Wednesday, April 29

generosity and gratitude

basically we have one week left in this quaint little Louisiana town.

no, we haven't managed to sit ourselves down to watch Steel Magnolias yet. should we still try? (part of me does want to.)

one week!

and there is so much to do. food to use up from the fridge. piles of things-we-don't-need-anymore to organize and donate somehow. fragile dishes and art and knickknacks to wrap and stuff into boxes.

if times were even a tiny bit more normal than they are now, we'd have a goodbye party. we'd schedule in plenty of time to visit one last time all the friends we've made here. we'd go out to that Mexican place one last time. have another end-of-semester karaoke thing. 

but times are not very normal. so instead of all that... what will we do?

I'll distantly and carefully turn in my office keys next Monday morning, distantly contrive to drop off  a few spare houseplants and some spare yarn at a few dear colleague's doorsteps, and perhaps write short goodbye notes to leave in everyone's mailboxes on campus. I'll assume, for now, that campus will return to something like normal eventually.

right now, there are thirteen days until grades are due for Spring 2020. not long after that, my contract with NSULA will officially end. the summer will start to uncurl and stretch its scaly paws, and I'll have three months to play and write and daydream before my next job starts in August. will those three months go by as slowly and weirdly as the last eight weeks have gone by?

right now, I am lucky. my contract with the new institution was signed a few weeks before all of this happened. we've been able to find a new apartment and afford all the headachey moving expenses, so far. I can do my job remotely, for as long as I have to, without too much trouble.

we are lucky, so far. 

my students? most of them are hanging in there, keeping up with things despite everything. this semester has been the opposite of ideal in about a thousand ways. it's been seven weeks since normal classes in normal classrooms. some learning opportunities have worked out okay and many others have not worked out very okay at all. but by now we've adjusted our earlier definitions of "okay."

through all this uncertain weirdness, I've tried to be as generous and patient and responsive with all the students as possible, even moreso than usual. I don't know yet how that generosity is going to finally and concretely translate into course grades next week. I hope to still see evidence that learning about professional writing has been attempted by all the students, whatever else is happening. I hope to read some thoughtful and thorough reflection from everyone before the end. learning is more important than grades.

despite all the important considerations reflected in this recent post and this less-recent post, I'm not sure if all my students will pass or not. I'm not sure how far my responsibility to be generous right now extends in relationship to students' responsibilities both pre- and post-pandemic. maybe all of these things need their definitions adjusted, too.

I haven't read Kathleen Fitzpatrick's (who keeps a very nice blog) new book Generous Thinking yet, but I want to. the whole idea-- generosity, open collaborations, re-imagining our institutions so that they serve more people more equitably-- feels so lovely.

despite the loveliness, I can't help but ask questions. who can afford to be generous and in what ways? what are the little hidden costs of personal generosity? it seems so cynical to ask such things.

in terms of my students, I can definitely afford to be outrageously generous about their grades. I hope the students and their brains can afford it too.

in terms of everything else, I can probably afford more than I think I can.

right now, there's just enough time to ponder everything I'll be leaving behind next week. there's time to feel a few puddles of regret and a whole mountain range of gratitude. we haven't been here long, but friends and colleagues and students and neighbors have been very generous to us. lucky. grateful. and hopefully, in my own ways, just as generous.

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