Saturday, November 07, 2009

Open letter to this past week.

Dear This Past Week,

You and I sat down and had a conversation awhile ago, wherein we planned that you would be completely wall-to-wall, and we both agreed that it would be fine: sometimes immersion in a task is just the thing, a task like conferring with students about their midterm portfolios, and in fact, it could be transformative, changing the tenor of the student-teacher relationship, what with the individual attention and the reams of comments. We actually planned on transformation, This Past Week. It was on our agenda.

However, This Past Week, things didn't exactly follow as we had envisioned them. When we announced to the students that their portfolios needed to be posted by midnight Monday, we thought they would comply. Writing these words--"we thought they would comply"--how absurd they sound! How many years have I been teaching? Couldn't you have reminded me, This Past Week, that such an expectation would be naive? in the extreme? You could have at least laughed at me, affectionately or even derisorily. It would have saved us both a lot of grief.

Only you know, This Past Week, how I died just a little when the students did not show at their appointed hour. Just a little, but still. I'm middle-aged, This Past Week. I can't afford to be dying all the time.

If we were doing this again, This Past Week, how would we correct for this risible failure to envision the world as it really is--that students, even having written things down, forget, or postpone, or don't think of you the writing teacher as the sun (with them the writing students as the moon, like Juliet and Romeo) and thus blow you off like a bad date? What would we do differently? Punishment? threats?

And now, This Past Week, you are spilling into the new week, because I have had to reschedule appointments like mad. I have always been the apostle of "Just One More Chance," which, frankly, I should find a new religion, because Just One More Chance basically doubles my labor and makes me feel a little bad and a little mad. Also, there's that whole dying a little thing, which, let's face it, does no one any favors.


lisa b.

TAGS: gospel, dying by degrees, expectations, teaching, plan


  1. Here is a comment I recently made on a student's paper:

    "This will not do."

  2. My God, how can you stand it? Idealism or sanity, I guess, you can only pick one.

  3. Things I do not miss--grading and a week of conferences. Just about everything else but those.

  4. WWSCD, as in what would Sarah Connor do in a similar situation? I find this little mantra useful from time to time.

  5. Why must your risible failure to envision the world as it really is be accompanied by pain? Idealism--in an ideal world--would be blessed by the accomplishment of each hoped for goal, which would lead to another higher ideal, and on and on to something akin to celestial glory, I suppose.

    Or perhaps this risible failure to envision the world as it really is explains the attraction to the Democratic party?

  6. I sort of feel relief when students don't show up for conferences because then I can feel satisfied that I offered, that I was available, and yet I get a free 20 minutes in which I can do nothing but check Fail blog or somesuch. I hardly every reschedule, but sometimes I am kind like you. But usually, they don't show up for that reschedule either.

  7. I hope one day I know the proper balance of kindness and strictness but I find myself overcompensating at every turn. Here, I was too strict. There, too lenient. Here, I found a typo in my own syllabus. How can I blame them for a typo or two. But then there are twenty. And twenty sentences that are entirely nonsensical. Perhaps that's where I'll draw the line. At nineteen.

  8. how I died a little--that is the perfect phrase. It's like a little chunk is taken out each time, the wind out of the sails. I'm afraid we are all in for a little more dying. Fortunately some things in teaching must--surely!--give us a little life or we'd all be lying lifelessly on our office floors.

  9. Maybe the philosophy of One More Chance but no more. That might work. I gave you one more and now there are none left. I think this will be my new mantra. And also, maybe just one tiny piece of extra credit.

  10. I'm with you, sister. I am constantly making the mistake of caring--and then the even more absurd mistake of believing that others care as much as I do. It's a mistake I hate to learn from, as a teacher/human being, but I'm afraid that I am, if only slowly.



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