Sunday, December 17, 2006

Cross-Town Traffic...

Okay. In the first place, I shouldn't have been on the bridge. I had planned to drop off the gift at my mother's house and go straight home. But, I reasoned, it would be nice to see my mom since I hadn't seen her since Thanksgiving, so I decided to cross the river and deliver the gift myself.

My sister was hosting a bridal shower for my niece. I hate those kinds of gatherings, so I had no intention of sitting through it. Silly me--trying to do the "right thing."

So, I'm driving up the bridge with a maroon truck following closely on my bumper. The traffic stopped; so did I. The maroon truck managed to keep from hitting me, thank the stars. I let the car in front of me pull further away to give me some space. I hate riding someone's bumper, even if traffic is stopped. All of a sudden, I heard "Screech" "Crunch" "Boom"; I looked into the rearview mirror in time to watch the maroon truck smash into the back of my car.

For a heartbeat, I just sat there, foot still on brake. I put the car in "Park" and stuck my head out of the window.

"Is anyone hurt?" I yelled. The driver of the maroon truck had exited his vehicle to check on the guy behind him. "No," he replied. "Good. I'll meet you at the bottom of the bridge."

I drove down to the bank parking lot at the end of the bridge, flagged down one of the police directing traffic and told him what happened. Then I gathered up my credentials and waited for the other drivers to join me.

A blue truck hit the maroon truck that hit me. I got off easy. My bumper is bent, I can't open my hatch, and I'm having a few muscle spasms in my back, but, other than that, I'm okay. I can still drive my car. The guy in the maroon truck ended up going to the hospital--he hit his head. The blue truck's radiator was busted, so he needed a tow. I feel all together lucky. Only my ego was bruised, and, of course, my perfect driving record came to an end.

In Louisiana, at least, if someone rear-ends you, it's that person's fault. But still, I hate being in an accident. So much paperwork, so much time, having to put my car in the shop to have it fixed. Someone's going to pay for a rental car, that's all I know.

What a great Christmas present for everyone!

If you are out and about, don't be in a hurry. And leave plenty of space between the car in front of you and your car. You'll be glad you did.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The End of the Semester (as we know it, and I feel fine...)

It's time, once again, for my semi-annual State-of-the-Educator report.

The fall semester has come to a close; grades are due Monday, but mine are posted already (Yay!), so all I have to do is take copies to the dean of the college and the chair of my department.

All was well until I made the mistake of checking my school email--I found a message from a student who has been chronically late with everything this semester; as a matter of fact, she's turned in the bulk of her assignments in the last week. When I gave her permission to submit her last paper late, she obviously took that as permission to turn in everything she hadn't given me this semester. So, when did she turn in her paper that was due on Dec. 6? This afternoon. At about 3pm.

I'd also like to know how someone could misconstrue this: "Do not email or call me about your grades. Dead Week in the cutoff for discussing your grade with me." Sounds clear to me. I deleted about ten emails from students telling me what grades they didn't have on the course gradebook. As if I didn't know. As if I wasn't working on filling in those pesky little squares.

I wish students were just as diligent about their grades during the semester, or about getting work in when it is due. But nooooooooo. At the end of the semester, though, they yell really loudly about how they don't want to fail and will I pleeeeeeeeease take their late work. I'm usually inclined, by this time, to say "NO!" And, if they catch me in the right mood, I will say "No."

I taught five classes this semester--four of them were composition classes. I read, on average, 60 to 100 papers A WEEK--and heard 60 to 100 complaints about having to write ONE paper or having to read something, for crying out loud, or having to post a blog before Saturday, about how much WORK they have to do for all of their classes, about having to work a job AND do coursework for school, and, geez, they don't have time for a social life, and... I could go on, but you get the picture.

So, for all my students who will read this blog (because some of them will), let me tell you what I did with my time--every class day this semester, I got up at 6:30am; I left my house at 7:30pm, arrived at the school around 8:15 or 8:30am (I live 45 miles away from the college). If I was not working my second job after I finished teaching my classes, or hanging around the university for meetings, I usually would get home around 1:30 or 2:30pm (after my 45-mile return journey; except on Tuesdays, when I taught my night class; I didn't get home until after 9pm or so). I would eat lunch, then start reading/grading papers, quizzes, blogs, etc. I usually worked at that until about 10pm. Most nights, I went to bed around 11pm. On weekends (did I have any weekends this semester? Oh, yeah, I took one weekend to go to Austin to see my kids; that set me back two weeks), I usually would get up around 8am and I'd being grading/reading papers no later than 10am.

