Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Distance Ed Awards, Where Everyone Gets F'd.

It’s time for the Distance Education Academy Awards. I’m you host, Tom Talkinghead. We’re really excited this year, since there have been so many new developments in our local distance education classes and they’ve led to some truly special moments in pedagogy. Before we get started, we have a tap-dance number which will be performed by Spineless Sam and the Administrators, doing the golf shoe shuffle on a dance floor which consists of the naked backs of adjuncts and untenured profs, all of whom have been told to bend over, hold their ankles, and “take it like a man.”

“Worst performance by a male student in a leading role.”
The award goes to: Football Fred from Farmerville!!! We had high hopes for Fred since his first starring role in the sixty-minute special “play with the microphone button and create a symphony of percussive static which sets everyone’s teeth on edge, then pretend that you weren’t doing it.” However, this performance was completely eclipsed by Fred’s show-stealing performance in “Walk in with your buds twenty minutes late, make as much noise as possible, then have animated private discussions with the microphone off for the remaining forty minutes.” Bravo. Football Fred receives the coveted “F”.

“Worst performance by a female student in a leading role.”
The award goes to: Feckless Fanny from Farmerville!!! Fanny never fails to disappoint. From her jaw-dropping role in “You never told us that we had to use abstract thought in this class” to her cutting-edge performance-art piece via email: “I’m so sorry, but I haven’t been paying attention to you for weeks,” Fanny proves that she has all the skills necessary to hold down a job in fast food service or telemarketing. Bravo. Football Fanny also receives the coveted “F”.

“Worst performance by a male student in a supporting role.” This one is generally easy to decide, but this year we have to give a two-way tie to Fred’s buds, Phil and Frank. A supporting actor is judged by how well he supports the acts of his leading man, and Phil and Frank were outstanding. We all remember the obvious roles like “He didn’t do it” and “Why you always picking on us,” but it’s the subtle things—the eye rolling, the book shuffling, the things that often aren’t noticed since they’re only coming across thorough video monitors and classroom speakers—which really make these performances work. We have good news this term. Rather than share the “F,” we’ve gone ahead and gotten “F”s for the both of you. Congratulations, boys.

“Worst performance by a female student in a supporting role.”
The award goes to: Phoning Felicia from Farmerville!!! Felicia is another subtle actress who pretends to turn her cell phone off, but who keeps it on throughout the class, hidden away in her purse, where it can continue to disrupt the microphone signals in both classes. Her performances have the capacity to affect every single student in the classroom, ensuring that no one’s train of thought extends any longer than one minute’s duration, at which point a fresh burst of beeping and clicking whisks away any semblance of thought. While sitting through her performances, it’s impossible to not be exactly as empty-headed and dim-witted as she is. An “F” for you, Felicia. You’ve earned it.

“Worst director.”
We have a literal tour de force this year. Ordinarily this award goes to the merely incompetent, but this year we’ve reached a new height of directorship. Tanya the Farmerville Tech wins hands-down. From day three, when you wowed us all with your brilliant soliloquy: “stop picking on them—they’re good students” to your week eight outburst: “stop picking on them—they’re good students” all the way up to your week nine show-stopper: “It’s not my fault that I wasn’t here to let them into the classroom and they missed most of the class,” you were a shoo-in. However, yesterday you exceeded all expectations. Who would have expected Tanya to actually distribute student evaluation forms to everyone in the class (during a term when no evaluations were scheduled) and then to fax them directly to the Dean?!? And oh, the pathos. Did you actually TELL them to draw little frowny-faces on the bottoms of the page, or did they come up with that one on their own? Tanya, we’re sorry that there are no more “F”s to give out. However, rest assured that word of your behind-the-scenes manipulation has gotten around, and you won’t be burdened by working for the same poor little studio for much longer.