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Sunday, April 16, 2017

Close, but no cigar...

One might think that squeezing out one last graded batch of homework assignments and essay wouldn't be so hard, but I got to that point and I ... just ... couldn't. Part of my need to bail on grading the last one is that I realized I really do have to reread the stuff the students are supposed to talk about in class tomorrow. (One of the assignments is new, and I don't remember what's in it at all; the other I've taught before, but I'd like to have it fresh in my mind.) The students may not be able to do anything more than generalize and spew platitudes, but it behooves me to know what the fuck I'm talking about.

And the last essay was going to be a problem. I couldn't face one more bad one.

Two of the essays I marked today were relatively good, though, I must say. Neither was an absolutely stellar A+, but both are in good high B territory--which is a hell of a relief after D after D after D....

Ack. Blech. Enough.

I floated the idea of using seminar hours to offer tutorials on reading, and the one response I've gotten so far is and off-the-top-of-the-head "seems like a good idea" from Scott. I know there are lots of logistics to discuss, and it may not fly, but I'm glad it wasn't viewed immediately as a non-starter.

I'm also thinking some about when I next teach Nature in Lit. It won't be until next spring, when the online version will be offered for the first time. I wouldn't have to compete for the class even if it were FTF, as I haven't taught it several times in a row, but since I developed the online version, I own it for the first three times it's offered (assuming I'll be around the second and third times it's offered--or that it even is offered a second and third time). I'm still thinking about what was wrong with the readings I chose this time (not enough fiction and poetry)--and wondering how much of the Norton anthology I will use, and whether I can include The Word for World Is Forest at the end.

I realized, reading the students notes on the Le Guin short stories that I assigned that they were completely thrown for a loop by the sudden switch from nonfiction to fiction, tried to read the stories the same way--which doesn't work. (More reason for my workshops/tutorials on reading literature.) I'm very worried about what may happen when we get to "Paradises Lost." It could bomb utterly, unless I set it up very carefully--and I'm wishing I'd allowed more time for it: I'm cramming the whole thing into two weeks. Fuck.

Well, I've known for some time that this semester's class is just going to be a disaster from start to finish, so the fact that everything will blow up even more over the novella is just more of the same. It's tremendously disheartening, however.

Shifting gears radically: yesterday I wrote a very lengthy Facebook post about the new "free tuition" laws in NY, expressing my concerns for what it may mean for those of us at the community college level. I acknowledge that I may be particularly soured by the experience of this semester--it's hard for me to see the broader view chronologically; I tend to feel that whatever I'm experiencing this moment is what it's "always" like--but my concern is that the new financing will allow a significant portion of our better students to go to the baccalaureate institutions of their choice and avoid NCC altogether. Many of our students come to our campus to get the first two years of their education at a significantly lower price--but that reason will be moot under the new law, which takes effect this fall. My hunch is that most of the students who come to NCC will be those who cannot get admitted to any campus with competitive enrollment. To come to us, all they need is a high school diploma and a pulse (and they can, in fact, be working toward their GED and not yet have the high school diploma, so really the only thing that's needed is the desire to get the high school equivalency ... and a pulse).

Well, projecting catastrophically into the future gets no one anywhere good. The future will be whatever it is. I will practice avoiding what my mother calls "double suffering": creating unhappiness now that may not be warranted--and certainly doesn't diminish any suffering in the future. If it's bad, sufficient that I'll have to deal with it then. If it's good, no reason to fuss about it now.

But I am going to reach out again to my financial planner. The idea of retirement actually scares me witless: I don't have a clear sense of what I want to retire to, only what I want to retire from, and that's not an optimal position, I know I don't need to retire until I have a sense of what I want after this, but I do feel an increasingly panicky sense that flight is wise. (Dad said at his retirement party, "I always thought it made sense for rats to leave a sinking ship." I feel very much like one of those rats, water starting to lap around my ankles.) But calm is the order of the day. I mean that pretty literally: I'm ordering myself to be calm, or at least to assume the appearance of being calm. Inside I can be flailing around like my hair is on fire, but outside, I need to be calm, just ... calm.

And on that note, I will calmly embark on making dinner and getting that reading done. It'll be a six a.m. alarm tomorrow, so I can be sure I have time before class to get that last little bit of marking done and all the marks recorded. But that's tomorrow. Today is a gorgeous day, all the windows wide open to a beautiful warm breeze, and there ain't nothing wrong with that.

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