Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Day Off

Normally, I work Mondays through Wednesdays, but not this week; there's no school today or tomorrow because of Rosh Hashanah. So I am home, and today, I'm home alone, because I sent the baby to daycare. The prospect of being at home by myself all day definitely feels exciting and a little luxurious, but mostly I am slightly panic-stricken. I am dead-set against wasting the day, and have set out a certain number of tasks for myself. To wit:
  1. Vacuum.
  2. Clean stovetop.
  3. Throw out old carseat and clean toxic dust from new one.
  4. Mop.
  5. Complete all feedback for this week for online class I am TA'ing.

Of all these tasks, it is the fifth that is the most daunting, because, unlike vacuuming, it cannot be completed in a sudden, random burst of energy. Here's how feedback works. I have thirteen students. Every week, they have an online "discussion" about the week's readings. I then have to do the following for each student:

  1. Tally his/her discussion contributions for the week. Be sure at least one was posted by last Wednesday, and the remainder by Sunday.
  2. Read his/her discussion contributions for the week. Give grade out of ten points. Remember to take points off for late postings.
  3. Compose feedback email that comments on his/her discussion work and explains his/her grade, highlighting strengths and weaknesses, noting areas of particular interest or futher exploration.

Needless to say, this takes years. Usually, I finish it over the course of three or four days, to the tune of one to three hours a day. Today, however, my intention is to finish ALL of it in ONE FELL SWOOP. It is a task that is beyond intimidating, because I am not really one to sit still and work at something for hours on end, and my powers of putting off tedious tasks (and then justifying the putting-off) are formidable. After my husband and the baby left this morning, I stood in the kitchen, terror rising in my gut, trying to decide what to do. Curling up with the Norman Mailer letters in this week's The New Yorker seemed really appealing, as did watching junky housewife TV, but I knew that that would be WRONG, but I could not bring myself to do what would be RIGHT, i.e. sitting down and starting the damn feedback. Finally, I decided that the best thing to do would be to feed myself. If I had a little plate of food, I reasoned, I could trick myself into bringing it over to my desk, and it would serve as just enough distraction to keep me from caving under the all-consuming weight of the feedback task.

So, despite the fact that I had already eaten breakfast, I fixed myself a bowl of rice with greens and pinto beans. (If you think 9AM is the wrong time to eat rice and beans, you have never truly lived.) And the plan worked. Bowl in hand, I managed to get myself over to my computer, and I even started working. The only problem is, I've been working on the wrong thing. I've been working on this.

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