And, of course, one or two days a week, I'd work my second job until about six pm, which put me home around 7pm; and I'd just start reading/grading until bed time.

And I usually had to stop in and visit my Mom once a week, or go grocery shopping, or clean out the litter boxes, or talk to my kids and help them with their problems, show up for various family functions (I have 9 brothers and sisters, around 40 nieces and nephews=quite a few family functions).

Is this a complaint? No, it's fact. It's the life I've chosen. If I didn't want to do this, I'd go back to being a secretary or administrative assistant or computer network analyst, or move to the Galapagos Islands.

And that's my point. If what you are doing is too daunting and the rewards too few, then give it up and go do something else.

Yeah, we all need to vent now and then, even professors. But if this is what you want to do, just do it and do it to the best of your ability. Get organized. And get the work in on time. And, if you have problems or questions or need help with an assignment, talk to your instuctor when these things come up, not three weeks after. It's moot by that time. And what can I do after the fact? At some point, I just have to throw up my hands and say "It's not my monkey!"

Okay, that's enough of that.

I was blessed with an abundance of really good students this semester--students who could write and went at it with their whole hearts, students who worked hard to find meaning in what they read and to understand literature's relevance to their lives. They make it worthwhile; they are the reasons I keep doing this, in spite of the students who drive me over the edge, or maybe "despite" those students. As long as I can find the students in my classes who want to be in those classes, I'll keep doing this.

To all my students, have a good break. And come back to school, if you come back, resolved to do the best that you possibly can in all of your courses. And if you decide on an alternate reality, send me a postcard!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Just leave me the birds and the bees...please!

This is the first "clear" weekend I've had since the semester began--I'll have to read papers tomorrow, and I have a few stragglers I need to grade--but I've actually had some time to work on my online class for spring and to plant my trees from the Arbor Day Society.

I joined the Arbor Day Society during the summer in retaliation for my neighbor cutting down 100-year-old trees. When I joined, the society promised me ten flowering or evergreen trees--I chose the flowering ones--and I subsequently ordered a number of other plants from them. The plants are inexpensive and provide me a way to spruce up my property without going broke. They all arrived at the end of this week and I needed to get them planted pronto. I wanted to have a planting party, but I just couldn't mobilize my forces quickly enough.

So, this morning, armed with a shovel and a rake, I went out and planted 20 plants. When I joined, I chose to receive 10 flowering trees: two Sargent Crabapples, two American Redbuds, two Washington Hawthorns, two White Flowering Dogwoods, and two Goldenraintrees. I later ordered five red Azaleas, two Southern Magnolias, and two Forsythias; for that order, I received a Red Maple.

Finding places for 20 plants/trees seems easier than it is. I tried to ensure that I left at least five feet between my plants, but I'm sure I'll need to transplant some of them next fall. I just needed to get them into the ground as soon as possible. I planted most of them along the fence in the backyard; I plan to create a bird/butterfly/bee garden back there. I already have Plum trees (I need another one of those for pollination; the Plums flower, but they don't produce) and two Mayhaws, so I'm off to a good start. And I have six White Dogwoods already; butterflies love those for laying eggs. I also have flowering Quince (also called "Japonica"--I love that word) and other assorted flowering plants whose names I haven't learned yet. In the spring, my yard blazes with reds, pinks, whites and yellows. I can cut flowers for my house and, while most of my flowering plants don't have smells, they are lovely to see.

If you like to grow plants, the Arbor Day Society is an organization I'd recommend. And $15 a year to help the environment seems cheap.

The only drawback is now I'm on every environmental organization's mailing list! I've received information from the National Audubon Society, the World Wildlife Federation, and the Nature Conservancy. And while the tote bags and bird feeders are tempting, I'd still rather have trees!

So, as Joni Mitchell sings, "Hey farmer farmer, put away the DDT now./Give me spots on apples, but leave me the birds and the bees...please." I want to think I'm doing my part to encourage the birds and the bees (and the butterfles) to hang around my house for a long time.