Thursday, January 31, 2008
I'm Laura Lasso of the Michigan Lassos. We love us some edjucation, and as a longtime drifter in the academic world, I've developed a network of fascinating people at campuses (campii!) from sea to burning sea.
Once a week - unless I get bored - I'll bring you the coolest updates of Campus Haps, the inside dope, the running scared version of what's really going on, highliting the quirky, the funny, the unusual of what passes for campus life.
I'm doing it all for you. I'm bringing it to your web portal free of charge (for now). My goal, of course, is to work for The Onion, the only paper worth reading, and really the only website I spend any serious time studying. In fact, if anyone there at the RYS Corral can help me get an in with the Onion people, let me know immediately. What I have is pure gold, but as I say, I'd like to be paid for it, and your RYS schwag won't cut it. (But hey, was that Tony Banderas wearing one of those hoodies you featured yesterday? TOO SEXY!)
Okay, here's the first installment of my report. You can call it what you want, and you can provide the artwork. You must have a gnome or geek or goon there who deals with actualization. I'm about the words. And here come some that should sterilyze or paraylyze, depending on how far you are from your flattie.
from U of Mich - Hey, in Ann Arbor, they're celebrating "Goat Week," an unofficial student function where vanloads of upper classmen go to neighboring farms, steal goats from unsuspecting farmers, and then transport the goats to President Waffle's front yard. Oh man the hilarity is ratcheted up high.
from U of South Dak - The Chi Omegas recently started playing footbag inside, as a nod to the weather.
from Cornell U - The hotel management grad school students have switched from wearing pins that say "Hotel-ies," to wearing bandanas with a psychadelyc design and the words "Fuck Holiday Inn" on them.
from U of So Florida - Hey, all you So Fla Sooners need to try to register with Dr. Waffle for any of his English lit classes. In his office he plays killer tunes from Matchbox 20, Nine Inch Nails, mixed in with the occasional Tower of Power cut! It's a rockin' good time.
from U of Montana - Snowball fights at 4 pm behind Mitchell Hall.
Okay, that's it for now. Forward any love letters you get for me, and if The Onion calls, give them my cell number. I'm outie!
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
More, More, More Students Who Have Conspired to Ruin The Usually Quiet and Luxurious First Days of Spring.
- At the end of the first lab meeting, a tough guy with tattoos on his arms who is just coming back to college after a three year absence, comes up to me and says, "are all the labs going to be this lame, 'cause I didn't learn a thing."
- Last week we had a "snow day," all classes cancelled for the day. An automated program sends emails to every student. Harry Hyper, though, doesn't find that - or the crawl on the TV or the announcement on every radio station - enough, so calls and leaves me 3 increasingly hysterical messages on my voicemail. 1) "Uh, Dr. Snoopy? This is Harry Hyper. I was wondering if the class has been moved." 2) "Uh, Dr. Snoopy? This is Harry again. I'm still at the classroom and nobody has arrived. I've already walked across the library and nobody is there either. I'm beginning to worry." 3) "This is Harry again. I don't even see any classes meeting. Is this another holiday? Is it President's Day? There's no mention of that on the syllabus and I don't have any idea what I'm supposed to do now. Do we still have to read chapter 3? When are we going to have class again?" The next day there were four more hangups on my voicemail. I get to see Harry this morning, and I'm eager to discuss with him what a snow day means.
- I hate the text messaging students. I have a rule. NO TEXT MESSAGES to me. Don't send them; I won't read them. NO NO NO. However, I have received three in the first two weeks of class--all from the SAME student. I ignored the first two, but on the third...I texted back: TTTFH. Student sends back: "?" I text back: TTTFH! Talk to the hand. (Time passes and you can imagine that Jeopardy music plays in the background) Finally, bingo, a new text message alert on my phone. Student texts: Ok. :)
- "Romeo" was in a class last semester, missing a huge number of class meetings and then coming in with a long and (as I have learned) fictional tale of romantic woe. I offered nothing more than the chance to do the remaining work, which allowed him to squeak by. But he evidently mistook me for Randy Newman. That is, he seems to think he has a friend in me. So he's back this semester, missing lots of classes and barely hiding his contempt for the work of the class, while reassuring me of his grit and effort. If he tells me one more time that I'm going to find him "at the top of his game" this semester, I shall throw a bottle of Gatorade at his head.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Head-Nodders, Laptop Kids, Winter Flip Floppers, and Some Nefarious Wannabe Gangsters. Where Is that Walmart Application?
- Oh, it's so easy to pick them out. I can't even begin on the cell phones, the enormous cups of coffee, etc. But I've got a classroom full of pen clickers right now. Seriously. They are clicking and clacking like they're autistic. I'm developing a twitch in my eye. At least I think it's their pens that are clicking? Could it be something else? Oh my God! WHAT IS MAKING THAT SOUND?!?!?
- I hate the laptop kids. In classes of less than twenty-five they are particularly conspicuous. It is intensely distracting to the educational experience to divide time between the lecture and Suzie Snowflake's most recently uploaded Facebook photos.
- This morning, three weeks into the semester, I had a meeting with the dean of student affairs, the head of two other departments and a student. The student's complaint: "I don't think my professors like me." I hate this student and, well, I now dislike the dean, too. Why is "my professors don't like me" a dean+heads+departmental advisors level problem?
- Is it Spring Break yet? One of my snowflakes seems to think so. Granted, I understand that she did not realize when she signed up for a metalworking class that she would be getting dirty. What is all this technical information? Melting points and malleability blow her mind. Fair enough. What really makes Precious Petunia mad, though, is the lab's dress code. No open toed shoes. She's been thrown out twice this week for wearing flip flops, and it's not even warm yet. Part of me wants to let her wear them, work in them, and sever off one of those pretty pedicured toes with a dropped tool. Wouldn't that be a trophy? Floating in a jar of formaldehyde for all the newbies to see next semester. I know it sounds morbid, but can't you just see their faces watching it bob up and down in perfect silence? That would be perfect.
- I hate this phone message: “Hi, I see there is a quiz on Tuesday. I wasn’t in class last Thursday so I was wondering if you could give me a call or email me so I can know what’s going to be on the quiz.” It would take an hour to unpack all the presumptions in that brief message, but the only possible response is, “Uh, no, I won’t be giving you a call or dropping you an email. As it happens, I didn’t say much about the quiz on Thursday because I assumed students were able to read the syllabus for the description of the quizzes and to use their powers of inference to figure out that the quiz would cover, you know, stuff we’ve read and talked about in class."
- The one I hate was my student last semester. Her completely half-baked paper earned her a C+ in the class. I knew as I clicked that option on my grading page that there would be hell to pay. There was. She emailed me the first week of class to meet, but then remembered that she had practice at our scheduled time. So I emailed her other times to come to my office. She never showed, never wrote. I checked back a week later to see if she still wanted to meet and she emailed me the entire sob story about how she deserved a higher grade because she was in class every day (attendance was not part of the grade calculation, the final paper was a major part of it) and how she'd come to my office the next day to discuss it. Guess who never showed? It's not fair that some students come back to haunt you. Finals should be the end!
- The brunt of my hatred is currently directed at you--the wannabe gangster who just told me that you will be giving an oral presentation on building a meth lab. Really, you don't impress me. I don't find you funny. I don't find you threatening. I don't find you "hardcore." And I don't take your blatant disregard for my class as anything other than what it is: laziness. If I had to guess, I'd say most drug lords--true drug lords--wouldn't normally advertise the specifics of their franchises to an audience of twenty, in a room close to the campus police. Really, I don't want to have to call the police on you after you give your presentation next week, but I will if I have to. Even if I don't think that you know the difference between Skittles and Sudafed, I'll still call the cops on you because that will be funny. You? Not funny. Your arrest (and removal from my class)? Hilarious.
- To my PIA (pain in ass), I sent your assignment back because it was poorly written and you did not cite your sources. Your response was not to redo the assignment but instead to tell me that you would be sure to cite your sources on the next assignment because you thought you had it down. Oh, excuse me! I was not aware that you “had it down.” Should I take your word for it and not lower your grade? Perhaps I should check with you on what else you know so I don’t have to go through the effort of grading you on these items. After all I would not want you to have to strain yourself and show me your academic muscles.
- They say doctors make the worst patients. I think teachers make some of the worst students. When I find out one of my students is or has been a teacher, I cringe. And they're usually more than willing to self-identify: "Well, from my own experience as a teacher, I know that [insert criticism of teaching method, syllabus policy, etc.]" Uh, thanks for the tip. I'll keep that in mind the next time I come into your class and tell you how to teach. Until then, this is my room, my policies have evolved this way over the course of a decade, for reasons of policy, tradition and practicality concerning which you are utterly ignorant, and you can suck it up and follow the rules like everyone else.
- I have a student who hasn't attended ONE session yet. First, his plane back to school was delayed. Then he was so sick but hadn't yet visited campus health. Then he had pink eye. Then his sister got sick and he had to take her to the hospital and she just got released. Excuse after excuse after excuse. And here I was just hoping that he hadn't shown - yet again - because he'd dropped the class. No, of course not. Life's never that kind.
- Dexter Dipwad? I totally hate him. He announced on the first day of class that he was the "Most Important Student on Campus" and that the outstanding warrants for his arrest -- which, he warned me, might result in him being arrested in class at any moment -- wouldn't so much inconvenience HIM as reflect badly on the SCHOOL. Mr. "Most Important Student on Campus" sits there nodding encouragingly while I lecture with that, "Go on, you're doing great!" attitude where he acts like what I'm lecturing is EXACTLY in accordance with what HE'd say on the same topic. He's all earnest and super-hard-working but I already dread the class.
- Wait, I have to pick out just one? That's not easy. I have two in the morning class who are on some kind of bad medicine that makes them write down innocuous asides I make - "Hmmm, the rain is really coming down," - but that somehow stops them from jotting down something like, "Your assignment for next week includes." Even though neither has entered the discussion yet, they come up after class and tell me that they want to be college professors some day. One says he thinks the hours are "neat," and the other says he likes the idea of "ten-year." They each got 3 out of 10 on the first quiz. They left smiling. Drunk, maybe? Do you think?
