Meet Polly

I’m in the process of writing a chapter for an upcoming New Directions for Teaching and Learning issue. My chapter is titled Boundaries and Student Self-Disclosure in Authentic, Integrated Learning Activities and Assignments. Phew – that’s a long title, and not very “sexy,” as one rhetoric professor used to advise:

Folks, whatever you do, create a sexy title. Academia isn’t sexy enough – you need to make your good work pop more. Use a sexy title.

He said this more than once with his emphatic Eastern European accent; it’s one of those grad school phrases that emerges for me every time I need a title. Make. It. Sexy. (You will note that I haven’t done very well following this advice.)

But I won’t deconstruct this issue now because I have a different problem. Her name is Polly.

Here’s the deal:

I have one paragraph in this chapter I am writing that is driving me crazy. My colleagues who have read the article all agree  — something is not right there. It contradicts itself; it’s not clear; the overall point is good, but the discussion doesn’t exactly, or directly support it, only kind of, sort of, but in fact not really. The ideas I have included for support are great! Nice! Really bold and interesting! But something is … off.

I named her Polly. She is my problem paragraph. So:

  • I tried just deleting her — that didn’t work.
  • I’ve re-written her about 20 times – that hasn’t worked.
  • I threw her out and started all over again – that hasn’t worked.
  • I “humpty-dumptied” her – that hasn’t worked.
  • I even resorted to putting her away for a while and coming back to her. Three weeks later … that hasn’t worked either.

Polly is just a problem. She just is.

But I haven’t given up. Polly and I are now going on walks together (my dog doesn’t seem to mind the extra company), sleeping together, and eating together. We do sun salutations and go grocery shopping together. Last night we took the recycling out together, because right now, we’re that close. And we’re working through it. We may need counseling, or intervention, or chocolate and wine, but I know we’ll make it. We just need to trust our relationship, our intentions, and give it our all together. We also know our time together is limited; the impending deadline pressure may force us work out our differences.

How we’ll get through it remains to be seen, but my money is on chocolate and wine. Polly and I seem to work best together under these conditions. (Between us, she behaves better when she is offered something yummy – she’s like me in that respect.)

In the meantime, Polly and I are going to hang out a bit more for the next few days and instead of working on our differences, I think we’ll work on that title …  we need to Make. It. Sexy. (Between us,  I am not sure Polly and I are up to that challenge. We’ll need chocolate and wine, for sure!)


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