I had a very hard time getting myself to campus today, partly because I had a very late night last night in the City, being a dance student, but more because, well, I just didn't really want to come to campus. As soon as I was here, however, my body and brain kicked into work mode without a flicker. I started out talking with Cathy--not about work, mostly, but about family stuff--and I was again struck by what a good, kind, compassionate person she is. Her concern for the life situations of all her colleagues is genuine and extensive--and greatly appreciated by me at least.
Then I went up to the office and began the shift over from putting the spring courses into the file cabinets and pulling out stuff for the fall classes. Along the way, I started tossing things into the recycle bin, as I realized I wouldn't use them again--or at least wouldn't use them again in their current incarnations.
In fact, that started what may be a very interesting--and extensive--process of getting ready for the 101s. I have already revamped one handout and have started work on another, trying to de-word them as much as possible: fewer words, simpler instructions. I am not good at this. I even had a brief fantasy of trying to gather a small group of students to give me feedback on the assignment sheets, so I could hear from disinterested parties what works and what doesn't and why. I know I tend to over-explain, but that's also because I tend to over-complicate. Very little is simple in my brain, which seems to be composed of rabbit trails through rampant underbrush--all of which needs to be explored and explained, apparently.
As I was at work on one particular handout, the student from the spring 102 arrived. We talked a little about how the plagiarism happened; it wasn't intentional at all, but it did take a while for her to admit that she had gone online to get some help with the novel, and that stuff crept into her writing. I told her that she would need to rewrite the places where the plagiarism flags went up--but I also explained that my hunch is she won't just reword those bits so they don't use someone else's language; she'll replace the ideas, once she has a better handle on what she wants to argue.
That's the perennial problem: there needs to be an argument. There are different ways of approaching the "Other" in the novel. Yes. True. But a fact. What's the argument? So what? What is the author suggesting about those ways of approaching the Other? It was difficult to get the student to understand that it wouldn't really help if I were to hand her an answer to any of those questions, as it would be my answer, not hers, and she'd still be confused because she wouldn't know the thinking behind the answer. She needs to find her own answers--and I agree that doing so is not easy. But she's bright enough. Even though she confessed that this is not an area that interests her at all (fair enough), I still think she has the intellectual acumen to pull out better than a C paper. But we'll see.
It also turned out that--even though I struggled mightily to get her a copy of the essay that showed my comments without showing all the other markup as well, the comments weren't visible in what I sent. I don't know why the switch-over to PDF wasn't working, but it really wasn't: I never did manage to export the document from Word to PDF without either losing all the mark up or having all the mark up, including stuff that would just visually confuse the hell out of her. I had a similar struggle with the other essay I graded, though with that one, I did eventually manage to get the correct view into PDF form. I am hoping whatever this wrinkle is unwrinkles itself before I start grading essays for the fall 101s or I am going to be one very frustrated professor.
Now, however, I am going to take off. There is more I could do (there is always more I could do), but it will all get done some other day. And I don't know what day just yet. As I've mentioned a number of times, I'm having a difficult time balancing my desire to be fully on summer sea-cucumber mode and my desire to continue getting work done in order to make August less stressful. But I really don't want to get in the habit of being here until 8 or 9, as I was during the semester, and if I don't wrap it up ASAP, that's likely to happen. And I have no idea whether I'll work on school stuff tomorrow or not: I'm not even going to try to predict. The eternal mantra: we'll see.