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Thursday, April 6, 2017

Gi-normous stacks of stuff

I realized I couldn't fit everything I want to take home into either my wheelie pack or my tote bag, so I'm schlepping both home. Let me hasten to say that I know this is ridiculous: there is absolutely no realistic hope that I will get everything I'm carrying home marked--and most of it will probably sit exactly as is on my living-room table until I shove it back into the pack and bag and do the reverse schlep to the office.

Why, then, you might ask, am I bothering to drag it all home? Simply because I don't know which bits I'll decide need to be done first, or how often I'll change my mind about the order of triage. Also, the visual weight of all that crap in my house may provide a little extra incentive to work with some diligence, even though every fiber of my being is yelling, "I need a break! This needs to be over! I can't do this any more! Can I go home now?"

I also will come to campus one day next week. The plan is to bring back stuff that I have marked, so there's less to carry in one car-load after the break. The plan is also to get my year-end evaluation written up and out of my hair, so--with whatever time I may have after the break--I can do the other end of the equation and evaluate the year-end evaluations I'm mentoring. I also have two adjunct observations after the break, and I want time to write those up with a minimum of whining and rearrangements to my work flow.

But as for today: showing the movie went pretty well in both classes. No one fell asleep (that I saw) though at least one student was doing her homework for another class and several were texting (which is a little like saying "several were breathing," as for them, it's as much a part of moment-by-moment existence and feels almost as crucial to survival). There was some fooraw in the earlier 102 about what I needed to collect ("Why all the confusion? I've been over this--and you've done it before...??"), but I got them settled down--and I got to the same point in the movie with both classes, so, good enough.

There were also three interesting student encounters in my office. One was with a student who didn't show up to Nature in Lit until something like the third week and who then missed a bunch of classes after that. I think there's something going on beyond an unmanageable life situation: she often looks half asleep, and her reactions are very muted. But I did a lot of mentoring/advising: talking with her about how to go about getting a withdrawal from all her classes for the semester, about getting into our nursing program or a nursing program somewhere else (her grades are nowhere near what they need to be--and she thought she could just "change majors" into the nursing program and take the classes whenever she wanted, so she was a bit startled to hear that there's a very competitive application process). I gave her a lot of information--lots of places that exist to help students--and at some point I will see her again, when she appears with an Add/Drop form for me to sign.

The second was a student who had to drop out this semester: she was one of the bright lights of the 5:30 102, but she also fell foul of an unmanageable life situation. We talked about how things are resolving--actually, very well, I was happy to hear--and I signed the form. She's moving to Georgia with her family, so I won't have the pleasure of having her in one of my classes in the future, which is a shame, but it does sound like the move and everything around it will be very good for her.

The third was the Tough Cookie. She doesn't have her essay ready, which is no surprise, but she mentioned that one of her closest friends attempted suicide earlier this week and she said, "I don't know why all this bad stuff seems to follow me around in my life, no matter what I do: I can't seem to get away from it." I recognize that kind of thinking all too well, and I asked her if she knew about the psychological counseling we have on campus. She didn't, so I said I'd send her the information. And she said, "I really appreciate it; you've been there for me in all this." She wasn't effusive about it; she was in a flat rush to get to her next class, clearly completely overwhelmed--but also very clearly expressing genuine gratitude. I assured her, most sincerely, that being able to help my students is one of the things I value most in my job.

That, and the moments when I get to bring little bits of my knowledge as a scholar into my work with my classes. Paul and I talked about that some the other day: for me, it isn't enough to do something just for my own interest--because I feel too frustrated that I can't fully do that: be a scholar, know what's going on in my field, work on big ideas. So I need to know that whatever I'm doing in terms of "professional development" will be immediately helpful at least in how I conceptualize what I do in the classroom, and why I do it the way I do it. Which is one of several reasons I probably won't sign up for a very cool one-week workshop/seminar thingy in Massachusetts this summer: I think it would mostly be frustrating (and the timing is just wrong). But a little piece of me is looking at it with some longing.

Now, however, the only thing I'm longing to do is to get home. I have a relatively busy day of doing things for my own purposes tomorrow, then Saturday I drive to Scranton for a one-day conference the AAUP is holding on shared governance (which may be a whole different kind of frustration). Then ...

... well, that's all far enough in the future; I don't need to think even that far down the chronological stream. I just need to lug all my various bags to the rental car and drive cautiously home. I think I mentioned yesterday that my car would need to be left in the shop. As it happened, the process of getting the rental was smooth and easy and didn't add too much time to my morning. But what I should mention is that yesterday, as I was pulling out of the parking lot, I managed to crunch the hell out of Cathy's car. Mine looks like I've been driving it in demolition derbies anyway, but Cathy's cars are always pristine, new, gorgeous, impeccably maintained... (I was joking earlier today that I think I need to hang a sign on my forehead saying, "Brain temporarily out of order.") So, I will pull out of the parking lot very cautiously and drive very carefully home and put the rental in my driveway very cautiously. And that will put a button on the day, as this puts a button on the work week....

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