Breathing the Fresh Air of a Four-Day Furlow

No Telling

The last essay (for now) is graded. National Novel Writing Month is a sweet flicker in the rear-view mirror. Final exams begin on Tuesday. Somebody pour me a drink.

My brains are scrambled and my eyesight is shot. I’ve eaten unhealthy food from bags out of machines for too long and haven’t had a minute to attend to this poor blog. I’ve got four days to regroup and come out swinging, all my faculties in place and such.

I’m having a little sushi tomorrow and a long walk. I might even scare some of the dust off of this desk and become human again. That’s the plan, anyway.

Oh, I have so many stories to tell you guys. You just don’t know.

Eye on the Prize: Grading Momentum, Self-Denial, and a Request for Good Reading

No Telling

I’m two weeks from No More Papers to Grade. Anyone who teaches knows the final jag of the semester is about responding and grading and paperwork and wrapping things up. They also know it’s a self-inflicted time of pleasure-reading famine. There’s simply no time for the foolishness of lounging with a delicious book.

We who teach know all about self-denial. We’re masters of the craft. We don’t visit anyone, take the night off, dream up exciting recipes for veal, or blog. We eat Lean Cuisines from the microwave and wash it down with cold coffee because both are fast. It’s important, though, to dangle a carrot or two to keep us going. Here’s where you come in.
Give me a list of books to look forward to. Dangle the dream of rewarding hours prone on a divan with piles of novels and poetry and anything that doesn’t resemble a freshman argumentative essay. I live to teach, but the grading stack is high just now and the work is daunting. I need a tasty book list to help me make it through final papers and final exams.
Think of it as a public service.

M.I.A., or Who is that Woman with the Ink Stains on her Blouse?


It’s 5:30 in the morning and I’ve already been up and grading since 3:00. I’ve been doing this for days, and I’ll probably be doing it tomorrow. Don’t feel sorry for me – I like the smell of ink in the morning, it smells like victory. Besides, in the dark early hours there is silence and good coffee.
I’ve completely blown off the blog for over a week now. The four or five of you who actually read this may not even care, but I do. I miss the writing. The laptop is shoved toward the back of the desk and turned off, for the most part, to keep me out of time-eating trouble. The typewriter is back in its case because it was the most anguishing and visible sign that I Have Other Work To Do. All distractions gone, and the papers get full attention.
And there are a great many papers.
I don’t hate grading. Once I get my reading groove on it’s absolutely fascinating to read all the hard work, the insights, the epiphanies. Sometimes the papers are badly written, but for the most part students actually care about the topics they’ve chosen and the arguments are fairly sound. I love this part of teaching even though it’s the loneliest dark-of-the-morning part of it all.
Finals are next week and I’ll be at this again. If I get lucky, there will be time this weekend to tell you about the amazing literary magazine my undergraduate students just published and the awards they’ve earned. Stunning work.
There. I’ve given you the only fifteen minutes I’ll have for a bit. Back to the essays.

Whew, I say…It’s Christmas Break


Finals are over. All I have to do now is grade a short pile of exam essays, whip out the Large Buttoned Granny Calculator, cipher a bit, then post those semester grades. I don’t even mind going to the office on a Sunday to do it, because Monday morning I’ll be free and clear. The weeping freshman girls have all gone home, and the conniving boys have followed them. Or is that the other way around? Every student who never showed up to class and mysteriously remembered my name long enough to find my office has packed up. Tomorrow I can grade in peace without eleventh-hour student negotiations knocking at my door. I’ll press “submit,” and then I’ll be done for almost a month.

Ah, yes. Ease and relaxation.

Or it will be after I finally put up the tree, decorate a bit shabbily, wrap the presents I’ve already bought, hit the stores for the rest, realize I don’t have scotch tape, hit the stores again, finally clean my house thoroughly, sweep out the garage, then find the right screwdriver to put my new license plate on the car before I’m stopped again by that officer I used to have in my tenth grade class.

“Oh Miz Fason,” he sighed, “you really do have to put that on the car.”

After all that, I’m lounging. Hopefully with a book without literary merit and a splash of Bailey’s in my coffee. I’m going to wear old sweatshirts and raggedy warm-up pants and scumble about in my socks. I’ll still put on make-up and do my hair because, well, someone might come to the door delivering packages or collecting canned goods. My grandmother taught me that much.

I’m going to watch The Perfect Grandson bounce mightily in his jumperoo and sing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” to him at least five times a day because both of those things make him laugh. I’m going to buy my daughter surprise Christmas gifts that are just for her, because she’s an exhausted new mom who many times substitutes for the jumperoo. I’m going to play Christmas music on my outdated stereo and make peace with that damned weenie dog that keeps pooping where he shouldn’t. I’ll scan cable for all the best Christmas movies and watch them with all four of us under a quilt on the couch.

Finally, I’m going to write great gobs of nothing in particular. It doesn’t have to be earth-shattering, or publishable, or planned. Just massive scribbling to empty out a bit of what I’ve been putting off for the last few weeks. I suspect my need to write is much like The P.G.’s jumperoo craving. We’re both a little maniacal once we’re back in the saddle.

See? I’ve already begun.