Monday, January 28, 2008
- Holy dunk, Phil! What in Hades where you (critical) thinking? You just kicked open the crypt! Let’s see what your critical tinkering (sorry, “thinking”) skills do for you now. Was that wise? (Whoops! Sorry, Phil. Try this: Ctrl-Alt-Delete). Sounds like someone might have had a bad experience a long time ago in an English composition class, yes? (Sorry, again. Try hitting Backspace). Maybe someone got stuck with a female graduate student who didn’t appreciate the fact that you were smarter than that bucket-head Bill Gates? (Ctrl-Z that one, eh? Phil?) Come to think of it, I’ll bet you’ve already committed to (critical) memory every word Bill has ever uttered, yes? Phil, here’s the big clue you’re looking for: it was Gates and his fellow techies (laughing all the way to the bank) who made sure that technology invaded and dominated our kid’s classrooms K-12. Do you remember the old adage, “garbage in, garbage out?” Well, guess what? The chickens have come home to roost. You wanted solipsistic techno-Nazis? Well, you got ‘em. And, we in the Humanities have them too. Let me explain it to you this way, Phil: We can’t undo eighteen years of malformation anymore than you can. So don’t give us any of your crap about the Philosophy dept. (Cha! As if…!). We’re all in the same stinking boat. Take your technology god and your elitism and go piss up a rope.
- My own work and teaching is mostly on the Great Books model. I frequently teach Aristotle. There is value in this. There is also value in the folks who do cultural studies and contemporary literature. We don't try to set the curricula in the sciences. It'd be nice if people like Phil would extend us the same courtesy. Just because he doesn't understand "post-modernism" doesn't mean its worthless or lacking in rigor. I don't understand network topology, but I don't dismiss its value. I'm not going to go so far as to say that the humanities have taught me to not be a smug jackass, because we certainly have our share of smug jackasses in the humanities, too. But it has taught me not to scorn what I don't understand. Oh Phil, really, where to begin? I don't think anyone said the SOLE purpose of humanities fields was to teach critical thinking. It's just one of the things that should arise from studies in these areas (and others). I'm all for teaching Aristotle's Poetics; when teaching the historical sweep of literary crit or theory, that's the starting point for most. When talking about tragedy and comedy in any era of the Western tradition, Aristotle is read or at least discussed. But seriously, Phil? You really sound like you don't know what you're talking about here. For realz, as the snowflakes say.
- I'm not sure why I'm making this point, though. Phil doesn't believe in education; he believes in technical training. He does not want any useless humanities requirements to distract students from the pure pursuit of skills. That's fine, but the university is where we educate people and teach them not only whatever technical skills they may need, but also the broad expanse of humanities that will inspire and culture them.
- So "some of the most uncritical thinkers" that old Phil has ever know have had "liberal arts degrees." Well, I find it hard to take criticism of my discipline seriously from someone who doesn't know that the liberal arts include the sciences. Grammar, logic, rhetoric, arithmetic, music, geometry, and astronomy are the classical liberal arts, if memory serves. And I am pretty sure that memory serves.
- As to the canon wars that Phil's post alludes to...step back, bitch. Or, better yet, go try and analyze anything written after Ibsen with the Poetics and see how far you get. But never mind, there's probably no point to reading anything after Ibsen, is there? It must be very comforting and safe to know that you have completely delimited the "great thinkers" of the past via the stereotypical dead white guy box. I'm glad that your foundations of culture are so stable that it's impossible for anything or anyone to trouble them.
- Suggesting that those in the humanities (and, I assume, social sciences which is where I live) limit their subjects to the Enlightenment and anything prior is a bit like suggesting that computer science courses ought to stick to the classic Commodore 64 machine and Basic programming language. To some extent, we need and want to engage in topics of current relevancy - that can include things like pornography and postmodernism.
- You know what? I’m an English professor, and I think you’re absolutely right. I think I’ll reduce my theory courses, even at the graduate level, to a discussion of Aristotle’s Poetics. That should neatly cut out all discussion of comedy, satire, and of course, as you’ve pointed out, pornography. On the other hand, we’ll still be able to discuss tragedy and epic effectively. “Tragedy makes us feel pity and terror,” I’ll say, “and epic is the highest literary form.” My students can all write papers indicating that they feel pity and terror when they read Lear, and that they understand Paradise Lost to be written in the highest literary form, and then we can all go home! Of course, we’ll have to give Twelfth Night and Gulliver’s Travels a miss, but really, if Aristotle didn’t mention it, of what possible use could it be?
- Like most people who speak disparagingly of the "liberal arts," Phil presumably means "the humanities," which aren't as rigorous as he'd like. But he's importing his own notions of "rigor" into disciplines for which they are not applicable. Rigor in a computer science course is quite different from rigor in a literature course. I teach literature and very often I teach courses for non-majors. These are wonderful, for the most part. The students tend to be motivated and engaged. But there is always a sizeable minority who resent the class (fair enough) and that it isn't designed around "right and wrong" answers (fuck that). The biggest complaint from these students is that they don't see why they should have to formulate an argument about the material, why it isn't enough to simply say something that is "right." Because just being right is NOT rigorous thinking in the humanities.
