Promises Promises

I know, I know.  Best of intentions, and it’s still a month and a half between posts.

 

First off, big news on the blogger-that-is-me front, this blog will soon have the ability to be renamed Gradstudentandadjunctinthedark.

 

…It won’t be, because that is long and unruly and looks terrible, but the point still stands.  Sometime in August, yours truly will be moving… somewhere, where the land flows with living stipends, and I will still be teaching but also balancing other obligations as well.  PHD land, baby.

 

All joking aside, I’m more excited than I can possibly say.  This has been a long time hoped/prayed for, and is the fulfillment of 3 and a half years of anxiety attacks and application fees.  So expect a few stories on here not directly related to adjuncting–because I can only write about the stuff taking up most space in my brain.  Focus?  What’s that.

 

Otherwise, the semester has started.  I have a much more motivated lot of students, though I still can’t tell how they feel about me.  I admit that my head has sort of been in the clouds since I found out about school, and it’s reflecting on my teaching a little.  It’s like senior-itus, except, I suspect, worse.  But I soldier on, and hopefully they get an education in the process.

 

I’m trying to get through grading their first papers.  Because I procrastinate chronically, it’s been a struggle.  But I’m hoping to finish them today.  I have, however, discovered that grading will forever be my downfall.  I start reading those blessed little papers, and the next thing you know, all I want to do is sleep.  It’s better than drugs.  And I’ll finish this batch just in time for the next one to start.  But it’s my own fault, so.

 

We’re doing an activity on revision tomorrow.  I’m already trying to explain the difference between peer review and revision in my own head, just in preparation, so I know what to say when I’m repeating myself for the sixth time.

 

That’s it for now.  I’ve got to go see a lady about a thing.  Hope 2014 is starting out well for you all.

 

Over and out.

Happy 2014

Well, here goes another year.  2013 was…interesting to say the least.  There are too many world events to count, and huge momentous things that I am in no way qualified to talk about on a teaching blog.

 

On the personal front, it was a year of learning to wait.  I did grad apps in the spring that didn’t pan out, got let go, got re-hired, and had one of the most challenging semesters I’ve had yet.  But all in all, it shaped up pretty well.  It was a strange year of limbo for me, but also one that taught me a lot about patience, and finding the good even in the ugly, and about enjoying simple things no matter what.  I think I grew a little, and that seems like about as much as anyone can ask from a year.

 

The most interesting, and relevant to this blog (yes, sometimes I stay on topic), was my collection of students this semester.  Partially because of me, and partially because of them, we had trouble getting places this semester.  I talked and talked, but it felt like we never really got anywhere.  I left the semester fairly convinced they hadn’t learned anything.

 

And then I looked at the class reflections, and almost cried.  I got several comments that this was their favorite English class, that it challenged them, and that it helped them come out of their shells.  Now granted, I forgot to give them the talk about how I don’t read these until after I grade, so some of them might be sucking up, but those folks aside, I got some very sweet and uplifting comments.

 

As a teacher, that’s my main goal–I want to help them.  And if I can’t teach them how to formulate a bloody argument, or that a thesis statement is not a question, I’d like to at least teach them that they can write, that writing is important, or that they have opinions worth listening to.  And I think I managed to do that, and that makes me feel good about the last five months.

 

So even though things kind of ended on a whimper instead of a bang, I still have a warm fuzzy for these kids that I never expected to have.  I might actually miss them.  And so many of them are teetering on the cusp–I hope they tip over on the side that lets them do great things.

 

So that’s me.  As for you, I hope your year was full of learning and interesting discoveries, that you moved beyond something, or gained something, or just left 2013 a little better and more interesting than you found it last January first.

 

All the best from the blog.  Everyone have a safe and happy night, and let’s give 2014 a run for its money.

 

Cheers.

Poor, poor neglected blog…

I was doing so well with keeping up posting here, and then I just…failed.  This fall hit me hard.  I couldn’t really tell you why.  But my energy levels have been at less than 0.  But I’m back in action now, so let’s hope it holds.

 

Translation: I’m submitting PHD applications, prepping my students for their final research papers, and trying to prepare for the holidays.  So, go go gadget procrastination.

 

I won’t do a recap of the entire semester here, because frankly, none of you really care that much.  I don’t, either.  But let’s say it’s been a little rough.  I can’t tell if it’s my lack of enthusiasm, or if I just have the biggest collection of bums ever, but we are just not making headway.  They are not bad kids, but they are lazy, and ballsy about being lazy.  I am also lazy, and we are just having a big old collaborative laze-fest that is not getting things done.

