Writing, or I Want a Margarita and I Want it Now

margaritaSince I teach writing, I make it a point to write regularly. No, not just blogging (where I’m not exactly regular), but writing for publication:  writing that will be evaluated by others, just as my students’ writing is evaluated by their peers and by me. 

I usually try to submit an essay or article a year, sometimes more.  And I tell my students, too, sharing my progress on my essays,  as I show them the various strategies for developing ideas, drafting, revising and editing.

Yesterday, as she left my office after a rather cheerful discussion of a fairly decent  rough draft, a student asked me (not without a bit of a smirk): “So, how’s YOUR essay coming along? You haven’t mentioned it lately.”

Well. She’s right. That’s because it was still stuck in that early process stage, or 13 pages of notes and ideas in not quite any logical order (the “down draft” or “child’s draft” according to Anne Lamott). This for an article with a 1000-word limit.  So today (a holiday in our state) I’ve been focusing on selecting, organizing and editing.  I’m down to 6 pages now–about 3 pages too much–but it’s nicely readable.

Yet, it’s also at that stage where the editing can get a bit painful. I LIKE my ideas, my words. You mean I have to keep cutting?

So I thought I’d spend a few hundred words complaining here instead.

Now that I’m finished, however, I need to go sharpen my knife editor’s pencil.

Is it happy hour somewhere yet?

High Enrollment, High Maintenance Students

For the first few weeks of the term, we suffer crowded classrooms, since most of us did, despite ourselves, take in a few extra students on the first day knowing that once the financial aid checks were mailed, we’d lose a few.  And then again, once the first essays are graded (next week) we’ll lose a few more.

Next week is week 4 of the term, and they are starting to flit away. Those who were just enrolled for the checks have vanished already, and those who are starting to realize that there is actual work involved outside of classtime are starting to complain, loudly,  already.  Others are anxious, but plugging away.  I hold 5 scheduled office hours a week (per unspoken campus rule) and I’ve been swamped during most of them.  Prep and grading time is now clearly the province of nights and weekends.  So many more students, so many more high maintenance students.

  • The older, returning student, who is appalled that her quest for an accounting degree requires communications and writing classes. She makes a point of grabbing me after each class to complain (in a very “church lady” sort of way, which makes me stifle giggles) about something: the workload, the vulgarity of the Anne Lamott essay we read (“Shitty Rough Drafts”), or the total waste of time peer evaluation is.  I’m stuck with her till the end of the term: goddess give me patience.
  • The veteran who visits me during office hours every day, but only for 5 minutes or so, to ask me a question about an assignment (he seems to have some internal censor that makes him get up and leave even if we are in the middle of a conversation).  He’s a nice guy, though, so I’ve just come to expect my daily chat with him.
  • The student taking a colleague’s Anthropology of Religion class who wears a giant cross around his neck, carries holy water (which he was caught sprinkling, not so surrepticiously, around the classroom), and who can’t help not contesting nearly every comment my poor colleague utters. 
  • The various children of fellow faculty members who are taking classes this term: how incredibly DIFFERENT they are away from their parental units!  I’ve had longer conversations during classtime with these teens than I have for the last 15 years as I watched them grow up. They now want to chat–often and regularly.  The conversations are exciting and passionate, but, alas, time consuming.

The most frustrating kinds of students? The ones who think they are low maintenance but are really high maintenance.  Like Sally: