Sunday, December 11, 2011


Work you don't want to do can lead you to find other work, sometimes to a perverse degree. Right now I'm avoiding the intense and repetitive work of evaluating student work before final grades are due next Monday.

And what I've chosen to do instead is work I could easily have avoided entirely.  There are a dozen students graduating this December, and we're holding our usual banquet for them and their families this Friday.  At the May version of this banquet, when the numbers of graduates have sometimes reaches eighty or nine in recent years, my boss gives an address.  Several years ago, he asked me to take over giving the address in December, to give him a rest from speaking and often giving the same talk twice a year.

We're not going to have any December banquets after next year; the size of our entering classes have dwindled by a third due to scholarship cuts, and the winter graduating cohort will be able to be counted on one hand.  Those graduates will be invited to the May banquet in the same calendar year.  And so I've got only a couple more of these talks to give, and coincidentally a couple of talks already written that work in pretty much any year.

You see where this is going.  Instead of grading, I'm writing a new address.  In fact, I've probably done this same thing two or three times before during my time in this role.  I tell myself it's because I've got something new to say, or some thought I want to get out of my head and into a more coherent form.  This year I'm trying to coalesce some of the thoughts about quality that my seniors and juniors in the past two semesters have expressed in their final presentations, and give them back to the students in a form that will let them see the collection whole.

But really my writing comes from the same impulse that leads us to clean our homes, or organize our desks, or rearrange our computer's document filing system.  It's a way of putting off the work we don't want to do at the moment without giving up on working altogether.  Work that doesn't actually have to be done at all, let alone that second, is the purest form of avoidance.

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