 

Some of my favorite examples of our issues:

“I didn’t get the essay. So I didn’t do it.” (We had been working on it in class for 20 minutes.)

“Can I get some help? Also how do I do citations.” (the evening *after* we turned the paper in.)

“We have to read the whole thing?” (I gave them class time to read an article they were supposed to read for homework.)

 

So I think it might be a combo.  Grad apps season also means that my brain is not totally on teaching.  So I’m working on being better–if I have more pep, maybe they will too.  I’m also hoping stuffing myself with potatoes and pie for the next three days will put a bit of zip back in me.  Or it will send me into a food coma.  I will take either.

 

And, finally, since I know you were all dying to hear about it…

 

THE TEACHERS LOUNGE SAGA CONTINUES!

 

So, either my colleagues are paranoid, or actual hot magma comes out of the coffee machine.

 

Me: *creeps in, trying not to interrupt jabbering ladies*.

Jabbering ladies: blah blah blah, What Not to Wear, so-and-so’s grandpa…*slow fade to silence*.

Me: *continues to be awkward. Grabs cup for coffee.*

Jabbering ladies: *whisper whisper, mumble something about coffee*.

Single jabbering lady: *comes over* it’s hot. Do you need help? I don’t want you to burn yourself. It’s REALLY hot.

Me: I’m fine.  It’s…I’m…I’ve got it.

Lady: *looks dubious*.

Me: *collects coffee.  Waves like manic idiot. Flees.*

 

And they keep going silent and watching me when I go in there.  It is coffee, not lava. Calm down, people.  It’s getting to the point where I don’t even go in there if I can hear people–the worried staring is just uncomfortable for everybody.

 

So, I hope that amused you, or at least told you my sense of humor has not improved.  I’m going to try going back to around once a week.  If that doesn’t happen…someone poke me.  I either got lazy, or I’m taking a cross-country hike to go throw eggs at the ETS building.

 

…or I crawled under my bed and am refusing to come out.  Anything is possible.

On Student Excuses

First off, for professional dignity, I…sort of feel the need to apologize for the last manic coffee post.  Tea has been returned to work, and I am mostly mentally well again.

 

But I’m not posting to talk about my crazy this time.  Today’s topic is the student fiction contest of excuse-making.  Well-traversed territory, but worth a few minutes of my time, since I do see them as often as assignments.

 

If I’m starting out with honesty, I haven’t actually seen as many impressive excuses as some.  Most of the ones I get are the classic “my computer crashed,” “my Email failed,” etc.  But from this mine field of mundane has come my favorite excuse ever.

 

Here is how this plays out.  Student has failed to hand in some assignment or other.  This is not the first assignment that student has not given me–it has become a pattern.  So, politely, I call student up to the front after the rest of the class has left/stopped acknowledging my existence.

 

Me: You haven’t handed this in to me.

Student: I’m sorry. I’ve had XYZ going on, and it’s been really hard.

Me: I understand. I too live a real life. I too know that the universe sometimes just takes a crap on your head.

Student: *smiles apologetically, contrite and enjoying our bonding*.

Me: But I say in my syllabus that you need to keep me informed. XYZ are excusable problems, but I must hear about them ahead of time so we can make arrangements.

Student: I understand. I just hate making excuses. So I didn’t say anything.

 

“I just hate making excuses.”

 

Translation is either: “I truly am overwhelmed and felt weird burdening you with my problems,” “I didn’t even think about you/the assignment/your late work policy, whether I had legit crap going on or not,” or, most often, “You caught me and now I need a way to sound noble and silent-suffering but really I just didn’t do it and can’t think of a better excuse off the top of my head.”

 

This has shown up twice now, in two different classes, with two different students.  It amuses the hell out of me, because it is just so ballsy.  It dares me to call them out, to shame them for their toughness and willingness to silently drag their grade into the toilet without involving their teacher, who just doesn’t need to hear about their woes.  And it’s a hard one to fight.  I can’t catch them out in a lie.  The most I can do is just wag the scoldy-finger of shame, tell them they must complain to me more, and send them on their way.

 

Just once, I wish someone would throw me a good old-fashioned bald-face lie, with a magical disappearing notebook or a paper-inclined house pet.  No one has any respect for the classics anymore.

Morning grumpies

This post is nothing of substance.  If you are feeling intellectual, move on by.  It is merely a post to say that life is unfair.

 

I lent my loaf of bread to my neighbor (because my apartment building has turned amish), and this morning all I could have desired in life was toast.  Then I got to campus, and the entire first floor smelled like…you guessed it, toast.  Life is cruel and unusual and Tuesday you can stop pretending to be a Monday at any time now.

