Thursday, June 28, 2007

This Prof Isn't Really Sorry

Allow me to apologize for assigning a textbook for you to read. A few of you remarked on your anonymous course evaluations that you never read it. I assume you already knew everything in the book, which is why you got an A in the course, right? Oh, wait; the only student to earn an A actually read the book, so that must not be you.

I also apologize for expecting you to write in this mandatory course for your major, which just so happens to have the word "Writing" in its title. After all, it's such a chore for you to have to actually spend the time drafting and proofreading before you submit assignments. One of you noted on the evaluations I should lighten up because "it's just a typo." Are you aware that "typo" stands for "typographical error"? How many errors are acceptable on a given page? One? Two? One in every sentence? I know using spell-check and grammar-check is just so hard. God forbid if you actually had to consult either a dictionary or the writer's manual you were supposed to purchase for the course to help you. How dare I expect these things from adults.

And I apologize for requiring you to double-space your papers. I know it's a true hardship to remember to adjust your word processors to double-space your papers and submit them in Times New Roman 12-point font with standard 1" margins. I know you really, really, really need to stretch the page length on those short papers since I unrealistically expected you to do enough research to be able to submit a 5-page paper instead of a 3-page paper. Silly me for actually knowing the difference between 12-point font and 14-point. Wasn't triple-spacing enough?

Oh, and I also apologize for requiring you to do actual research using library materials. Considering I explained in class about 10 times how journalism is not scholarship and does not have the same level of academic credibility, I know it was completely unrealistic of me to expect you to realize that 1-column article from the New York Times does not have the same worth as an article from a medical journal or an academic journal that would actually require you to read it for more than 10 minutes. Foolish me, I thought this might be an important insight for someone desiring a media-related job after graduating from a university.

Oh, and you plagiarists, I apologize profusely for falsely accusing you of plagiarism. It's obvious now that I was actually hallucinating when, in your papers, I highlighted the verbatim wording and mimicked sentence structure I found online. Obviously, and that scholar from England copied that material from you! Yes, you must be correct that I am, indeed, targeting you because you're black (which, of course, means I was also targeting the white plagiarists because they were white). The fact that in the same section of the course evaluations you also describe me as a "flamboyant homosexual" advancing a "homosexual agenda" must be true since I showed a picture of a shirtless man in class for an assignment; I mean, after all, everybody knows only gay men appear shirtless in advertisements, and only gay men are targeted with male shirtlessness. One must wonder though if your own ignorance and prejudice might not have some bearing on your bad attitude toward course content and might actually be the real reason you'll be retaking the class, not the fact that I was "out to get you."

Well, that…and your repeated tardiness and absences, using cell phones to text during class, disruptions of class, and general lack of preparation. But look on the bright side: The 4-5 of you re-taking the course next time will already know each other!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

A Reader Asks A Familiar Question

I had a student this semester--a single mother of two--who was going through a lot of personal problems. She was failing the class and I tried to work with her. She kept telling me how passing this class would allow her to reach her goals on time, especially important because she was on unemployment and had a limited amount of time to make this work.

In the end, she tried to make up much of the work she missed early on, but her answers indicated she didn't quite get it. On the day of the final, she told me she hadn't had time to write her last paper, because she'd devoted all her time to her other classes, but it was very important that she pass my class. I felt bad for her, and I gave her until I left my office that day, about an hour later, to turn it in. As I was getting into my car, she came running up, calling my name. Something had gone wrong with the file and printer, and all she had were some notes. She swore she'd written the paper.

A few days later, she mailed me the paper.I read it, but didn't give her credit. It was not of passing quality. Her final grade was a D. After the grades were posted, she emailed me to tell me that with the D, her GPA had slipped 3/hundredths of a point below what she needed to maintain her financial aid.

Now I feel that if I'd just passed her, I could have made her life that much easier at little cost to me. Was I wrong? Or should I have not even considered her personal situation (single moms always have my sympathy and respect)? What would you have done?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Pleasure Through Pain - Er, Someone Else's Pain

As much as I recognize the problems with the Other Rating Site Which Shall Not Be Named, I must admit it's quite satisfying to read student reviews of my several inept colleagues. I can more easily stomach a faculty meeting that is dominated by a bombastic, sexist colleague, for instance, when I recall that a student "would not recommend this professor's class to my worst enemy" or that this professor is "a disgusting pig."

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Summer Makes Hearts Softer - Sometimes

  • I recognize that you have a specific learning disorder that must have made my class hell for you. In fact, you told me that your advisor told you to stay out of this major specifically because you would have to take this class. But you wanted this major and come hell or high water, you were going to make it through my class. So, you came to every class, found a tutor outside the department, did all the homework, came to me for tutoring sessions that lasted an hour or two on FRIDAY AFTERNOONS (!!!) and never missed one. You asked questions when you didn't understand something, turned in your homework on time, and never made excuses for anything. You treated me with professional respect, always honored your commitments and even kept me in touch with your advisor in the student center. On the final, you spent 4 hours fighting your way through the questions. You didn't get all the questions right (don't worry, no one else did either), but you got something a lot more important right: you actually care about your education. You're one of a rare breed.

