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Monday, March 6, 2017

The fine art of procrastination

I started on evaluating the final versions of essays for the 102 classes today; I truly did. I got two and a half done. This was not a case of my not having time. I had plenty of time and could, in theory, have gotten quite a few done. It was very quiet in Advisement, and I didn't have anyone coming to see me in my office hour or seminar hour after Advisement, so I had oodles of time in which to mark things--and I ended up doing anything else, whatever I could think of. I don't even know what else I thought of (though I did just spend a little time looking for images of monkeys and owls to find faces that looked similar, as illustration for a line in one of the Mary Oliver poems we're going to discuss in 102 tomorrow). I wrote a couple of letters of recommendation. I probably checked 400 times to see who has and has not submitted an essay, who submitted late, who submitted to Turnitin but didn't submit a hard copy....

And while I'm on that vein, two particular peeves:

1. The student who writes an e-mail essentially saying, "Hi, you barely know me, but I need a letter of recommendation tomorrow. I don't know where you need to send it or anything else. But you'll do it, right?" (Much better the student who asked two weeks in advance--and apologized for the short notice.)

2. The ever-growing number of students who do not follow through on basic requirements. Even a couple of the better students either were late with the upload to Turnitin or neglected it entirely. I sent a reminder to everyone (which I probably shouldn't do)--and several students got back to me with essentially a shrug, saying "I thought I uploaded it"--and then attached the essay to the e-mail for me to upload.

How many times have I said that it is crucial to upload to Turnitin? How many places have I written out the penalties for late submission--or submission that is missing entirely? How many times have I told students they have to go through the Blackboard page? How many times have I said, "Make sure you got the confirmation e-mail; if you didn't submit again"?

Countless. And it makes zero impact. Sometimes I feel I must be in some kind of cone of silence, so I'm speaking but no one can hear what I say.

I'm trying very hard not to be systemically cranky, and to remember the things about this job that I still love instead of perpetually thinking how much I want to get out of here, retire, go do something else: the urge to flee is powerful. But I am old and wise enough now to know it's a good idea to have something to flee toward, instead of simply running away to god knows what. And as long as I haven't figured out what that something is, it clearly isn't time for me to go.

But I still find myself counting days. I have nine more Mondays this semester. (There are ten weeks left before classes end, but one of those Mondays is during spring break.) After tomorrow, I'll have eight more Tuesdays ... and so on, through the week. And I am counting. Boy am I counting. Not even counting to spring break: counting to end of classes.

I know I'll go through a brief flurry of craziness scheduling summer classes with Cathy after classes end--but that isn't the same as having to teach, and it will be over very quickly.

Shifting gears radically, today in the Student Services Center I encountered a student from one of last semester's 102s. We chatted; she asked me how my semester was going. I told her I'm not teaching Left Hand of Darkness this semester, and she asked rather plaintively why not. I told her too many students had found it an insurmountable hurdle last semester--indeed she seemed to be one of them--but she told me she talks about the novel all the time, tells friends they should read it. The ones who get it really get it and (usually) love it. The ones who can't really can't--and I'm tired of the battle.

I'll face a somewhat different battle with The Word for World Is Forest: they'll understand the book, but the critical essays may be an insurmountable obstacle. One or two may be somewhat accessible to the students, but most will be challenging in the extreme. But at least I won't be repeating the same thing I've said over and over in the past: same basic struggles, but new words, and even that small shift will be good.

I'm about out of energy for tonight. I'm going to stagger homeward soon here. I have to make up time in Advisement tomorrow, which means getting here at 9:30 a.m., not the more usual 10-10:30, but I'm all packed up and ready to go, so the morning should be relatively smooth. One can only hope.

And maybe I'll mark more essays tomorrow. (Maybe pigs will be doing aeronautic displays, flying with the Blue Angels.)

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