One of Our Readers Puts Aside Sunday Dinner In Order to Offer Phil a Little Critical Reading. How's This For Rigor, Punk?
- It is not unheard of for an English literature class, where they should be discussing Shakespeare or Milton, to consist of a special snowflake professor ranting against the current administration.
This sort of innuendo-laced statement ("it is not unheard of") amounts to saying very little. Across the many universities in the US, few things are unheard of. It is not unheard of for a math class to consist of a heavily intoxicated professor harassing his female students. Without evidence about how often this happens your statement says nothing.
- a typical general education humanities class could be safely replaced with a course on logic from the philosophy department or a discrete math class from the math or computer science departments.
- These classes provide the students with the tools of logic that English and History classes fail to deliver.
- As far as engineers failing to learn how to write, I think that they would be better served with a good technical writing class than an English literature class.
- they should stop teaching classes on post-modernism, pornography, and popular novels, and instead teach classes on Aristotle, Milton, Descartes, and other great thinkers.
- Aristotle's poetics is still the best guide to analyzing literature available,
In short, your post, though spirited, seems to recycle overly generalized and cliched broadsides against the humanities without any thorough use of evidence. Were it submitted to one of my classes that studies post-modernism and popular culture (I cut the pornography this semester) it would get a C if I were feeling generous.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
Saturday, January 26, 2008
Friday, January 25, 2008
Thursday, January 24, 2008
We Get a Sense That If They're Reading Skin Mags During Class, They Probably Aren't Quite as Successful With the Ladies As You Think.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
If students smell blood in the pool, you are a goner. The same goes for the administration. They will exploit weakness with equal or greater exploitative cruelty. The answer is simple.
Cultivate a snottyass clique of one. You're the kool kid. And no one's getting in. Stop building bridges and start digging moats. Moats stocked with student-shredding crocodiles. Any attempt to bridge any perceived cultural/generational gap between you and Club Doofus only serves to undercut your authority. You come from the land of adults, and only you hold the keys to the kingdom.
Repeat after me: They're kids. Stupid kids. Fuck 'em. Focus on the few scholars in there waiting for you to take the garbage to the curb and get down to the business of teaching. Focus on the ones who deserve what you bring.
You may need to become fluent in smartass for a day or two. Some suggestions:
- "Wanna hear what's on my iPod? It's the sound of your folks bailing your sorry ass out for the rest of life because you suck at adulthood."
- "Know what I drive? I drive stakes into the heart of ignorance. Who wants first?"
- "I'd love to chill with you boys, but I'm too big for Gymboree."
Here's the kicker, if you are brutal, but fair, they may not want to chill with you (bonus!), but they will grudgingly respect you. Go Socratic on their ass. Make them squirm in front of their own classmates. Squash them with what you have: insight, knowledge, and intelligence. Play the game where you make up the rules. In your classroom, it's Ali vs. Frazier everyday. Only you're both, and they're the mat you're dancing on.
You have to break them to save them. You have to show them their own ignorance in order to show them what they can learn. If all else fails, find a college where students actually show up. You're not going home. You're finding your way to a new one.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
- Students are a bit like sharks – once they smell weakness they can all join in with the mob feeding frenzy. But you can use this mob instinct in a positive way. The next time some asshole makes an inappropriate comment, call him on it. Then, ask the rest of the class if anyone thinks his comment was appropriate (staying calm and in control). The silence will speak volumes, and you’ve begun to tacitly bring the majority over to your side. Also, I’ve never found it a bad thing to seek out advice from supervisors or department heads. After all, you represent them to some extent too. You can at least let them know what has been going on, and what your strategy is to fix it. They may have advice for you, but they’ll be less likely to want to step in and rescue you or try to switch out instructors if you show that you’re managing the situation. It may come to pass that the administration has to get involved – particularly if students are making suggestive comments. Where I teach, their asses would be in a world of trouble for anything they said of a sexual/dating/gendered nature toward a prof. This is not weakness on your part – it’s the institution’s responsibility to provide you with students behaving within the college’s ethical standards, not yours. You will survive this. Lots of us are going to be sending in support, because we are or we have been there. Hang in and do you job. It'll get better.
- I've had classes like that before. I had my freshly minted B.S. in hand and three sections of students to teach. I decided to employ the philosophy so eloquently articulated by the character Vera Donovan in Dolores Claiborne , "Sometimes you have to be a high-riding bitch to survive. Sometimes being a bitch is all a woman has to hold onto." I talked to my course director, and then I put my foot down and enforced every rule in the syllabus to the letter. I never did "dress down" that semester; I wore a suit everyday. In the classroom, I was in charge and that was just the way it is going to be. Their perception of me as being young and easy to push around was directly related to how I managed the daily interactions and the rules and requirements of the course. This led me to manage those aspects with an iron fist. Sure, I got a couple of rude and inappropriate comments during class, which were met with a snappy comeback and an invitation to leave the classroom since incivility was unacceptable. Once I threw one kid out, the rest pretty much fell into line. I also gave them a very frank lecture about appropriate student behavior and what was not going to be tolerated. I still had students who were happy to share in class and who came to see me during office hours or approached me with problems, so my method of dealing apparently did not inhibit the entire class. I think the classroom is a little bit like being in a pack of wolves. You've got to establish, via one method or another, that YOU are the pack leader. When you're a woman and you're young that's a doubly difficult task to accomplish. Being young, female, and a TA (or fellow) makes it difficult to establish the credibility that is more easily given to older instructors or professors, so I found that I needed to take steps that were a bit more blatant than those needed by more established instructors. Sometimes I still have to let the bitch out, but it happens on a much much less frequent basis.
