Saturday, October 25, 2014

Week 10: A Quandary

I despise paper mills.

To me, there is no more egregious case of plagiarism than from a paper mill in which you had to actually pay for the paper.  And I still am often boggled by those 'academics' who write for paper mills or who ghostwrite papers, theses and even dissertations.  The Chronicle of Higher Education published a story two years ago entitled "The Shadow Scholar," which gave an inside look at those who actually write for paper mills and the pervasiveness of the practice.  But there's a certain sense of desperation for money.

So I'll let you guess as to what I've been dealing with.

This means that I'm having to go back to my chair with this problem and ask for advice, and there are some other concerns as well, but I feel like my chair has had to do nothing but hold my hand this semester.  Could there possibly be another professor in the department who has had as many problems as I have this semester?  And I realize that to a certain extent, it's probably not unusual for a new faculty member--especially one starting their career--to be in close contact with the chair, but I just cringe when I send my chair an email, even with a head's up.

I suppose this is part of negotiating the territory as a new faculty member and starting your career--not wanting to be too much of a bother, but trying to still figure out the lay of the land.

That said, I've been grading some 100 papers for conferences this week (and yes, I'm stalling, shut up.)  My 1302 classes wrote their project 2 about good and evil, and they have been pretty uniformly excellent so far.  But I just finished reading one by a student who has thought that she was a bad writer.  She works so hard, takes so many notes, asks questions, but thought she was a bad writer, and when I told her that idea was bullshit, she cried, because no one had ever told her that before.  (These teachers in high school who tell their students that they are bad writers are ones that should be publicly flogged.  There's no faster way to make someone afraid of writing and to completely dislike the process.)  Her paper was completely fantastic.  Absolutely superb, to the point where I'm sitting here almost in tears because I am just so damn proud.  For all the frustrations that I've had so far this semester, you get papers and students like this one, and you know, you just know, that yes, you are making a difference.  This paper is full of confidence and clarity, and I am just so proud, I could burst.

I discovered politics on the college-wide scale with a series of emails that went around the faculty listserv this week, and holy cow.  When you get to grad school, you get introduced to department level politics, but the college-wide political mechanisms were an eye-opener.  Once again, I'm certain that my policy of keeping my ears open and my mouth shut (okay, I know I don't always do a good job of that last one, but until I get tenure, my mouth is staying shut) will serve me well.

And of course, this week Dear Husband joined the staff at Del Mar!  We carpooled on Wednesday (he had to go to the other campus on Thursday, and I don't go in on Fridays anymore), but both Wednesday and Thursday, he was able to come eat lunch with me in my office, which was incredibly pleasant.  He's glad to be there, and I think they're glad to have him, though I got a call from him yesterday morning when he was processing drop forms in which I was chided for forgetting some information on one.  I will endeavour to do better.  (At least I have someone who will just sigh and fill it in for me!)

I've not yet managed to keep to my goal of doing some academic research/writing every day during the week.  But any new habit takes some time to kick in, but I will keep you updated.  In the meantime, my novel writing is going quite well.   I have a little over 34,000 words (you can keep up with the word count with the meter at the bottom of the page), and that is one thing I've actually been able to keep going.  It's amazing how much creative writing you can get done when you're no longer working on a dissertation.  I've written more on this novel in the last two months than I did in the two years I was working on it beforehand.

Dear Husband's birthday was this week, so I made him a Guinness chocolate cake, bought a truly massive ribeye steak, and made dinner last night.  He still had to cook the steak himself, because I wasn't confident in my ability to do so, but I fixed everything else.  He was a happy boy.  And now today is St. Crispin's Day, so we spent part of this evening while I was grading watching a compendium of different actors (including a really adorable three year old) delivering the famous speech from Henry V.  We've decided that Kenneth Branagh is the best.

So it's been a busy, but very happy week here.  Tomorrow is the newcomer's luncheon at church--to which I received a personal invitation from a fellow parishioner who also works at Del Mar this week.  We're quite looking forward to it.  We haven't been to church in two weeks, unfortunately.  The week before last, there was no Sunday school, so we didn't set the alarm, figuring that the cats, per usual, would wake us up before church.  The cats, naturally, decided to sleep in.  And last week, I wasn't feeling well, but it will be good to get back tomorrow.

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