Further to my personal life, I am in a battle with myself over my desire for copious amounts of "comfort" food, as most of my clothes don't fit comfortably any more, but the desire for comfort is pretty powerful. Work has been an excellent distraction today--I've hardly thought about the grief waiting for me at home--but there are other triggers that are in play as well. Weight Watchers uses a little acronym for common triggers for overeating: HALT, which stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. I added two S's at the end, for Stressed and Sad. I am all of those except angry, and I'm only lacking the anger because I'm too tired to continue to get worked up over the lack of participation from the students in Nature in Lit, or to get too upset over the quality of some of the essays in the 102s.
Nature in Lit today was ... meh. I didn't put the students into groups, asked them for whatever they have, put stuff on the board, endured long silences. One thing I notice is that putting things on the board is crucial: if I don't, they get progressively more silent--I suppose because they're either trying to take notes or are trying to soak in the cascade of language. But when I put things on the board, they are well trained and will start copying whatever I write into their notes--and then some of them suddenly see that they have ideas.
I did, however, point out that at least five, maybe six of the students present in the room never made any contributions to the class discussion, so I asked them all to have at least one thing they want to bring up. It can be small and simple--it can be anything--but they should have something. I was trying to get those particular students (and yes, they know exactly who they are) to look me in the eye and acknowledge what I was asking of them; I was looking to a row of young women to my right, repeating, "You'll do that, right? You'll say one thing, right?" and from my left, a young male voice said, "Yes, Professor," very loudly and firmly--and lo and behold, it was one of the ones who never speaks. We all laughed, and I said, "That can be enough! I just want you to say something." So class ended on a relatively positive note.
I've been back here grading essays since--occasionally distracted by having to print something, or look something up, and meeting with a few students, too--and I have five more to do. Five. And I don't think I'll have time tomorrow to do them. I may do what I did when I hadn't quite finished essays for Nature in Lit and let the students vote on whether I should return what I've got or hold on to all of it until I have everyone's marked. Or I may just let them know they'll get them on Thursday.
Unless, of course, a miracle occurs.
Copyright Sidney Harris, from the New Yorker, used, I regret to say, without permission. But I couldn't help thinking of it.