Thursday, November 11, 2004

The Week That Almost Was

It's Thursday, and I haven't read much in Tinburg all week, but I hope to rectify that by this weekend. My father came to town on Saturday, and as he is in the early stages of dementia, much of my free time has been devoted to taking care of him. I'm glad to do it--he raised the three of us on his own after our mother died, leaving him the 54 year-old single father of a 13, 10 and 5 year-old. So, today, instead of holing up at home and reading Border Talk, I spent the day shopping with my father for a gift for my sister's baby and taking Dad on the subway downtown to visit my sister and said baby. All told, we had only a few hours together, but the effect that it had on my father was worth it.

Earlier this week I was in a foul mood because all three of my classes "forgot" to get the book that we were going to be reading this month. Well, let's just say that in my first class, 10 out of 22 had bought the book; in my second, 5 out of the 15 who had shown up had bought the book, and the next morning, 7 out of 20 reading students had the book. The writing classes are reading Nickel and Dimed, and the reading class, Bless Me, Ultima. Neither book is hard to find, especially since we live in a LARGE metropolitan area with MANY bookstores. And all of the students had plenty of time to get the book (I decided to use both after my book order went in, so while they were on the syllabi, they weren't in the campus store).

Having been kept awake both Sunday and Monday night by a police helicopter flying over my neighborhood, I was in a terrible mood and decided that any student who didn't have the book would have to leave and take an absence for half of class. I didn't want the nonbook students to take advantage of the students who had the book, had done the assignment and were ready to discuss things. So, on Monday and Tuesday, I met with very small groups of students and had a meaningful exchange of ideas. On Wednesday and Thursday, I noticed that EVERYONE had copies of the books and was able to participate pretty darn well.

And the whole point of this piece isn't to draw together some nifty, mawkishly sentimental plays on the word "forget," or to poignantly meditate about an old man who cannot remember things clearly while younger adults use forgetting as an easy excuse, and what a mistake they are making by taking this easy way out.

The point of this piece is to say that this has almost been one of those weeks. What has kept it from becoming one of those weeks has been:

1. Working with a colleague on a conference proposal on blogging and women;

2. Spending Tuesday afternoon listening to my father talk about the years he spent in Wyoming, practicing law and running a magazine and courting my mother;

3. Writing a letter of recomendation for a student who is not only a bright go-getter, but a thoroughly decent person as well;

4. Hearing that a colleague has just had a volume of poems published; and,

5. Doing a peer evaluation for a colleague and coming away from it with several great ideas for the classroom.


At 9:48 AM, Blogger Clancy said...

I'm so sorry to hear that, Joanna. My grandfather had Alzheimer's for eighteen years before he died, and it was rough, especially when he didn't recognize any of us. :-(

Sorry to hear about the "forgetting," too. I've assigned Nickel and Dimed before, and I was amazed. Students actually read ahead and came to class bursting with comments about the book. They especially wanted to critique Ehrenreich's ethos.

At 11:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for your kind words, Clancy. I appreciate it.

Among the prepared crowd, there were many passionate arguments about N and D and Ehrenreich's behavior at the end of chapter one. Some felt that she was a fraud for pretending to waitress--as though she were "slumming," others thought that she let her coworkers down by leaving during her shift.

Since this is a Basic Writing course, we're reading a section a week and basing the weekly essay on themes that come up. Next week, we'll be going to see the campus production of the adaptation of N and D (a BIG coincidence--I didn't know that the production was in the works.)and finding a way to critique the production.
Best, Joanna aka "Rosa G"

At 1:36 PM, Blogger clc said...

I, too, am sorry to hear about your dad, but it sounds like the two of you spent some meaningful time together this weekend. Here's hoping you can do more of it.

I've found that tossing out the students in class who aren't prepared is a pretty effective method for making clear how important the reading is and for rewarding those students who already know this. Sometimes, the best discussions end up occurring when you are left with a core group of students who not only are prepared but who feel appreciated for being prepared.

At 12:05 AM, Blogger Rosa G. said...

I heartily agree with your thoughts about working with the students who feel appreciated because you've noticed them. Do you find that after you've dismissed half a class that things get better in subsequent classes? More attention? More preparation?

So far, things are going well, but it has only been one day, so I'm curious to see what next week brings.

At 2:48 AM, Blogger nope said...


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Melissa K. W.
To see my family view this page. My Family

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