What A Week!

Here in the UK we have finally had a couple of days where the temperature has crawled above freezing and snow has not fallen. And so Mother Nature has been standing with her hands on her ample hips, yelling at the plants ‘Get A Move On!’ It’s almost comical to see the crocuses, small and stunted, struggling to get themselves up and out of the ground in super quick time. They’re saying it might snow again by Sunday, so I fear for their chances.

I also know how they feel. Missing a week of term is a terrible idea, even when you only work two days of it. This week I’ve felt just like those crocuses, struggling to get myself back on track after our family bout of ‘flu. Of course it had to happen just as a new batch of students had appeared with time critical problems. All dissertations have to be handed in at the end of this term, and inevitably supervisors don’t always realize there’s a problem until half the term has passed by. Tuesday I had really hoped to catch up with these students, one of whom had already proved very elusive to get hold of. But you know how it is when you’re rushing, or trying to squeeze things in?  I had the work of one student to read by attachment, and naturally, when I turned to it on Tuesday morning, I couldn’t open any of the files she had sent me. This was a rookie error on my part. Normally I check I can open the file the moment it arrives, only illness had made me put it off and the inevitable had happened. I dropped a hasty email to the student asking whether she could send it in a different format. And once I’d done that, the elusive student finally put her head above the parapet, offering, as she had done once before, at the very last minute to come and see me. I couldn’t let her disappear again and so I agreed, slotting her into the space in the afternoon before the student whose work I couldn’t read. I realized with some chagrin that I now wouldn’t have time to read it, even if she sent it, but I’d at least see them both.

Well, these things are never simple. I went to my college room and waited for the elusive student to appear. And waited. And waited. I don’t have an internet connection in my room as I thought it would be more peaceful that way – and it is, unless I realize I could be using my time more usefully by, say, reading student dissertations. I kicked my heels and twiddled my thumbs. She never came, although my other student did come and we had a good discussion. She apologized for sending the work via a programme she had downloaded that couldn’t be opened on lots of computers, so I felt a little better. But I still had her work waiting to be read, and potentially another meeting with her to arrange to talk it over.

When I got home, the elusive student had emailed. She was sorry, but she’d come to my rooms and found the door locked and gone away again. Whaaat? My room is one of a set containing three fellow’s rooms, a bathroom and kitchen. And so our outer door opens onto a little antechamber, with all the other rooms branching off it. The door is perhaps a little stiff, but it was certainly open. It seemed to me symbolic of my student’s problems that when she finally turned up for help, she was convinced that the door to it was locked. I felt obscurely guilty, as if I’d been negligent towards her fragility and should have been there to coax her in. Although surely it is still the responsibility of the student to get themselves over the threshold? I wrote back to her, saying I’d been there, telling her to give the door a good push next time, offering her times to come again. I haven’t heard a word back since.

It’s been that sort of a week, full of slips and miscommunications and frustrations. On Thursday I managed to make a completely idiotic blunder. A language teacher, not realizing that I am no longer directing studies in French for the college, sent me a concerned email about one student who had skipped almost all her classes this term. I thanked her for the information and said I’d sort it out. Now, this student had been referred to me at the end of last term, and I’d invited her to come round for a chat. Again, she proved an elusive one, never replying to me. I tend not to chase, as it all works better if students are ready and prepared to seek help. But I wrote to her tutor, told him I had already asked her once to come and see me, and offered to email her again if they felt that would be useful.

The tutor sent me an instant reply: the student was working through some problems and just needed space. Okay. Only, in replying, the tutor copied in the language teacher. This would have been fine if, unbeknownst to me, I hadn’t managed to swap round the name of the teacher with the name of the student in the email I wrote to him. I didn’t realize this until the language teacher wrote me an email apologizing for not having come to see me and wondering how my message to her could have gone astray. At first I was completely bewildered. And then I read back over the email I’d sent and realized my ghastly error. I’d had her name in my mind, and unwittingly substituted it for that of the student. It was one of those hold-your-head-in-your-hands moments. I wrote straight back to her, apologizing for my befuddled brain. I don’t think the tutor had noticed a thing. But I haven’t received an email from the language teacher, saying ha-ha, phew, that’s okay then and knowing academics as I do. I imagine she is not best pleased. It’s crazy – I always check emails before sending them, I never make that kind of mistake. Until of course I don’t check the email and write something foolish. Sigh.