 

On the bright side, I have tackled some of the adjuncting insecurity and gone down to the faculty lounge magic land to retrieve coffee.  Necessity is the mother of…getting over myself for the sake of caffeine.  Still haven’t snitched a baked good yet, but I don’t actually know if there were any there.  I had eyes for coffee alone.

 

Also, if I suddenly drop unconscious on the spot, that sugar packet I used did not contain sugar.  I’m going on good faith that the multitude of packets in the little basket next to the coffee machine are sugar–if someone decided to hide sweetened drugs in there, I am now transporting them in my coffee.

 

What. Conquering my insecurity meant going in there, not asking someone with functioning eyeballs if what I was using was creamer or powdered meth or something.  I don’t know if meth is already powdered, but that seems beside the point.

 

Judging by the above post, I need more coffee.  I’m going to go attend to that.  The ducklings are turning in their first papers today, so I may have more legitimate things to talk about later.

Grammar and Fashion Woes

You’ll notice that I left out that comma up there, leaving that title very ambiguous.  Look at me being all teacher-y.

So we covered grammar on Tuesday, or, more importantly, we covered commas.  I think that, if I wasn’t fearing mutiny before, I should be fearing it now.  Take a bunch of 18-year-olds, trap them in a room for an hour and 40 minutes, and ram a bunch of confusing punctuation rules down their throats, and you’re just asking for trouble.  At the end I asked them what about grammar they wanted to learn about in later class periods, and I actually waited for an answer.  After some mutterings, I got the “well, you’re the teacher, we all hate this. So it’s your job to figure out what we’re supposed to learn.”  …okay then.  If y’all want a dictator, then a dictator you shall have (but in retrospect asking the question in the first place was sort of a bad call on my part. They’re like puppies–they want structure, even if they don’t know it).

I think it went  *mostly* alright though.  They won’t remember anything, except maybe the comma splice, but we have the rest of the semester to work on it.  I was supposed to cover parts of speech today, but considering the restless stirring of the troops, I decided it was time to switch tactics.  We’re sort of in creative writing mode today, with a game included, so hopefully that will go better.

Then again, I’m introducing their first paper today, so I may have already shot myself in the foot.  Like a coward, I am waiting until the class has already begun to send out the assignment sheet.

What, they’re intimidating…

But, to inspire confidence in myself, I did dress the part to be a professor today (yes, this is where we get to the fashion woes).  Bought a new jacket, and it practically has freaking elbow patches.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I own a BLAZER.  I am a MATURE ADULT.

…And, as I very maturely strode across the street to catch the bus to work, I ripped the back stitch out of my pencil skirt.

 

Lesson learned: one should not stride maturely in a skirt that normally makes it a challenge to climb stairs.

It’s just a sort of decorative split in the lower quarter of the back of the skirt, so it’s not like I’ll be stuck showing my nickers to the college at large, but I feel so much less put together with my flap… flapping.  But here in lies the advantage to being a blind professor: I don’t have to turn my back on them to write on the chalkboard.  So unless some little creep is intentionally staring at my butt, I’m pretty much home free. Win.

Hey, I take my victories where I can get them.  You rip your skirt on the way to work and see what you have left to work with.

Now, off to drink tea and write the rest of this lesson plan, enjoying the fact that it’s like 60 degrees outside, and therefore not a furnace in my office.

Welcome to fall.

 

ETA: FIRST PAYDAY OMG YAY!

 

Week 1 and still kicking

So, here I am, at the end of the first week.  I’m exhausted and spotted with hummus, but I have truffles and scones, so I think I’m still in the + column at this point.

 

First weeks are always interesting.  This one started out with a presto-change-o in the school lobby, to get me out of my don’t-break-my-ankle sandals into my look-I’m-an-adult heels.  Not my most dignified first move, but it had to be done.  If any students were watching, my credibility is gone.  But my shoes are super cute, so I’ll cope.

 

This was followed by not being able to sign onto the network.  School is famous for tech problems, and this one blossomed into an issue that took 3 days to take care of (but it is taken care of now yay).  I love my tech guys.

 

The first class went… fine.  I kind of have a weird sense of brewing hostility in the classroom, but I’m also rampantly and visibly insecure at the start, so I’ll have to report back on whether hints of mutiny are still in the air.  I got the obligatory “What are you not looking forward to in this class?” “writing,” conversation out of the way (there’s always one), and am now ready to set off on my Dead Poet’s Society mission to make these children fall in love with me and my subject.

