(I'm not going to make a habit of this, but as I'm here...)
I was fiercely resisting the idea of coming in today. The childish whine in my head was saying, "It's a break! I'm supposed to have a break!" but the adult intervened with two responses: "You will feel a lot better if you get the work done early in the break, so the rest of the break it isn't hanging over your head. Also, you have to go to the store near campus anyway, so you might as well."
I'm glad I did. Getting things organized didn't take as long as I feared--and I do feel that my feet are more clear, so I can see how to move forward. I know I need to put together a new triage list, but it will have to wait until I've had a chance to plow through everything I'm taking home, at which point, I hope I'll remember what committee stuff is coming up, any other bits and orts I need to take care of.
I do have quite a huge bolus of student work to chip through this week, I must say. Not only do I have all the assignments that have been piling up for Nature in Lit, and the latest round of notes and reviews for both 102s, I also have the mechanics review step to do on the 102 essays. I tell myself not to mark much, to keep it minimal, to make them do the work of finding what needs to be found. We'll see how well I am able to keep my compulsive pen under control.
I will ask the 102 students how they feel about the electronic essay marking. I like it for two reasons: 1) because I can return essays any time--day, night, weekend, whatever--I don't have to panic about getting them marked immediately for the first several conference appointments; and 2) because it's easier to type than to write by hand. I can also do more cut and paste, which does save time--and if I need to add to or change a comment, I don't have to use gallons of white-out. I don't think they'll care. They still have to print out the same number of copies of their work, just at different stages in the process.
Oh, and speaking of that: I don't know if I mentioned that one of the first essays I marked was all on PDF; when the student came to her conference, there were just little bubbles where the comments should have been on her printed essay. Today, I did a new PDF for her. It only took a minute--as I could copy and paste from the comment bubble in the original PDF to the comment bubble in the Word document I was using--and now she can print out a copy that will allow her to actually see my comments as she works on revising. In terms of the tech learning curve, not only did I realize I could translate PDFs into Word, I realized I don't even need my laptop to do it. I just signed in to Adobe Pro here at the office, and Bob is the sibling of one of your parents. I love it when I figure something out (though I don't so much like that I usually figure it out long after it would have been most useful).
Talking to Ed on Thursday, I realized that I hadn't related some excellent moments with students that have happened in the past week. Let me take a moment to celebrate those here:
1. A young man in the earlier section of 102 has had me puzzled. He registered late, has seemed resistant (felt to me like he had a chip on his shoulder, but mostly he just was all but silent in class). One day, I even thought he might be giving me the finger. Certainly the hand he was leaning on had the middle finger raised against his cheek, but I thought, "He's too old to think that's subtle, isn't he?" Before the essay was due, I returned some of his homework to him unmarked: it had been submitted in red pen, so I simply said, "Recopy these in dark blue or black ink, please." At the end of that class, he asked me when he should submit the recopied homework--and that was my first intimation that he might not be as resistant as I'd thought, as he seemed completely willing to follow my directive. He came to conference, listened very carefully, didn't ask much--but as he got up to leave, he said, "I just learned more in this 20 minutes than I learned in all my English classes before this." I gaped, and then managed to thank him. He said, "I'm serious. My teachers before this never had us do anything, and now I'm really learning something."
2. A young woman in the later section of 102 is also a bit of a puzzle. She's quite lovely--that striking coloring of black hair and green eyes that I associate with Persian heritage--and she has one of those teeny, tiny mouse voices common to women who have been trained to be reticent. However, she does comment in class: she's very engaged. Her essay was pretty darned good, and I told her so as she was leaving her conference. She said, "The reading notes are very helpful. They really make it much easier to write."
Wow, really? Thanks!
3. A young woman in Nature in Lit signed up for a meeting, so I saw her in the midst of all the 102 conferences. Her reading notes have been pretty bad, and she wanted to talk to me about how to make them better. I asked her to talk to me a little about what she's seeing--and damned if she wasn't seeing absolutely great stuff in the reading. I enthusiastically said to her, "Write that down! Put that in your notes!" She was thrilled to bits: she had been looking at the summary other students were doing and thought that was what I wanted--but as soon as she understood what I was looking for, she wanted to re-do all her previous notes. I told her to work backward: to start with where we will be after the break, and if she has time to also re-do some of the old assignments, I'd take them.
The big question, of course, is why it is so easy for me to forget to record these moments that are so good. Part of it is that my first priority is to dump all the toxins as rapidly as possible, but I realize I've been neglecting the part of these blog posts where I reframe for myself and focus on the positive. Note to self: it makes a huge difference in terms of my ability to face the job with energy and enthusiasm. That said, I am already thinking about how many weeks we have before the next break (and this one hasn't even started yet)--and hoping against hope that the Monday when we're supposed to be back, we have a monster storm. I do have a little air built into the schedule before the next essay, so it wouldn't disrupt the schedule--as long as it happens before the next round of conferences.
But that's all way down the pike. I can now just load up the tote bag with student work and my beautiful, handy-dandy folding editor's desk and head off to the store ... and pastures new.