Saturday, April 28, 2012

Life is better now

  • I spent all of last night breathing. And sleeping. But I'm happiest about the breathing. The cold is on the mend!
  • Because I feel better, I'm able to do laundry and various other minor tasks today. This brings me great peace. Eliminating the germy feeling generated by the cold helps me to believe that the cold is really going away.
  • Classes end on Wednesday! Only two more teaching days until January! Hooray, maternity leave!
  • I can't really believe that I'm not teaching in the fall. My hope is that I'll be bored to death and ready to return to campus after 9 months of domestic duty. (And working on the bibliographic essay that I haven't started.)
  • I have a slightly better idea, now, of what I'm supposed to talk about on that PBS panel that I'm going to be on. That's Wednesday. So I'm extra glad that the cold is fading; maybe my nose won't be all red and peeling by then.
  • I have very little actual schoolwork to do this weekend. What I ought to do is work on my "article," but I kind of feel like puttering around the house, instead. I suppose I could do both.
  • Only downside: The weather is cool and rainy, and my most comfortable maternity clothes are all summery dresses. Well, TM and the garden are happy about the raininess, so I'll manage.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Pregnancy colds are extra special

Did you know that? Did you know that, when you get a cold when you're pregnant, it sucks extra*? I'm learning. Wow. Three days I've been miserable, miserable, after two days of am-I-getting-sick? fatigue and sore throats and one more day of yes,-I'm-sick,-but-still-up-and-about.

I canceled classes on Tuesday, but not today, because next Tuesday is our last day and so there'd be no possibility of catching up if I'd canceled today, too. They were not my shiningest teaching moments ever, but at least some progress was made. (= judicious use of passive voice; it would be going too far to say that I truly led this progress. It's entirely possible that the only thing that progressed was the syllabus, not actual, you know, learning stuff.)

I think that I can safely say that I feel better today than yesterday, so maybe this won't last absolutely forever? But good lord. This is the worst cold I can remember having.

*This fact has been confirmed by my doctor's office. The body is working harder than usual to make the baby, so it's not really focused too much on healing itself; plus, there's all that extra mucous production! Good times!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Gift of Well-Earned Praise

My favorite thing about teaching is when I can tell a student that he or she has done something wonderful.

Three recent opportunities:

*Running into a student (whom I've had in lots of classes, and who's graduating soon) outside the library. I said hi and kept going, but then turned back--to tell her that she's doing terrific work in my seminar and that her writing and thinking have improved tremendously this year. What was even nicer was hearing back from the student, a few weeks later, about how she told her dad that afternoon that she'd had a good day because I'd said that to her. Best two minutes I spent all week.

*Congratulating a student who won first place in the all-College writing competition this year (for a paper that he'd written in my class!). This is a very bright student who's struggled a bit with his writing, and it was so good to see that work pay off.

*Honestly being able to tell the Honors students, when they've finished presenting their senior theses to a big crowd of friends and faculty, that they've done a beautiful job. Because they always do a beautiful job, no matter how rough the road to getting there has been. I'm really going to miss some of these people.

It's so easy to complain, complain, complain. Lord knows I do enough of it. And sometimes students--including the ones I just mentioned!--can drive me nuts. But it's wonderful to notice the good that they do, and to recognize them for it. College can be rough: commas are spliced, papers are late, students struggle with one thing or another. But every year I actually get to see a few of them settle into the mature scholars--and people--that they're capable of being, and it's beautiful.

When I get to tell a student that she's done something magnificent, I feel that I've given her a gift--and the pleasure I see reflected in her, the pride, is an even better gift that she's giving to me.

I'm such a sap. I feel teary just thinking about it.

Friday, April 13, 2012

"I'm not going to lie"

Do you get this? "I'm not going to lie, I haven't started the paper yet." "I won't lie, I've been procrastinating a lot." In emails, I mean--I can't recall having a student say this to me in person (though it may have happened). Why point out that they're telling the truth? I generally assume that they're telling the truth (although I'm not so naive as to believe that students always tell me the truth; rather, in most individual cases, I assume that a student isn't lying unless I have a good reason to believe that he or she is. It doesn't make a difference, in most cases: You do the work or you don't, whatever the excuse). In fact, in these cases, pointing out the truth-status of one's claim immediately makes it--or preceding claims--suspect.