 

Hey, shut up, I am young and naive enough to have impossible dreams.

 

Some stupid college thing screwed with my scheduling today, so class was only a half hour, so Tuesday’s impressions are still sort of today’s impressions.  Why you wouldn’t send a freaking Email out when classes are only going to be half an hour long, I don’t know…(this is the point where I descend into unintelligible muttering, so move along).

 

.  Anyway, I haven’t spent enough time in-class, so you guys will have to wait to hear more about the specifics of the week until the specifics…actually exist.

 

I guess the only weird thing I’m noticing is that one of the guys is, completely without sarcasm, calling me ma’am.  I am not sure how I feel about this.  The only thing I can fathom is that he *is* military, so maybe it’s a thing.  Either way it’s a thing that makes me feel weird, and I kinda wanna ask him not to.

 

I am not a MA’AM!

 

But I digress.

 

Other than those little stories, things have been mostly uneventful.  the only embarrassments of notice are the above-mentioned hummus-spotting (when eating at your desk, be sure to take note if your crackers have a giant hole in the middle), and accidentally requesting access to a student’s google doc with my personal Email address.  Hopefully she is not a troll who will now stalk and harass me all semester because she knows where I really live on the internet.

 

Okay, this is getting long, and I’m really tired.  Pretending to be an extrovert really takes it out of a girl.  So it’s time for tea and a nap, not sure about the order yet.  I beg your forgiveness and indulgence for the complete lack of coherency in today’s post–see above about fake extroversion being really, really exhausting.  I promise to make sense later.

 

P.S.: the truffles and scones were a care package from my wonderful mother and  one of my surrogate moms.  I love them always. Getting yummies is still just as exciting when you teach freshmen as it was when you were one, and I am spoiled beyond belief. ❤

My Victory’s Complete!

I finally have a contract!  And once I get off this blog, I’m actually going to go sign it!

 

The writing prompt for today was “pick the third line from the last song you heard and make it your post title, then write.”  I usually reserve that kind of posting for when I have important non-bloggy things to do that I’m procrastinating on, but upon reflection, the title seemed appropriate.  Thanks, Joss.

It was Just the Wind

I went to campus today to run a few beginning-of-semester errands, including “I wonder where my classroom is” and “let’s see if anybody knows why I don’t have a real contract yet.”  In the process, I decided to stop down to find out where my mailbox was, because I…never actually used it last year, and I needed to have some desk copies sent to school.

 

Turns out…I don’t have one.  The lady asked me if it was going to be my first semester.  I said no, and she just looked puzzled and said she’d get her boss to Email me (which he didn’t do, but my hopes weren’t high on that front).  Luckily, I found out I can ship desk copies to the department office, so all’s well on that score.

 

Then, upon arriving home, I had a note from our accessibility services, notifying me of some things relating to my class list.  Immediately following that Email, I had a “welcome to the university, here’s what you need to know about the accessibility office.”

 

…Was I invisible last year?  Did I just end up as a figment of my supervisor’s imagination?  I know there are probably reasonable explanations for why I’m getting some of this stuff now, but it kind of makes me feel like I just hallucinated the last two semesters, and really this is my first time teaching.  I’d heard adjuncts were forgettable to some people, but I really must have done a spectacular job of being antisocial.  There seems to be no sign that I actually existed in 2012.

 

On the bright side, I did find the infamous faculty lounge!  The one where, when I asked where it was, I got the “…I have no idea” from two or three different people.  This, and the strange look I got from someone going in there this afternoon, kind of leads me to believe adjuncts aren’t really “welcome” there, but it is a magical land with coffee and hot water for tea and a microwave and a toaster and dammit I am not giving that up.

 

…I did not have the guts to take a brownie off the table. I want to challenge boundaries here, not stomp them into little pieces.  The social order must be maintained.

 

One week and counting…

It is officially time for school to start..

August has decided to rally for what I hope is its one last heat wave, which means, for the most part, I am stuck in my house being sweaty and miserable, and talking to the cat a bit too much.

 

…Not only that, but I just ate peanut butter out of the jar and chocolate chips out of the bag, combining them for dessert-y goodness… while watching old episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on my phone.

 

Summer vacation is all well and good, but I feel I have reached a new low, and should probably start doing something productive and professional now.  After all, how can I have the dignity and poise necessary to finish a syllabus when my hands smell like peanuts?

 

I’m not sure if I should hope people are reading this, or not.  It makes me look pathetic if you are, and if you aren’t, I’m discussing my slow descent into summer-induced madness by talking to myself.

 

Come on, September…