So I am glad to see the back of this week, and hopefully next will be less accident strewn. I will try to catch up here over the weekend – lots of reviews to do and Mister Litlove away on a rowing weekend so I will be in need of company. Oh and I should say that bloglines is also acting up again, not telling me that new posts are available until three or  four have built up. So apologies to anyone who thinks I’m not visiting – hopefully it will sort itself out soon and I shall appear regularly at your sites once again. It really has been that kind of a week!

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11 thoughts on “What A Week!

  1. Aren’t you glad it’s the weekend?! I think winter is wearing on everyone. Sorry about the mishaps–they make for stressful moments and students can often be very bad about procrastinating–I see it every semester in the library! Hopefully next week will go much more smoothly. Enjoy your weekend–maybe it will be sunny and bright (and the snow will pass you by).

  2. Poor Litlove! The frist week back to work after a week-long illness is always bad. Next week will see things back on track and you at the top of your game again. As for those elusive students, there is only so much you can do so don’t beat yourself up about them.

  3. Sounds very frustrating. I hope your elusive student turns up and manages to get past the threshold. But glad to hear that you’re back at work (even if it is stressful).

  4. Yes, it is never straighforward having been off ill, but I’m glad you are better. I’m a little surprised that students function quite as typically as that at your place, but I know I shouldn’t be. Have a good weekend and wrap up those poor overenthusiastic plants (perhaps they should be in the next intake!).

  5. Sheesh, sounds like a terrible week. I would commiserate about the winter except that living in Louisiana I have rarely experienced one. But I hope everything gets better in the upcoming week. :)

  6. Ack! It is exactly these sorts of incidents that put me into a state of nervous prostration very quickly … for some reason I’m pretty good with big problems, but near-misses and miscommunications and mistimings always make me feel as though I am profoundly out of place in my own life.

    Hope things straighten out next week. Blecch!

  7. Danielle – what a lovely message, thank you! It has unfortunately rained hard all weekend (the village pond opposite is completely flooded), but at least it’s been a good excuse to stay in the warm and read! And thankfully no more snow. I’m always relieved to hear that students are the same the world over – and cross your fingers I do better with them next week. There’s a fortnight still before term ends to get things sorted.

    Stefanie – and that’s another lovely message too! You do make me feel better. I hate being in the position of having to catch up. Yuk. Makes me careless and hasty, I think, and a little on edge. You’re right that next week will be better in that respect!

    Pete – yes, happily we do all seem to be over the flu now. You must sometimes have this issue with people not turning up, more afraid of the help than their problems. Sigh. Hopefully I’ll find a solution that works for this student soon.

    Bookboxed – my plants are now sopping wet after two days of torrential rain. They are really not getting any breaks. I wish I could say our students were models of efficiency and calm but alas! No. They are absolutely not. Sometimes I think they’re even flakier than at other places because the pressure and expectations are so high. Still, we’ll have another crack at it next week, see if I can do better. ;)

    Jenny – Louisiana sounds like a very nice place to live. I could manage without winter, I’m sure. Thank you for the commiserations – much appreciated! :)

    David – now that makes me feel better too. It IS those pesky little things that accumulate that are really very tedious. I’ve been enjoying prolonged prostration over the weekend. I guess I’d better start pulling myself together now for Monday – but it was a nice break and I needed it! :)

  8. What a week–I’ve had those and they’re a lousy muddle. I hope (and expect!) next week will be better. We have no crocuses whatsoever her. We had lots of snow and no toboganning because we had rain that melted it! But I did get to see a play and with h (just the 2 of us!) so as far as I’m concerned the weather didn’t matter a bit.

  9. LL, I believe very strongly that it most certainly is the student’s responsibility to get herself over that threshold and through your door. That inability or unwillingness to push a little harder or use her head a little more says something of her state of mind, as does the habitual elusiveness, but you can’t make a student come to you. If she’s vulnerable or in crisis of course it’s all the more important to keep that door open in case she does want to drift in, but I really hope you’re able to let go of your misplaced guilt because carrying it requires energy you can’t spare.

    Vexing about the email error. I hate that sort of mistake, it’s just the sort of thing to drive me mad.

    A new week, a new month: come on, March!

  10. Oh, sorry about that stressful and annoying week! I inevitably feel guilty about things like missed appointments, even when they aren’t my fault. I hate the idea of someone thinking I’m irresponsible when I’m not, even if it’s just for a short time. I have to remind myself that I can never control what someone else thinks of me, so it’s best to stop trying so much. that only helps a little bit though. I hope this coming week is better!

  11. They could not get the door open, so they went away? I get not being able to find the room, but once someone makes an effort to get there I’d have thought they’d try their hardest to get in. I wonder if they tried knocking loudly before leaving, or asking someone about the door.

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