Sunday, February 14, 2010

February 19

I am writing this on the Friday of the fourth week of the spring semester. Things have now settled into something of a routine, including being a TA. And as I promised two weeks ago, I’ll describe what it’s like.

So far, it’s not hard, but it is time consuming. The class I am a TA for is Briggs’s introductory international relations course. The lecture sections, which Briggs conducts and I attend, are on Tuesdays from 9 to 11. There are over 100 students enrolled in the class. Most attended the first lecture when I passed out the syllabus, but not all. Several asked me for an extra copy of the syllabus to take to a friend who was somehow unable to come to class. Attendance was down to only 40 or so subsequently. I was amazed that it dropped so dramatically. Briggs, though, didn’t seem to be concerned, saying that this was normal. They’d all be back, he said, for the midterm and final (both of which will be held in class). In addition to these exams, students must write a 5-10 page critical review of a book chosen from a list Briggs provided on the syllabus.

When Briggs went over the syllabus with me before the beginning of the semester, I said that requiring only three assignments from the students seemed a little light. He reminded me, though, that not only would there be a lot of students in the class, but that I would be doing all the grading. “Are you sure you want me to assign anything else?” he asked. I quickly got the point.

My discussion section meets Tuesdays from 2 to 3. Twenty or so students came to it the first week, but only five or six—-including Shivvy--have been showing up since then. I had originally thought that I would have to keep the session going for the entire hour, and I tried to do so the first time. Shivvy told me, though, that I should just answer whatever questions students had, and then end the session when they didn’t have any more. Good advice.

One thing I haven’t quite gotten used to is students showing up late to my session, and more than this, leaving early. Of course, I’d seen this occurring in virtually every class I’ve ever taken both at Cal State Barstow as well as here and never thought anything of it. When it happened in my discussion section, though, I was annoyed. I asked Briggs if this didn’t annoy him, but he just laughed and said, “You’ll get used to it.”

I then have my office hours on Tuesdays from 3 to 5. Absolutely nobody has come to see me yet—-except Shivvy, who has come back with me to my office after every session so far. She really doesn’t count, though, because she only wants to talk about personal matters and not the course material. I’ve told her each time that this embarrasses me. And each time she responds, “Am I keeping any other student from talking to you? I’ll wait outside if I am.” But she’s never had to do so yet.

I gave her back her blue scrunchy when she came to my office last week. “I was wondering where this got to,” she commented. “Are you sure you don’t want to keep it?”

I really did, but said that she should. “Afraid you’re new girlfriend will see it?” she asked accusingly. This led to yet another annoying inquisition about who this woman could be.

This past week she told me that she’d been having lots of fun going out with her friends—-male as well as female. I ignored the implication, and said I was looking forward to going out again at the end of the semester.

“We’ll just have to wait and see,” she responded. “Maybe I’ll have a new boyfriend by then.”

Oh, Shivvy!

When she finally leaves, I spend the rest of my office hours reading for the courses I am taking—-but also wishing she was still here with me.

Our grad student office feels a lot emptier this semester with both Danielle and Doug gone. Since nobody is admitted to start the program in the spring term, it won’t be until the fall that we will get any new office mates.

The office also feels emptier because Craig, Lisa, and I—-the three new TA’s-—all have our office hours on different days. Lisa holds hers on Wednesday afternoons. Craig holds his on Mondays from 11 to 1—-just after Asquith’s morning undergrad class for which Craig is a TA and before Asquith’s graduate methodology class (which all three of us are in) which begins at two o’clock.

I see Craig in the office on Monday before Asquith’s afternoon class. He’s usually eating his lunch at his desk and so we chat. Once, though, Asquith himself brought a sandwich in and ate it at Craig’s desk. Asquith, I have to admit, makes me a little uncomfortable. What surprises me, though, is that he seems to make Craig uncomfortable too. Like me with regard to Shivvy, Craig obviously has scruples with regard to Asquith.

Still, I’m positive now that Craig is gay. After Shivvy had left my office this past week and I was sitting in there alone until five o’clock, I noticed that my pen had run out of ink. Nobody else was there, so I decided to just check the other desks for one. While I was looking in Craig’s desk, I found a sheet of paper with a little poem written on it:

You said it was a game,
but you couldn’t keep it tame.
You said it was an act,
but he wants to make it fact.
You said it was a joke,
but now he wants his poke!
The time is near, I hope
when you’ll stop playing the dope.
The time is near, I say
when you can laugh it all away.
The time is near, I foresee
when you’ll come “out” with me!
Love, love,
Love, love,
Love, love,

It’s obvious to me what it all means: this Lee is Craig’s actual lover boy. Craig, though, doesn’t want Asquith to find out about him. Lee is playing along for now, but he’s clearly becoming petulant about it all.

Yuck! I have to admit that I wish I hadn’t found this. All I can say is that I hope this Lee person is not a student in the class Craig is a TA for. If he is, Craig will be in big trouble if and when Lee decides to “out” the relationship, as he clearly wants to do.

[I’d better delete this passage with the poem and my commentary before letting anybody see my diary. I, of course, am not at all homophobic, but there may be some privacy issues here. On the other hand, my leaving the poem in might be doing this Lee a favor: his poem certainly isn’t going to be published anywhere else. What doggerel!]

Michael, of course, isn’t a TA this semester, but is back on fellowship. I haven’t seen all that much of him. He says that he doesn’t want to be here when the three of us who are TA’s have our office hours because he really needs to concentrate not just on his classes but also on studying for the comprehensive exams this summer.

Occasionally, though, we do run into each other. And he still always seems to know more than the rest of us grad students about what is going on. When I saw him this past week, for instance, he told me that the social science subcommittee of the college promotion and tenure committee was evenly split on Trizenko’s tenure application, and that the full committee voted against him. “That’s it for him this year!” Michael gloated. I felt sad when I heard this. Well, maybe he’ll get it next year.

I wonder how Danielle is doing. I’d like to call her up; maybe she could give me some advice on being a TA. I have no idea where she is now, though. And I’m afraid she wouldn’t want to talk to me anyway. It’s very sad that friendship sometimes has to be sacrificed for the sake of principle.

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