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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Teaching an evening class...

I'm interested to observe the way my brain works:

Last night, the adjunct I observed asked why evening classes end earlier than day classes if the class period is the same as day classes: 75 minutes. I was utterly flummoxed: I was pretty sure that the class period is longer, but wait, what? The last day of evening classes is May 8th?

All day, I've been thinking that I needed to make sure the adjunct was right about the early end of the term, and that I was right about the length of the class period--because of the effect on her students. It didn't occur to me until I was galloping to the library for my 5:30 class's "information literacy" session that, "oh, wait: I teach an evening class, and I've scheduled them all the way through the final Thursday of the semester."

So, in the library, while the librarian was showing students how to use the databases and the Lib Guide, I was checking the class length and the academic calendar. I was right about the length of the class period: evening classes are 80 minutes, not 75. And the adjunct was almost right: evening classes actually end on Tuesday, May 9th.

But I have a final class scheduled for May 11th.

Moment of panic: "I need to email Cathy to ask her what I should do!" Moment of adult responsibility: "No need to involve Cathy with this; I just need to figure out a solution." Moment of rapid improvisation leading to plan ... what letter of the alphabet are we up to by now? "I'll just have them submit their self-evaluations on the same day they submit their final essays, and we'll do our semester wrap-up all at once." It's not optimal, but it will work.

To sum up: slow realization of my own error, followed by flash of panic when I realized the error, followed by a moment of trying to deflect the panic, make someone else solve the problem followed by, "Oh, we'll just do this. That will be OK": letting go of my "everything needs to be perfect and exactly the way I planned it" attitude and relaxing into "good enough is good enough."

Around all that, I have to say I had reasons to be the proud professor today: both librarians running the sessions today said that my students seemed like good bunches--and I could confirm that yes, they are. This is not entirely my doing: those without the chops to make it have already pretty much fallen by the wayside. But it's partly my doing: I have them pretty well whipped into shape. They are, for the most part, ready, willing and able to do real work--and they ask smart questions.

The kid who plagiarized his second essay seemed utterly lost today, which didn't surprise me. He's all but completely given up on learning and is just trying to slide through to the end, so the second anything is challenging, he disconnects. And I grant you, the information is a bit numbing, even though the students get to click and type along with the librarian, hands on. So, when everyone else was working and he was just sitting there, staring into space, I went over to him and walked him through some of the steps he'd missed. He did a little work, then was staring into space again, so I went over again, asked him if he was confused or... and he started back into working--and actually spent the rest of the class on task. Good.

In the earlier class, there was a moment when I had to say, loudly, "OK, those of you who are on your phones right now? Knock it off." The librarian laughed, and the students laughed--but they also put down their phones and got back to work. There were a couple of chuckle moments in that earlier class: nothing actually funny, just my pointing things out to them in mock-fierce teasing ways that they found amusing. I like the rapport I have with that class in particular, though it's sometimes hard to pick between the two 102s.

In P&B today, I mentioned my idea of using seminar hours to have a workshop on reading literature (though Cathy pointed out that, diplomatically, it's probably best not to use the word "reading" in the title or description of the workshop, lest our colleagues in the Reading department think we're dismissing or demeaning what they do). And I mentioned that both Paul and I are about ready to stop teaching literature electives altogether, because of the frustration factor when it comes to the students' inability to read. My P&B colleagues responded with a mixture of "Wow, you really must be unhappy" and "Yeah, I know exactly what you mean." When I told them that I am flat out hating the Nature in Lit course, they understood just how painful that is.

And I am hating it. I need to find a way to reframe it for myself so I don't look at it as something I just have to endure for the next eight class meetings but as something I can find some gratification in doing. I'm not sure right now where to find the gratification--I'll have to work on that--but I know it will help me enormously to try to find a positive spin on whatever the class is like: not to ignore the reality but to find a way to see the reality in a more beneficial light.

Meanwhile, my body is letting me know very loudly that it does not take well to going short on sleep, even a little bit, and that I need to do something to try to stock up on a little restedness. As much as the lure of noodling calls to me ("it's not full dark yet; surely it's too early to go home!"), I am going to end this post, grab my bags, and steal off into the gloaming (tomorrow being that other day we hear so much about).

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