  • I hate how much of my energy and time you sucked out of me. Whenever I brought my best efforts to class, you sapped me with inanities. Whenever I gave you paths to better understanding, you minimized and mocked them. Spending this summer reading and studying on my own has made me realize how much I hate teaching and how much I resent the pinhead students who think they are entitled to grades - not learning.

  • You have been by far the most interested, energetic and thoughtful students I have ever had. You were always prepared, usually sending assignments two or three days before they were due. You were punctual, polite and engaged. You took notes, you wrote down the titles of books and articles I recommended, and then read them. You were a pleasure to teach, and made me constantly want to stretch myself to teach you more.

  • With a full month between me and the classroom, I can't help but say GOOD RIDDANCE to all of you. I get so sucked into your neediness during the semester that I forget that there is a world of grown-ups out here who don't need to have their hands held at every turn of the road. I swear if I could make $35,750 a year doing anything else, I'd do it in a minute. You all suck.

  • See you next year. Third time's the charm, eh?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

We'd Chew Off One of Our Own Legs If We Thought We Could Be a Manager

I read the most recent post with dark and masochistic glee. At least I'm not alone, I kept saying to myself. I teach at a small private school where, in addition to our service hours and teaching, we have been asked, in the interest of "being collegial" to:

  1. Go to a new-student pool party and (presumably, in bathing suits) play water-polo with them.

  2. Take part in a sex-trivia mock "celebrity squares" where I, as one of the "celebrities" would answer questions about sex for the students.
Needless to say, I declined and objected LOUDLY, explaining that it was misogynist and inappropriate to encourage students to sexualize their professors. But now I am seen as the "trouble-maker."

Of course. Any time a woman speaks out too loudy, she is a man-hating bitch, right?

We now have a dorm approaching completion. It wouldn't surprise me at all if they asked us to don our Daisy Dukes and get to lifting those boxes on moving day! To quote one of my colleagues, "if the dorm project equals move-in help, I'll break my own leg to get out of it."

When did academia sink to such new lows? The manager position at Starbucks is looking pretty good about now.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

"Sure, Kid, Where Would You Like Me To Put Your TV?"

Last week the Dean at my college created a page in his Facebook comparing our school to the school in the Harry Potter movies and asked students to name the teachers who would play the various characters in the movies. Naturally the students are having a ball with it, and the page has been very busy for the last few days. One student told me everybody will “get the treatment.” Okay, I know, of course, that students do stuff like this all the time, and think energy like this when it comes from the students can be a good thing. But I have a problem with the Dean instigating and then cheerleading for a project the net result of which is the mocking of our faculty. Am I making this up?

Similarly, the administration of my college, which is very small, decided at our founding that it would be nice if faculty helped the students move into the dorms at the beginning of the academic year. They have asked us to do this every year since we opened our doors in 1999. I have declined, but others, especially new hires worried about tenure, have not. Think about this: faculty carrying students’ golf clubs and tennis rackets, stereo components, and so on. I guess this could be fun if you liked doing that sort of thing, although I’m not sure it really sets the tone for the future relationship between the student and the professor. But again what disturbs me is that this order, basically to “have fun,” comes from the administrative level.

At my school one of the ways to fire a tenured faculty member is for “non-collegiality,” which can mean anything from not doing enough committee work to being snotty at faculty senate. In the past “collegiality” was a word that described how we managed ourselves as peers. But in the hands of the administration it becomes one more manifestation of administrative clout. I feel that the Dean’s Facebooking and Faculty Moving Service do something similar.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Where LiLo Appears In An Example, And Gives Us A Chance To Send Her Our Best

This place had made a world of difference to me over my first year teaching. I was shell shocked in those opening days, and a veteran in my department gave me this address.

I felt almost naughty when I first read RYS, seeing the unsaid things in my head all spilled out on these pages - many times with COOL graphics. LOL.

And stopping by from time to time has made me feel as though I'm not alone. The things said here do NOT get said in my faculty lounge. But now I know what others are thinking, and it helps me get through a long day.

Oh, and because I love the smackdown, let me do this:

JM: You may not believe me, but I wanted you to pass. I did everything short of writing your final for you. Why do you imagine that I want to "ruin your life"? I have enough on my own plate.

RN: You won't pass any class of mine, not the way you act. You treated me all semester as if I were some kind of highly educated personal assistant, someone who you thought should scurry after your educational needs like you were Lindsay Lohan and I was the guy carrying the Red Bull and Parliaments.