- Try to imagine that you're teaching junior high, and respond to comments like the ones you described like you would to a child - Say "that's inappropriate" and then move on. Make provoking you as boring as possible. If they persist, throw the shitheads out of class. Get right to business - don't let there be time in class for heckling. Let them know that their behavior is so inappropriate, and the embarrassment of looking like an ass in front of their peers will eventually kick in. Talk to another young prof at your college - don't go crying to the boss; talk instead to a colleague conversationally. You're not the first prof to look young and pretty, and they're certainly not the last despicable students you'll ever have. Just decide that you're in charge and then act like it. The entertainment of seeing you stumble the first couple of days will fade in their memory if you make a solid change now and stick to it.
- Your students are not being rambunctious, or disorderly, or "just kids." They're sexually harassing you. Period. And you don't have to take it. You should tell your director immediately. I've seen a situation very much like yours (in which a male student refused to take instruction from a female instructor, who he went on to physically threaten and intimidate). In the case I witnessed, the director didn't offer meaningful help, and tried to placate the student, and then offered the instructor a departmental plum as "compensation" and the university swept the whole thing under the rug, and basically something that should have been on the cover of the Chronicle was not. Your students have to learn how to treat people. Your superiors have to learn what their grad students are up against. Step one is always a Stern Fucking Lecture, and it goes like this--if the students who are harassing you are doing it semi-privately, you tell them, in front of everyone, that they are no longer welcome in your classroom. You expel them instantly from the place. You say, "Warren. Smitty. Connor. Please leave. Now." And if they don't--if they have the balls to "refuse"--you call the campus police. If things are worse than that--if your whole class won't quiet down long enough for you to make such an announcement, or if you feel so threatened that you're actually afraid to do it, dismiss the entire class. Tell them that every time they act like this, you'll dismiss class, and that these dismissals will count as absences. If a Stern Fucking Lecture doesn't work, you bring an Official Complaint to your Director. And if that doesn't lead to resolution, you go to the Chair, and then the Dean, and then the Provost, and the President.
- You are the grownup. You know more about the subject than they do, and, more importantly, you control something they want: their grades. You have to leverage this to your advantage, and the way to do it is not to put up with any of their crap. My suggestions are that you: 1) stop answering personal questions so they don't think you're their friend; 2) dress as professionally as your budget allows so they get the message that you're not an undergrad; 3) make the first exam difficult so they realize that you are in fact smarter than them and that they need to pay attention; and 4) throw them out when they chatter or are disrespectful. Just explain that from here on out, disrespectful behavior will result in being asked to leave class that day and that missed work will receive a zero. Then follow through on it - after you kick one or two frat boys out, the rest will get the message. You may have to talk to your director about that, but you're justified in doing what it takes to ensure that the students that are there to learn get to learn. You worked too hard to throw away this opportunity, and letting the spoiled brats win is not worth the sacrifice. You can do this. Good luck!
- You are entitled to a safe work environment and all institutions have explicit policies on things like student misconduct and harassment. Learn them and don't be afraid, not even for a minute, to put them to their intended use. Enforcement is probably someone else's job. And do speak honestly with your peers and professors, not just on RYS, but face to face. All of us went through something like this in the early days and there are many proven strategies available to you for getting this train back on track. Keep your head up.
And now after two days of class last week I want nothing more than to just get out, to give up my tiny fellowship, go back home embarrassed and a failure, and just take my licks from the "folks back home" who told me I would be back someday anyway.
Help me, please.
Monday, January 21, 2008
- Don't ask us if the question and choices are written incorrectly. They're not, and if they were, the question would be removed from the exam marking scheme so don't bother worrying further about it, or planning on using it as the basis for a petition to drop the entire course without academic penalty after getting smoked on the exam. Answer the question based on the wording as it is stated on the exam.
- Don't talk out loud about how you're answering the question, and then exclaim when we tell you to stop talking, "But this is how I do my work and concentrate better, by talking out loud to myself!" You should have told us beforehand that you were a psycho, we could have accommodated your special needs.
- Don't use calculators, the exam has no math in it. Don't talk on the cell phone. Don't talk to your neighbour. Don't look at your neighbour's exam sheet. Don't pull out a dictionary in the middle of the exam. I don't know why official regulations require me to make pre-exam announcements like this, as if you came from high schools where exams were banned, and you're a rookie at this who wouldn't know any better if you hadn't been told ("What do you mean copying off someone else's exam is cheating?! No one told me that! Academic petition!").
