing the adjunct whose class I went to last semester)--but we're supposed to have gotten "final" applications for promotion today, and only two of the seven or eight people going up for promotion actually had their applications there, ready, professionally presented. The others were either missing entirely or (in one case) half-assed at best. One was there in a very unfinal form, but the colleague in question has been battling severe health problems since early fall, so I'm inclined to give him a break--and two of the missing applications were from colleagues on P&B (including Cathy--can you imagine learning how to manage this behemoth of a department and putting together an application for promotion at the same time? I don't know how the woman will manage--but I bet she pulls it off). But I had to have a little hissy fit about it after seeing what was--or wasn't--in the appropriate file cabinet. Paul reminded me of the P&B mantra: "Your application is your responsibility. P&B will help you if you adhere to the deadlines, but if you miss the deadlines, we will not be able to provide feedback." We still have to come up with letters of support--a requirement of the application--and in the case of the missing folders, I guess we're supposed to simply pull the information to use in the letter of support out of our left ears (or, as I said in an e-mail to P&B, other less savory places).

So, all that stuff, the actual running of the department and the campus, just has me in a permanent snit. I am cranky as hell about it all and want it all to go away.

But the students are great. I confess to being a little testy that I've had to explain in e-mails to several students the assignment information that A) is in the syllabus and 2) I explained in detail in class on Thursday--but at least they're asking for the help, which is a good thing. I'm trying to sound pleasant and helpful, instead of snarling, "If you'd actually read what the assignment schedule says, you'd see that..."

Blah blah blah.

And just like that, it's 8 p.m. (I think of the old public service campaign: "It's X p.m.: do you know where your children are?" Hell, I don't even know where I am, really. Physically, yes, but mentally? I'm all over the place.) But the lovely chime of the (electronic) bell in the Tower building tells me it's time to pack my tense and stagger off home--and I hope I can not think about things until I'm stronger, and I hope I truly am stronger tomorrow....

1 comment:

  1. The sorcerers apprentice at work. I have 5000 dis-stapled syllabi for 101, 102, and 222, all in two languages s d promiscuously mingled and commingled together breeding more and more young syllabi. Enough! Good luck parting the waves.