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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Not quite so pissed off...

Today was marginally better--largely because I wasn't up to my eyeballs in crap student writing. I feel bad that I didn't get two essays marked to leave for students on my office door, as I had promised, but I hit a few snags. One was that one of the professional advisers wanted to chat, and rather than being fiercely protective of my time and saying, "I'd love to visit with you, but I have essays to grade," I went ahead and nattered with her--that being the collegial thing to do--and pretty soon, four women were there chatting with me about ... stuff. Everything from strange colleagues to the terror attack in London. It was nice to just be a person with them, but it did derail the essay grading.

So, I got back to the office and thought, "OK, I've got a good hour before I meet with the student who is coming"--and I thought, "Surely I can take the time to eat my little sandwich, too." Well, as I was gulping down the last bite of sandwich, a young man from the Nature in Lit class showed up, thinking I have an office hour on Wednesdays. I've talked about him before: he's very smart, very well read--but has a hard time writing with clarity, and has a profound tendency to wander pretty far away from the language of the texts in his notes (and in his essay). I've talked about him before, but I can't remember the moniker I came up with for him. (I'll have to think something up--but not tonight; I don't have the focus for it.) He wanted to talk to me about internship possibilities (we don't actually have any, at least not that I know of), he asked how he can improve his notes, and he wanted me to look at some of his poetry.

His poetry was delightful. It's a young person's poetry as yet: some of it fell a bit flat, but most of it was great. He explained that he's working to carry a typical Urdu form into English poetry--and it makes for fun explorations of themes. I was happy to be able to be enthusiastic in support of his skill, and I'm happy to report that he's serious enough about his writing to take my critiques without being defensive.

In fact, he was very appreciative of my critique of his notes. In class today, I said that far too many of them are using the literature as a sort of trampoline to bounce into their own ideas having nothing to do with the literature. I illustrated by bouncing my hand off an imagined surface off into the sky--then looking upward to watch my hand floating around up there, while my other hand (the literary text) lay neglected on the desk. Many of them laughed. I think a few of them got it. So when I was talking with the aspiring poet about his notes, I told him he was doing the trampoline thing--and he got it, right away. Perfect.

I also met with a young man from the 5:30 section of 102. This young man is a delight to work with. He is very hard on himself--he got so frustrated over the first essay that he just stopped, thinking it was hopelessly bad--so I talked with him about that today. He had a bunch of good questions, everything from wondering how to address run-on sentences to how to find inspiration to say more when one feels rung dry--and is still pages short of the required minimum. I did have to give him the bad news that there are no quick and easy ways to take care of some of the concerns he mentioned: writing takes time, and writing well takes lots of time, and there's no way around it. I reminded him that we can fix things in the revision stage--but I'm thrilled he's asking the questions.

Along those same lines, a student from Nature in Lit stayed for a bit after class because he's struggling with notes. He wanted permission to rework his notes and submit them when he had them better (granted), and he also wanted to meet with me to talk about how to make his notes better. Good! That's always a great sign: when they actively pursue help.

Well, in writing that, I interrupted myself another couple of times--and now I have to race out of here to get to PT on time, so.....

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