- When you are escorted out of the exam hall for a washroom break, don't suddenly run ahead of the escort and pass the regular washroom to dart into the handicapped washroom, slamming and locking the door shut behind you, and then take 15 minutes "to do your business," all the while exclaiming through the door "Just one more minute! I need just one more minute!"
- When you get your exam mark, don't email me asking for a "do-over", because you got a low mark and you really want to get into med school. I don't want doctors operating on me and screwing up, and then suggesting that they get a 2nd chance to do the operation over again.
- If you're going to email me stating "I'll do **ANYTHING** to get a higher mark on the exam", at least have the courtesy of sending a full-length photo of yourself so I can appropriately contemplate the merits of the request.
Cheers, and good luck on the exam!
Saturday, January 19, 2008
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Oh precious snowflake,
so bright and sparkly
with all the accessories
that you gathered over the holidays
I see a laptop
a cellphone, an iPod,
and a calculator that looks ...
this is art class,
you need a pencil!
I'm delivering a warning shot up your snotty little nose instead. But, as I am currently suffering a fit of febrile insanity, I'll smack you down via story time:
Once upon a time, when I worked in the "real world," you know, like as an underemployed technician in an inner city emergency room, I knew a triage nurse who was the meanest, baddest-ass bitch you've ever met. We'll call him Nurse Cranky. Nurse Cranky hated his job. He had been discharged from the Navy SEALs for an injury and was determined to take his anger out on anyone and everyone. He did this with a box of tissues he wielded like the gun he wished it was. He also wore a button that read "Nurses get sick too! Cover your mouth when you cough." It was as big and as steely and as mean looking as a flak jacket. If you so much as chortled in his triage waiting area and didn't cover your mouth, he would fire a tissue at you like a missile.
To you, sick infectious student, I fire the following moral of the story and warning like a tissue missile from Nurse Cranky:
Professors get sick too!
So, idiot snot-nosed student desperately in need of a course in public health, go home and be sick there! I know you're not going to show up to class after the 3rd week anyways and you're not impressing me by showing up here sick in the first week. I promise, I won't remember you as the "dedicated student who showed up with a cold."
I will remember you as that sniffling embodiment of toxic germ warfare who coughed directly on me and thus got me sick in the first week of class. I will remember you as the one who totally destroyed what otherwise would have been a great weekend for research.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Yes, we know that we have lots of characters on the blog named "Pete." It's one of our favorite monikers. It never fails to give us a chuckle. "Carl" gets used quite a bit, too. Just good names. "Nancy," of course, "Walter." These are names with real character. You just say "Walter," and you can see the guy, right? There's no conspiracy or anything. Seriously.
Anyway, a number of part-timers want to take Pete out to an alley and beat him senseless. They see his 32 years of teaching as meaningless, and suggest that he's "smug" and "arrogant" for wanting to use his own "probably over-priced" textbook in his class. We think Pete's okay, and here are a couple of posts that have come in that we wanted to share with you.
- I'm a dean at a private liberal arts college in the Midwest, and Part-Time Pete would have no problems here. We often hire retired professors, people from industry, and other experts in non-traditional ways, leaving them free from some of the inanities that Pete points out. Of course, state institutions - like the community college Pete seems to have chosen - have got such incredible mandates to meet, that world renowned scholars would be brought to tears rather than go through the motions. It's a real shame, and that institution will likely miss out on his continued service - and much the worse will be that institution.
- Part-Time Pete's training might not be entirely unnecessary. Community college is very different from a Big Ten university. As incredible as some of the things you're hearing from the little pipsqueak might seem, try to have an open mind about what he's telling you. We happen to have a guy from a Big Ten school in our department this year. We tried to prepare him for teaching science as a health careers requirement rather than its own discipline. We tried to prepare him for community college students. He smiled and nodded and said “yes, yes” a lot. He spent more than half of the semester teaching way over the students’ abilities. I'm not talking about just melting some snowflakes. He was cooking the good eggs. His idealism wasn't fair to the kids who went to community college instead of OSU because they weren't OSU material, but they wanted to keep learning. As a RYS reader, I'm sure you are aware of the snowflake epidemic. And I'm sure on a superficial level, you are aware that your new community college students are going to be different from your Big Ten students. But you might lose sight of that in the throes of the semester as my colleague did. Try not to confuse the average and honest community college kid with a pain in the ass lazy full of baloney snowflake. And try not to be like an academic snowflake and nod emphatically that you know, when you won't really know until you see them up close.
Many of you have asked if I will be posting my lecture notes on the university website. My answer, as always, is no. Judging by the deflated and grim expressions you assume upon hearing this answer, I guess this is a problem for you.
Some of my colleagues put everything on the web – which is fine by me if that works for them. Others think that holding back their notes forces students to attend class. I honestly couldn’t give a shit if you decide not to attend lectures – your grades will suffer and you’ll miss out on some great discussions. No, I’m not interested in getting the mouthbreathers to fill my lecture hall each week. Better for all of us if you keep your stupidity at home.
