Friday, October 17, 2008

Day 33 (Round II) "In the trenches" (icy mofo edition)

Yes: Barack Obama is one icy mofo.

Beyond that: EOB, 8th week of school. We're now more than 1/2 way through the semester. First exams are done, first hurdles of student openness and responsibility are past, mid-semester grades go live over the weekend, because there is no real point in giving freshmen additional time to freak out and scream for mercy in a misguided attempt to pull a grade change--better that they encounter those grades after the window for changing them is past. As a colleague says, very wisely, "They need time to calm the hell down." Many kids, encountering a grade they don't like or which they know won't fly with Mom 'n' Dad, will fire off a scattershot pleading email, not necessarily because they think it will have good odds of success, but simply because it is so easy, in their on-demand mindset, to throw the plea against the wall on the off chance that it'll stick. It takes them so little effort that they'll do it just to play the odds.

Which is precisely why we ignore such "tear-stained emails" (Dharmonia's construction) until the cutoff time is past. In the unlikely event that there has been an error, or even less likely that we will grant a grade change due to extenuating circumstances of which we've previously been unaware, we can always do that after the cutoff date. And, in the much commoner instances of grade-change-requests which have absolutely no justification in any objective factual world, ignoring until past-deadline is a good way to just make the little bastards, as my colleague said, calm the hell down. If the grade-change request doesn't stick against the wall, they'll mostly just throw up their hands and belatedly accept the grade earned, as they shouldd have done earlier.

On the other hand, it seems like a good bunch this year: not too whiny, reasonably good attendance, reasonable good attention, pretty responsive to the jokes 'n' japes. Every year's intake of new freshmen is different and there's no real predicting in advance, but I think what we're seeing here is an eventual manifestation of our enhanced admissions criteria. That is not to say that kids with higher academic achievement are automatically going to be either (a) more talented or (b) more mature/focused in their work--that's putting the cart before the horse. To stretch the metaphor: the kids with higher academic achievement have already--before we get 'em--learned that a focused, mature, and disciplined attitude about work in turn leads to better results (and a better ability to take advantage of whatever talent the universe has given you). Kids with greater academic problems, problems already manifesting in secondary school, are slightly more likely not to have yet learned the self-discipline and work-ethic stuff. As I've said before, music undergrads tend to be way more conscientious and self-disciplined, simply because they've had to learn to be that way in order to learn to cut it on their instruments. Unfortunately, not all of those latter have learned to transfer the lesson from study of an instrument to academic study. We'll do the remediation, but the less remediation we have to do--and the less we have to fight our way through their uninformed skepticism about whether they need to accomplish what we set forth--the easier it is for everybody to progress effectively together.

This year's seems like a pretty good bunch.

Below the jump: the "Santa Ana" tomatoes that the proverbial Old Guy at the Garden Center said were "the on'y kahn'a termaters that'll grow in Wes' Texis." By God he was right, too: after three years of growing healthy vines but no fruits in the raised beds I built for Dharmonia, these are wonderful: thick-skinned, but with wonderful juicy and chewy innards: absolutely great for cooking, canning, or sauces. Below that, a counter-ful of veggies that I'll turn into various circum-Mediterranean eats: tiny pickling cucumbers, tossed in salt so as to draw out moisture and in turn make them receptive to soaking up the brine for refrigerator pickles; lemons that, with garlic and basil, will go into the Provencal cannelini (white beans)--lemon, garlic, basil, and pepper are the essential combination of flavors for southern French and some central Italian cuisines; broccoli to be sauteed in olive oil in which the chopped garlic on the right has previously been browned; the aforementioned tomatoes (great for sauce, but also--when still warm from the vine--great just slicked and drizzled with a little olive oil and salt); whole-wheat pasta to be dressed with a little garlic, oil, and grated romano cheese.

Good peasant food: cheap, healthy, low trans-fats, mostly-dairy-free. And no animals had to die for it.
Beyond that: prayers for the spirit of Daniel Green, who died entirely too young, for reasons not his fault. One of the very hardest parts of my job is to help young people cope with tragedy and heartbreak that happens for absolutely no good reason: to cope with the reality that the universe simply contains suffering and that we all, contrary to the "Good People versus "Bad People" paradigms of some traditions, are going to suffer. For no good reason.

All we can do is make the most/best of our time here.

Daniel certainly did.


Dharmonia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dharmonia said...

OK I removed my first comment because it had a typo. Sorry...

Beautiful post.

Just for the sake of the gardeners who might be reading and taking notes, there's been a slight case of mistaken identity between generals and saints: they are actually Santiago tomatoes (as in Santiago de Compostela, or in this case Compost-ela.) Cue medieval chant:Primus est vegetabilis, tomater west-texolimis, la la la et cetera.