Friday, April 23, 2010

Hoovering through

When I was in junior high, I used to walk to school with a sort-of friend. Every day I'd stop by her house to pick her up, and sometimes I'd stop on the way back, too. Invariably, regardless of the time of day, her mother would be hauling around a gigantic upright vacuum cleaner on the blue shag carpet; the vacuum cleaner, like the house, dated from the early 1960s and looked as if it were all steel and built to survive Armageddon. "She's Hoovering through," my SOF would explain, as though it were the most normal thing in the world to be totally attached to a vacuum cleaner all day.

I think I have been Hoovering through with teaching: chained to it at the hip, getting teaching epiphanies, worrying about students who checked out of class long ago (one of whom has decided to withdraw, thank goodness), and generally concentrating all my work/cleaning time on it day and night. On the plus side, my Excel gradebooks have never looked more cleaned-up and shiny, whereas usually there's an "oh, rats, I have to turn grades in" moment in which everything on paper gets entered into the spreadsheet at the last minute. I can actually tell students how many points they have for X or Y without saying "let me get back to you on that" and making frantic calculations. On the minus side--well, we all know what the minus side is, don't we? Although I did write and deliver a couple of conference presentations recently, that momentum didn't hold. Oh, no. Apparently I'm compelled to Hoover through.

Part of it is just being on campus all the time (and I'm not done for the week yet). The last few weeks of the semester are a favorite time for students whom you haven't seen all semester to materialize at your door and for administrators and faculty to schedule receptions, celebrations, award ceremonies, meetings, and presentations.

But now a few secret messages before I put the vacuum cleaner away for the day and concentrate on work:
  • To the technology gods: if you had to bestow a massive, class-ending technology clusterfail on me, and apparently you did, thank you for leaving it until the end of the semester.
  • To the student who wants to know if I've had a chance to grade the weekly work from February, March, and April that he tried to turn in all in a heap yesterday despite knowing that the deadlines have long passed: no, and you're too late to get credit for those.
  • To the "oh, are you here today?" colleague from an earlier post: thanks, because your comment annoyed me so much that I went on the offensive with this, asking you, "which day are YOU here? I didn't see you last week."
  • To the students who are excited about the options they chose for their final project and said so: I'm glad. It took a little longer for me to come up with those assignments, and it'll take longer to grade them, but your engagement in and excitement about the material makes that extra time worth it.


Anonymous said...

I so love the Hoovering image---it reflects exactly how I feel: someone turned me on and I can't quite stop!

And congrats on the collegial comeback and the student final projects!

Hisoriann said...

I too loved the image and idea of "hoovering through." Your sort-of friend was sort of clever, especially for a junior high school student. (However, the image raises questions about her mother's mental health. Should we worry about you too, Undine?)

RE: face time on campus. I used to be a campus ghost who showed up only for T-Th classes and the odd meeting that was scheduled for a M, W, or F, but now I'm a fixture all day long (pretty much) on MWF. It's amazing: most days (including the Ts and Ths I've been around) you could fire a gun down the hallway of my office after 1 or 2 p.m. and not hit any faculty. Maybe others are just better about hiding out in their offices than I am.

(I am not complaining. I'm just reporting. I feel your irritation with the "oh, are you here?" comment although I try not to judge, because of my years on the T-Th schedule.)

undine said...

Thanks, annieem! I feel more like the vacuum cleaner than its human driver, hoovering up papers and not being able to turn myself off.

Historiann, if I remember correctly, it was her mother's term for this activity. I probably should have worried about her mental health at the time, in a Betty Friedan spirit, but I mostly wanted to stay out of her way. And on the face time issue: you could lend me a cannon and I still wouldn't hit anyone on my hallway.