First off, my lecture notes are a rough guide. You’ll find this strange, but I actually manage to keep a fair bit of knowledge in my head. My notes are sparse. Or it sometimes happens that a combination of student questions and my own evolving ideas will take a lecture in unexpected directions. Sometimes, I’ve been too unmotivated to write much of anything down, and I wing it (those of us who, you know, read and think are occasionally able to get away with it). Finally, I want to force your lazy asses to listen and take notes. I know this requires effort on your part, and may seem to be in violation of your implied contracts to buy degrees with your parents’ money. But I sleep at night.
And for those of who compulsively type every word I utter into your fucking laptops – stop! Stop and listen, for goodness sake. Last week, I swear I could hear nothing but clicking as I joked about the loud heater in the room. Are you in training to become courtroom transcribers or something?
Has the idea of being inspired by real life words and discussion died? Do you honestly believe that it’s better to stay at home and read professors’ powerpoint notes? (I don’t use those, either – eat it...). I know it’s not fully your fault that you were spoon fed and coddled through high school, that your attention spans are measured in seconds (not even minutes), and that scholarship is, to you, a quaint old concept that evokes images of oil lamps.
But you’re in my class now. Show up. Listen. Maybe learn a bit.
Saturday, January 12, 2008
"With close guidance, she will do well..."
Translation: Left to her own devices, she will fail miserably.
"He is incredibly eager..."
Translation: He's one of those pests who will haunt your office.
"She has worked hard to improve her writing skills..."
Translation: Her writing still sucks.
"He is a free spirit..."
Translation: He is congenitally unable to meet deadlines or to complete assigned readings.
"She has applied to numerous programs, but in my estimation, yours is most suitable..."
Translation: She has little chance of getting admitted anywhere except your program.
"He is a tireless contributor in the classroom..."
Translation: His monopolization of discussion will drive you batty.
"She provides unique insights on course readings..."
Translation: She understands nothing, but is still compelled to provide idiotic commentary.
"He holds great promise..."
Translation: On which he has yet to deliver.
"She is a once-in-a-lifetime student..."
Translation: She is smarter than her recommender.
He is sending me email after email refusing to accept a D, saying it doesn't make sense to him--I have explained it four times and sent him his grade records, but he either really can't understand it, or is pretending he doesn't understand it, so that he can keep trying to wear me down.
Friday, January 11, 2008
If I get a textbook in the mail, it usually goes into a pile by my desk for future sales.
If I get a "check out our new textbook!" email, click, sure why not? Order it and add it to the pile.
If I get something offering a free copy for review in the regular mail, same thing, add it to the pile. Shit, even our building secretary is in on it. If a book comes for a retired faculty member, she makes a big production about how she'll get the book to them and then stashes it under her desk for the book buyer.
Many of the books come with heart wrenching messages printed on the cover imploring you NOT to sell this, as it only raises the price for the students.
Bitch, please. How else will I supplement my pathetic salary?
But back on topic - what I actually do amounts to this:
Also: I'm female, an immigrant, graduated with distinction, and do not own an iPod. I consistently get reference letters from my professors that involve the words "one of the best students I ever taught." And even though I have 40,000 dollars in student debt, and had a well-paid job in the private sector, I took an 8,000 dollar pay cut to work in student advocacy, because I care about post-secondary education a great deal.
So, please, take your vitriol and shove it. I mean, seriously, why do you think I read and enjoy this blog? Because I'm on the snowflakes' side?
Thursday, January 10, 2008
A sophomore a the local state university, he delighted in sharing tales of his exploits and woes. Like the class in which he never attended a single lecture but managed to beg the instructor to give him a C. Or the women's studies professor who failed him just because she hates men. He was particularly proud of the time he stood up in the middle of a lecture and declared, "I'm not paying good money to be taught by a TA who doesn't know anything!" He then led a mass exodus from the lecture hall.
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
Monday, January 7, 2008
- I will do all the assigned work and read all the assigned readings.
- I will correct students' bad behavior politely after class, not witheringly during class (although that would be fun as well as salutary).
- I will *stop* being such a nebbish about correcting my fellow students' grammar, spelling, and gross assaults on the English language when we critique each others' rough drafts.
- I will be polite but firm when I see insipid theses, incoherent paragraphs, and insufficient documentation.
- I will challenge myself intellectually, reading not just the required material but also unassigned texts relevant to the reading material.
- I will analyze the works of essayists with established reputations, whether they are assigned or not, for their rhetorical choices and incorporate what I learn into my own writing.
- I will read books outside of assigned texts to refine and challenge my thinking.
- I will *never* write an essay about the death penalty, abortion, or the legalization of marijuana unless one of these topics is absolutely required of me - and may I be struck down if I break that vow.
Sunday, January 6, 2008
The Resolutions Continue: Half-Baked and Vain Hopes Soon To Be Dashed on the Rocks of Rugged Reality.
- I resolve to pay more attention to my physical and spiritual health.
- I resolve to put my family first this year.
- I resolve to put my career first this year.
- I resolve to read more than a week ahead of my students.
- I resolve to make my students lead more classes from now on.
