Friday, January 03, 2003

Maybe it’s the let-down exhaustion that kicks in full swing once the final grades have finally been turned in . . . after all the niggling over the negotiation of incompletes; the mind-numbing process of constructing, deconstructing, and constructing again student paper after student paper; and the agonizing over the two F’s that were more-than-deserved, yet nonetheless made me feel as if I’d also failed on some level as a teacher. Maybe it’s the barrage of post-semester whinging about grades that starts up immediately after X-mas via phone and e-mail.

WS (Whinging Student): I’m very concerned as to why I got an F in your class. Was it because of my attendance? I only cut a couple of times and I don’t think that’s very fair.

AH: You had 12 unexcused absences out of 30 class meetings. That means you missed close to half the class. You also only turned in four out of the five short writing assignments.

WS: I had no idea that stuff was worth so much. Nobody told me.

AH: The attendance policy’s in the syllabus and I made a point of reminding everybody in class about keeping track of their absences when I offered opportunities for extra credit and/or to make up unexcused absences. The written assignments were worth 300 points out of a 1,000 point class. That was also clearly covered in the syllabus, which we went over very carefully on the first day of class.

WS: Well, do you think you could just give me a “C” instead of an “F”? I need a “C” to stay out of academic probation, otherwise my financial aid will be cut.

AH: I’m really sorry. Believe me . . . I’d much rather be giving you a “C” as opposed to an “F,” but unfortunately you didn’t earn a “C,” you earned an “F.” I can’t just give out grades by special request . . . it’s not only unethical, but it would be spectacularly unfair to all the other students who actually came to class and did the work.

WS: Wow . . . that really sucks.

AH: No shit.

Maybe it’s the feeling of being in the very dregs of the year and the long, long nights that surround the Winter Solstice. Maybe it’s the fact that X-mas is a stunningly disappointing holiday as far as I’m concerned and having well-intentioned people repeatedly ask me “Are you going to be okay?” when I reeled off my X-mas plans in response to their inquiries really makes one feel like a Loser. So, okay . . . there was unwrapping of X-mas presents for the cats, with toys and catnip and soft food, and there was talking to the Parental Units on the phone in the afternoon, and then there was a Cornish game hen dinner with steamed yellow-squash and lemon pepper on the side. There were DVDs to watch on the iBook, and new books to read in bed with the electric blanket turned up to high. It seemed like a quiet and reflective way to spend X-mas. But when you describe these type of X-mas plans and people frown in concern and ask yet again, “Are you really sure you’re going to be okay?” the implication clearly seems to be that not only are your X-mas plans so pathetic in comparison to the richness of their holiday plans, but that you are obviously a Loser of Epic Proportions. A Loser of Epic Proportions to the extent that you should undoubtedly want to slit your wrists on X-mas day as you contemplate the pathetic nature of your X-mas plans in comparison to theirs.

So okay . . . I get a little curmudgeony around X-mas. And I’m also usually really fatigued and pensive and melancholy. It’s not really a depression, though (barring a lapse in the Wellbutrin regime, of course) . . . but more of a natural cyclical occurrence. It seems like sort of a biorhythnmic response to the long nights, the cold and the darkness, and the sense of finishing out the year. It feels like quietly sinking down to the very bottom of a cold, black, leafy pond . . . things slowing down bit by bit, until I hit the bottom, and then I kick off again against the silty sand and pull myself upwards, lungs near bursting, until I explode up through the surface again. That’s how it feels to me around this time every year.

Now New Year’s . . . there’s a holiday that I love. Not only the drinking and debauchery, but the sense of new beginnings, clean slates, transformation, anticipation, and renewal. Tabula rasa. When the year turns over, things always seem to turn around for me . . . it’s like seeing a tiny blue star fall out of the sky and into the horizon in the middle of a cold, dark, silent night like a sparkling spider dropping down from an invisible drag line . . . like the sizzle of a hidden promise . . . like the glinting diamond of your very own, secret wish.
Posted by Artichoke Heart | 11:35 PM |
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Books by Artichoke Heart
Beyond Heart Mountain
Year of the Snake

Poems by Artichoke Heart
Songs for a Rainy Season
Toothpick Warriors
Snake Wife
Happy Hour
Girl With A Bowl On Her Head

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