Saturday, April 25, 2015

A Good Weariness at the End of a Work Week

The Pulitzer Prize winners were announced this week--or was it last week?  There are some years when I could have told you precisely.  Some years I look at the Pulitzers and feel inspired.  Some years, I simply add books to my reading list.  Some years, I feel discouraged, and my inner critic reminds me that I'm not doing the work I was put on earth to do.

This week, I'm so worn out by my work week that I almost didn't notice the Pulitzers.  I'm not sure why, exactly, it's been so exhausting.  I've also been grading research papers for my online class, which does make me tired in a unique way.

In my administrator life, it's been a week where we see the implications of our new attendance policy.  Instead of failing students when they go over the allowed number of absences, now faculty members withdraw them from the class.  It involves more paperwork and more signatures.

I did not anticipate how much more time it would take to complete these tasks.  I have decided that it's wise to check the student attendance screen for each withdrawal form I get, just to be sure that it shows the requisite number of absences.  There have been some glitches.

The screens that I can see are updated in real time, while the screens that faculty members can see are updated once a week.  So, they've often been withdrawing students who are already taken out of the class for other reasons.  Sigh.

But let me not get sunk in despair over this week at work.  Let me remember some high points.

----I got several thank you notes from faculty.  I know that people could see me as the boss who requires ever more work.  It's nice to get a thank you note in these times of change.

--Some time ago I helped a student who was pursuing studies at a different school, and the school needed information about one of our classes to see whether or not they would accept it for transfer.  I get these requests from time to time.  But I rarely find out the result.  I send off the information and hope for the best--but I often have no idea whether or not the class is accepted.

This week I got a thank you e-mail from a student I helped. The course was accepted.  But the thank you e-mail made me realize how seldom I hear about the outcome. 

--I also got thank you notes from my online students.  One student is headed on to a school where I used to teach to be an English major.  She asked for my advice.  It was neat to be asked.  I enjoyed writing the e-mail, which I'll paste at the end of this post.

--Yesterday, a group of us went to the student-run restaurant.  It was a lovely experience, and I had a gift certificate that I was given when I did a faculty development workshop.  My gift certificate meant that we all had reduced cost.  Delicious meal with friends plus reduced cost--wonderful!

--My writing friend and I are trying to get back on track.  We are meeting on Monday to exchange stories.  I went back to a story that I had been working on in January.  I stopped writing back in January because I wasn't sure what to do next.  Now I know exactly what to do.  And this morning, I made progress.  At some point before Monday, I'll finish.

--And I have an idea for a poem.  Thursday I used my crystal decanter to water the petunias in the planter box.  I have a vision of a woman who, thirty years after her wedding, is using the wedding gifts in daily life.  I'm tempted also to put in details about drinking the dreadful coffee at work.  Can I weave these threads together?

So yes, even though I'm tired, it's a good kind of tired.  Those of us who have worked any amount of time at all know that there are weeks that can leave the worker tired in much more ghastly ways.  Happily, this week was not one of those.


E-mail to an advice-seeking student moving on to a university to be an English Major:

"I'd look at course descriptions and take what sounds interesting to you.  You'll find out that classes are mostly divided into British Literature and American Literature, and you might want to focus on one of those. Or you might enjoy dipping in and out of each.  And of course, recent literature is less bound by place, as we all travel more and know more about what's happening all across the world.  There are also some interesting creative writing courses, if your passion runs that way.

You'll have some classes that you have to take, and probably a limited # of classes that you can take just because they interest you--so you don't want to waste those.

And yet, I'll share a story with you that shows that some times, it's good to just choose a class and see what happens.  When I arrived at grad school, most of the classes had no seats left.  So I took a class that focused on James Joyce and his works.  I had no interest in Joyce, but there were seats, so I signed up.

It was AMAZING.  The professor LOVED Joyce and made the difficult reading material come to life.  I went on to write my Masters thesis on Joyce and his female characters, which was not what I would have predicted when I went off to grad school.

So, trust your interests, but don't be afraid to try new things.  It's basic advice, isn't it?  But tried and true."

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