- I resolve to let my hair down and be more myself.
- I resolve to not take out my frustrations on my students.
- I resolve to let the punishment fit the crime. (Do you hear me, pinheads?)
- I resolve to get closer to my students, to be their friend and mentor.
- I resolve to remind myself that I'm there to be a professor, not my students' best friend.
- I resolve not to be afraid of applying appropriate discipline as warranted.
- I resolve to sort out classroom problems without calling in the helpless help of administration and the like.
- I resolve to warm up as a professor. My students will learn better if they like the person who is their leader.
- I resolve to be OK with not being liked.
- I resolve to strike a better balance between teaching and writing.
- I resolve to spend much more time on my research this year, since it's the thing that will help me progress in my career.
- I resolve to quit worrying about my "career," and just focus on doing a good job.
- I resolve to put teaching first, since it's the thing I love the most.
- I resolve to give my career one last chance. If I can't find happiness, this will be my last semester.
- I resolve to make the most of where I am instead of complaining about how much I'd rather be somewhere else.
- I resolve to take the first job I get offered out of state. I don't care if I'm teaching night school to bugs. I can't live here anymore.
- I resolve to prevent my not having a tenure-track job from interfering with my self-respect.
- I resolve to get off the adjunct track this year.
- I resolve to step back after this semester and take a part-time teaching position. I've taught long enough.
- I resolve to go on at least one date during 2008. (Hey, a boy can dream, right?)
- I resolve to start dating again!
- I resolve to focus on my swell new boyfriend (SNB), and forget about waiting for something better to come out of the anthropology department! (They DO have the most sex, by the way.)
- I resolve to stop making New Year's resolutions.
- I resolve to stop making New Year's resolutions that are stupid.
- I resolve to follow at least one of my resolutions this year. Not this one, though!
It's Easy to Talk Tough on the Syllabus in January. Wait Till Someone With Weepy Eyes Comes To You in Early May. That's When We Always Go Mushy.
We start school pretty soon so I have to get my syllabus ready. Like all of you who read RYS, I view the syllabus as a written contract with the students. We tell them what we’ll cover, when we’ll cover it, when the deliverables are due and how much they’ll count toward the grade. Pretty simple stuff. Sort of. Here are some things I’ve had to make sure I stress after 10 years of teaching undergraduate and graduate management students.
- Makeup exams. I don’t give them. If a student misses a midterm, I shift the weight to the final. I can’t begin to tell you how many grandparents’ lives I’ve saved this way. If I get more than 1 student (out of 50 or 60) missing an exam, it’s unusual. It’s taken a lot of the bullshit out of the semester. The downside – sometimes, a student will be unprepared, take the test and ask me not to count it after (s)he has taken it. Sorry kiddies but mulligans stay on the golf course.
- The final is when it’s scheduled to be. If that’s late in finals week, tough shit. Don’t tell me you’ve already made flight arrangements. You’ve confused me for someone who gives a shit.
- I’m going to have to add a line to the syllabus for my part-time graduate students in the fall semester. The final is when it’s scheduled. I don’t care if it conflicts with your company’s Christmas party. Call me the Grinch. I’ve heard worse.
- I put on the syllabus that it’s up to the student to learn how to use their calculator. That, as it turns out, is as useful as a glass eye at a keyhole. They never keep their manuals or they don’t bother to open them. I love it when they come to my office a half hour before the exam and ask how to use their calculators. Our admissions office assures us they had great SAT scores, were ranked high in their classes, blah blah blah.
- I also tell them I don’t take attendance but I know who attends regularly and who doesn’t. Gotta love it late in the semester when the student whose face was on a milk carton comes by expressing great concern over his/her performance in the class. Sorry about this, but the 13th week in the semester is a little late to start to give a shit, isn’t it now?
Friday, January 4, 2008
- I resolve to be nicer to people who love me (there are a few), but to give no quarter to idiots.
- I resolve not to go buck wild on the associate dean when he calls me "missy" again.
- I resolve to NOT search for jobs outside of academe and I won't fantasize about moving somewhere else.
- I resolve to become one of those cool "chief correspondents."
- I resolve to get papers graded within a week. Well, within ten days.
- I resolve to defend my dissertation and get a faculty position. If these things turn out to be impossible, I will just reresolve in 2009. Or 2010.
- I resolve to smile at my students when I say "check your syllabus" instead of rolling my eyes.
- I resolve to think Swiss. Be neutral. Don't get sucked into silly departmental pissing matches and personality clashes.
- I resolve to teach, and accept that I will not be popular.
- I resolve to be myself, and live with the consequences. If I decide to tilt at a windmill, I will try not to get mad when the inevitable shit hits the fan.
- I resolve to strangle the next book salesman who comes by to tell me that the edition I'm using is way out of date and wouldn't I like one of his bundled packages of textbook, workbook, mini-encyclopedia, baseball cap, and free pen set.
- I resolve to support my discipline, and take it seriously.
- I resolve to remember that my students do not pay my salary.
- I resolve to accept that my colleagues will not always approve of me.
- I resolve to drink less coffee and more scotch.