Would you please please please stop talking?

meeting_clip_art1I love my colleagues–I really do. Most of us have been working together for 14 years, so we’re well established in our family roles. The three new folk also seem to be negotiating their own positions in the family, too.  Thus, our meetings tend to have the same ebb and flow each year. 

 This is particularly true when we have meetings with just the full time faculty: that’s rare, since we at least try to welcome part timers to our department meetings.  But each fall only the full timers meet to “discuss” who gets which literature and humanities classes for the following year.  You see, literature and humanities classes are the gold ring: we don’t teach enough (composition courses are the bulk of what we offer) to allow everyone to teach them, thus only the full timers get these gems: but only 1 gem per quarter per instructor. 

Perhaps you can imagine the negotiating that goes on during a meeting where we each try to get the course we want  during the days/times we want to teach it (we can’t all teach on TR at 10am, for example).

In a successful attempt by our last two chairs to delegate, I’ve been tasked with planning and leading this particular meeting each fall for years. It makes me quite popular: during the weeks leading up to this meeting, I get e-mails and office visits from faculty who want to lobby for a particular course and time slot.  Most of us are generalists and can teach many of the literature/humanities courses; those courses that do require more expertise, of course, are usually assigned easily.  But then there is the limit on the number of courses we can offer, and the requirement to offer a variety of Humanities courses on various campuses in various formats and times. And then there are those courses that are very, very desirable.

We are mostly collegial and polite, so it always works out in the end, but the meeting itself can be a frustrating deja vu, as the paternal figure of the group begins by announcing his courses and times, interrupting others during the meeting to make changes as he contemplates the schedule I’m showing on the overhead. 

Then there’s the maternal figure of the group, who is as demanding and loud as the paternal figure, but her interruptions are more about what she thinks others would really want (such as, I know so and so here has children, so he shouldn’t be asked to teach at night).

Then there is the ne’er do well or blacksheep of the family, who, of course, doesn’t attend the meeting but sends me a list of desired courses and times.  We are all aware that the blacksheep’s enrollment has been suffering, and thus we have a polite, beat around the bush conversation rearranging the blacksheep’s selections in such a way that we think will help enrollment in those sections (popular formats and times).

Then we have the younger child, the older child, and the middle child playing out their various roles, from “It’s MY turn to get that course/time” or “I think we should offer JargonyPostModCrit as a general education course!”

I’m rather tasky, so the meeting moved along despite the MANY interruptions and glitches, and personal tales.

But the toughest thing for me is saying (several times): “I’m sorry, I’m trying to hear so and so speak” or “I’m sorry, but I believe so and so was speaking.” Or variations on the theme.

And trying very hard NOT to say, “Would you please please please please please stop talking?

It’s Just a Flesh Wound

I have a cough. That’s it: a dry, hacking cough.  A little congestion, yes, but really, it’s a simple dry cough.  No fever. No headache. No aches and pains.  So today I coughed into my long sleeves, sucked on a variety of cough drops (Ricolas are my new favorite thing), spread antibacterial gel on my hands half hourly, carried antibacterial wipes and used them every time I left my office (and everywhere in my office), drank quarts of hot tea and lemon, and went about my usual business of teaching one class, answering emails, grading essays and holding a few office hours. (Ok, I didn’t run today, and I slept in till 7am, but those were my only concessions.)

You would think I had the plague.  You would think I was playing the martyr. The embodiment of evil. The most self centered THING existing.  Some colleagues chastised me (only after hearing a cough or two since I am not obviously physically sick) for coming to campus at all, warning me that I had the swine flu and should have stayed home. They refused to come within 10 feet of me.

My students had an entirely different reaction. They laughed with glee at the note I put on the white board before class: “DANGER: Annie has a cough. Stay away. Put your essays on the table in the corner (and yes, I’ve wiped down the stapler). Don’t be insulted if I do not come close to you if you have a question for me.”  Despite my red-inked warning, however, they CAME  CLOSE TO ME to ask me questions and hand in papers. Some who were also coughing offered me their evaluation of the cough drop inventory at the supermarket, and then gave me a sample.  They even stayed late after class to finish working on the project outlines and research we had begun. Some of the students from this class showed up at my office hour after class to chat some more (luckily my new office is so incredibly huge, that the student chair could be placed far away from my germy desk).

So, what gives? Should I have stayed home? I feel FINE. It’s “just a flesh wound” as the knight on Monty Python famously said. Or am I being as famously stupid by ignoring what could be the precursor to the flu?  Since I will be missing a few classes next week for an out of town meeting, cancelling class today (a particularly important class, too,  in terms of the projects the students are starting to work on) seemed just wrong.

I suppose tomorrow morning will tell. 

Now excuse me while I take my trustworthy medicine for colds and coughs: a glass of cognac.