So again: Why inform me of the fact that you're not going to lie? Because here's what that does: It leads me to assume that, in other cases, you have lied. Furthermore, "I'm not going to lie: I didn't do the homework" doesn't get you out of doing the homework. There are no points for honesty here. Am I supposed to feel somehow privileged that I'm the one professor whom you choose not to deceive? Are you to be congratulated for your supposedly exceptional ethical sense, which somehow mitigates your laziness?

I know, I know: "I'm not gonna lie" has become a Phrase, a Thing, People Say It. (I find it irritating, to be honest. In my curmudgeonliest moments, I mentally compile a list of New Things People Say that annoy me. "Remodel" as a noun is right up there; at least I normally don't encounter it in my work. So is "speaking to" an issue. Oh, there are so many; a parenthetical can't contain them all.) So it probably doesn't mean much, in itself, except as a sort of awkward transition into an admission that they're somewhat hesitant to make. But in the last six months or so I seem to be getting it a LOT (further confirming its status as a Thing), and I never know how to respond.

So I don't respond--to that phrase, anyway; to the emails, it depends--and I'm using this venue to say the things that I'd like to say. And if you'd like the more concise version, below are three slightly pithier rejoinders from which to choose.

a) I'm not going to lie: calling attention to the truth-status of your claims is a weak rhetorical move.
b) I'm not going to lie: you're failing the class.
c) I'm not going to lie: I still think you're lying.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

One down

Just finished with the first of (a record-breaking) eight honors thesis presentations. I don't actually have to do much at the presentations--introduce the presenting student, start off the questions, mingle at the reception--but leading up to each one is an endless parade of scheduling meetings and presentation rehearsals and presentations, attending meetings and presentation rehearsals, reading drafts, creating and hanging posters, sending out email announcements, organizing catering and room set-up. Each of these steps seems to involve an average of about 17 emails. It's exhausting.

Afterwards, the president of the College told me that it's great to have so many honors students this year and to keep doing what I'm doing. That's nice to hear.

(But if I keep doing what I'm doing, I'm headed for an early grave--or at least some very deep sleep. I am so earning my course release this semester. One down, one down, one down.)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

It's all very peculiar

I've been quiet for a long time, I know. Things are pretty nuts around here. And I decided not to post my last entry, which was a pointless (but impassioned! Ever so impassioned) screed re. my salary.

Anyway, I thought I'd break the silence by telling you about something peculiar and a little ridiculous.

A while back, I was asked to provide a quote for this economic assessment magazine thing for the Greater Ordinary City Area about the important role that higher education plays in economic development. Actually, I wasn't asked to provide a quote. I was provided with a quote, and asked if they could put my name on it.

I found this, in a word, strange.

The organization was legitimate, but I wasn't thrilled with what they had me saying. So I revised the quote a bit, added in something about citizenship! and critical thinking! (i.e. higher ed is about more than making good employees, though yes, sure, it teaches job skills too), and sent it back. (This all went through the college's PR person, by the way, so I wasn't just operating on my own.)

Now they want me to be on a panel about economic development in the Greater Ordinary City Area. On television.

On television!

Local PBS, that is, so it's not like I'll be popping up on CNN or whatever. But I am to appear as a Community Leader who Knows Something about These Things. Which I don't, clearly. And I'm totally nervous about this whole production. Even though it's not a terrifically big deal and there will be 8 people on the panel, so, I mean, how much will I actually have to say, anyway? Still--television! Should I wear make-up? Is it weird that I'll be massively pregnant? What if I say something stupid or get in a fight or something?

Well, I agreed to do it, with the vague idea of insinuating my CRITICAL THINKING! HUMANITIES!!!! agenda seamlessly into the discussion, thereby changing the mainstream discourse about higher education forever.

See? Isn't this just a weird thing to have come up? I think it's completely absurd--and that's probably the main reason that I agreed to do it at all.