Monday, August 20, 2007

Beginning of the Semester Faculty Meetings Designed For Full Anxiety Effect

After three months of rest, relaxation, and re-evaluation, I decided that I do still want to teach. After three months away from students and administrators, I remembered why I wanted to teach to begin with: to help students learn to read and then, possibly, to write (I teach freshman comp - the class everyone loves to hate).

I developed new strategies for encouraging the students to do their work and for presenting material. For the past couple of weeks, I actually felt some - dare I say it? - hope.

However, reality reeled me in today, during the semester beginning faculty meeting. In the course of an hour and a half, my boss told us that the final grades we're assigning as a department show grade inflation (more As and Bs than the standard's committee found plausible after evaluating student finals from the spring semester), that our student evaluations reveal widespread student satisfaction with the freshman comp classes so we have to work on raising student satisfaction, that studies show that students feel the best teachers are those who relate to them so we're to make treat the students with respect and as equals, and that we're supposed to be friendly to the students but not their friends.

My head hurt from all the contradictions I heard by the end of this meeting. My head hurt worse when I realized, as the meeting neared its end and my boss was stressing student retention as the most important goal for the semester, that nothing in the meeting had addressed teaching the students writing skills.

My hope has been dashed and replaced by dread, as well as anxiety. I am reminded once again that if I really try to teach the students and thus hold them to a standard of excellence necessary for true learning, I will get negative student evaluations and then displease my boss as much as I displease my students.

Yes, I do dread trying to maneuver in this land beyond the looking glass this semester, and I am anxious about just how I will manage to uphold some standards while pleasing both my students and my boss (because student satisfaction, rather than high or reasonable academic standards, is more important to my boss and to the state).