My decluttering success has finally spilled over to my office at work. I share this office with my co-slacker and our desks could not look more different. His is very minimalist, very straightened, few decorations. Oh, except for the new pseudo-vintagey University of Iowa kitsch he’s brought in recently in homage to his illustrious MFA. If his current university employer won’t recognize it, he can at least build a small shrine to it on his desk. Whatever.
My desk is quite cluttered. It’s one of those “don’t touch my piles” workspaces. I do actually know where “everything” is. But clearly it cannot go on like this. I have a whole host of books ranging from social issues to actual composition/rhetoric related material to things I keep thinking “some student would want.” I have loads of student writing. I’m required to keep portfolios for a full year, so since I have on average 60 – 80 students, that’s a lot of damn folders. I keep my own work portfolio in a little tray that I basically throw stuff in as “evidence” for later writing. I have lots of stuff pinned to the cork wall — cartoons, mostly cards from students as well as brochures on things like scholarships. I have pictures of my own kiddo and other students who I grew close to. I have candy. I have a homemade vase from my son’s 5th grade art class. I have a bobble head of Ernest Hemingway. You get the idea.
So I was busy decluttering the other day while I was enjoying some of my pack and go foods, another recent success on the health front, when I ran across a saved student paper. I only save student papers past the year I’m required to for two reasons: a) examples for future classes and b) crazy. This one I had labeled across the top in pencil “crazy.” I read the paper and it all came flooding back. He was one of those students who was just NOT ready for the college atmosphere. He’d stopped coming to class after the first few weeks and had turned in no major essays and only a handful of short writing assignments. I had sent him a “drop or die” email at midterm. He didn’t drop. But he also stopped coming to class. I thought that was that until about four weeks before the semester was over. Then he suddenly started showing up again.
I think my head went sideways when he walked in after weeks of being gone. So did all the other students’ heads. Yet he never said a word, just sat down and acted like nothing had changed. We were working on the last major essay, which is a partner project. All the students got into their teams. He was clearly without a team. I decided he needed to step up and ask me what was going on instead of having me call him out. He was determined to just blend in, so a passive aggressive standoff ensued. He attended most every class after that, not asking what was going on, not emailing for missed paperwork. He would just look around for ten minutes or so while the others got into teams and then start doodling in his notebook until class was over. When it came time to turn the papers in, he had nothing to turn in. Before we turned them in, I passed the partner evaluation forms out. I noticed he was filling one out…
This is what he said:
Your Name: (Student fills in name)
Name of your partner: ?
1) Describe how you and your partner worked together. Did your partner stick to the workload you agreed to or were you bailing him/her out at the last minute?
Answer: My partner and I got along great and we didn’t have any conflict but he/she bailed out on everything and stuck me with the work.
2) How easy was this person to contact?
Answer: I never had to contact anyone.
3) Did any conflicts arise? If so, how were they handled?
4) Do you feel that your partner was fair to you in this project?
5) Regardless of how you feel about group work, would you choose to work with this person again? Why or why not?
6) Anything else I should know?
???!!!!??? I had no idea what to make of this. Maybe he thought he had somehow been assigned a partner who was an even bigger slacker than he was. He never asked. And of course he never turned in his own project. There is still something I find amusing even after a couple of years about the thought that he knows he’s such a big slack-off that he won’t even work with his damn self again… LOL