Friday, May 30, 2008

Some More Summer Haiku. "Cool Breeze."

First summer classes
"Do I have to buy the books?"
"I don't like to read."

Listen up, honeys --
My rage is incandescent
Like the sun, it burns.

"How many papers?"
The buzzing whine of students
Like loud cicadas.

A cool breeze beckons.
I channel Wicked Walter.
"Bring on the crazzy."

Sunday, May 25, 2008

As a Favor To Everyone, One of Our Chief Correspondents Sends Along This Recommendation Letter Template.

For years, I've been churning out recommendations for students, honored to provide whatever small assistance I can offer. Over time, I developed a template that allows me to crank out letters faster than an Asian Rim wage slave pumping out flimsy Hollister T-shirts by the metric ton. But recently, I've been fielding requests from students for whom I would not recommend for advanced fryolator studies at Barney's Burger Dome. For them, I devised a new template that may be of some assistance to you.


Tag, (For You, Sir or Madam, Are "It"),

It is with heavy heart, and a no little trepidation for the future of the service industry, that I recommend to you Mr. Wellington Q. FuckKnuckle III (herein known as CTRL-V). CTRL-V is an outstanding student. Indeed, CTRL-V is often seen out standing in the parking lot, dutifully and industriously toking down his breakfast, only after having diligently shaken seeds and stems off the face of his still shrink-wrapped textbook. For these reasons, and immeasurably more, I believe him to be highly deserving of immediate and irrevocable transfer to YOUR FINE INSTITUTION GOES HERE.

Three years ago, CTRL-V was rumored to be a student in my Remedial Intro to Sociology course ("People are Strange"). During that time, CTRL-V diligently cut and scrupulously pasted a number of essays that were, in all probability, brilliant in their original form. In each case, CTRL-V bravely overcame his sub-Cro-Magnon typing skills while audaciously seeking to stitch together mutlipicitous cutting-edge insights (often a freshly minted cluster of clichés generated by some penniless grad student at $39.95 a throw online). From these, CTRL-V succeeded in weaving an elegant and flowing tapestry that evoked, against all odds, the enduring collaboration of “Wilma Shake Spears” (Britney’s long lost sister) and Mr. Michael Angelo. His bold and fearless attempt to shed light upon the collaboration between the freshly dead Mr. Angelo and a post-natal, rattle-wielding Bard, a collaboration that had no bearing whatsoever on the course assignment, makes him one of the most innovative students I have had the horror to teach.

When, and/or if, present, CTRL-V is an asset to class discussion – always evincing a willingness to ask out-of-the-box questions about this professor’s willingness to conduct class in a more bucolic setting (say, in proximity to the parking lot and the roach-choked ashtray of CTRL-V's Oldsmobile), all the while seeking to engage his classmates and steer discussions forward in a new direction (i.e., his dorm and the beer bong maintained therein). The caliber of students such as CTRL-V is rare (if, of course, one is considering students who currently live inside my desk drawer). His contributions to the university are manifold (without him, the Student Advocacy Program and the Video Arcade facilitators would lay off half their staffs) and reach far beyond this university (he is currently securing the retirement of any and all stockholders of the Blitz Beer Company and the marketers of Grand Theft Bunghole XIV).

Currently, at least according to the roster, CTRL-V attends my upper level sociology course ("The Helenic and Heuristic Hagiography of Where's Waldo"). I was thrilled to be given an opportunity to write this letter on his behalf, only because it gives me a unparalleled opportunity to rid this fine institution of a cancer in its midst and wedge my nose ever deeper into my Dean's overburdened Depends. It is with great hope and no little relief that I boot CTRL-V's cheese-fed ass through the uprights of higher ed and into the promised land of YOUR FINE INSTITUTION GOES HERE.

If I may be of any assistance, please do not hesitate to lose my number.

Very Truly Yours,

Professor John Doe
Podunk State U

Friday, May 23, 2008

Don't Forget to Be Human.

In response to the "Finding the Right Balance" posts, I would say that it might be better to err on the side of compassion and to give some of these students a bit of a break.

I returned to university as an older student - one who held down a full-time job while also taking a full course load. After that I dropped back to working part-time so that I could concentrate on school but went through some extreme financial struggles because of this decision (if it weren't for my parents supplying me with food parcels on a regular basis I would have starved). I worked my arse off in school but there were times when I simply had too much on my plate and something had to give. Usually that meant school as putting work aside meant losing income, or perhaps the job itself, and I simply could not do that. Were it not for some very understanding professors, who gave me extensions when they didn't have to, I wouldn't have made it through. Perhaps the fact that I was an A student made a difference in their willingness to cut me some slack but I'd like to think that simple human decency played a large part in their decisions.

I made it through, proceeded to earn my MA, and am now a PhD candidate. But, if it weren't for the kindness of those professors who took the time to understand my situation, I'd never have made it through. In many ways, I owe my current position to them.

Although I am not yet a professor, I am a TA, and when confronted with students who are trying to balance life and school, I try as much as I can to remember the professors who helped me and I tend to give students the benefit of the doubt. Have I been burned by a couple of them? Of course. But I've also had others come and thank me for enabling them to get through the semester and continue on in school despite all of the other challenges life has thrown at them.

Perhaps we all need to remember that not everyone has an easy road to travel and that, out of sheer human decency, we should do our best to give them a helping hand.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Revisiting the Notion of Being Reasonable With Grades and Policies.

Both of the posts on "Finding the Right Balance" really hit home; I've had different versions of each of these students multiple times over the years. I teach at a 4-year state college, which also has by mandate of our Regents a 'community college function.' The effect of this is that we have a range of students, from those who could be at any of the Ivies to those who are struggling to pass the Adult Basic Education tests.

Almost all of the students have complicated lives of work [usually full time], families [for whom they may actually be the main source of income], and health care. When confronted with students such as the two described here, whose lives are out of control, I opt for the approach that means I can sleep better at night: allow the redo option; give them the benefit of the doubt for that C-; let them make up the exam or turn in the paper late.

In the greater scheme of things, I can't believe that this will be a better world [or this a better College] if I hold fast to principles that don't really relate to the situation. Sometimes life just really does suck for people, and some of those people are students, whose grade fate I hold. Will the world be worse off if I make a judgment call that 'violates' my stated policies? Doubtful: how good is a policy for which there is no conceivable reason to make an exception?

Back in the day when college and university enrollment was for the few and mostly the elite of society, and where a student was expected to work at it full-time, with no outside job or family or financial concerns [your family paid or you had a scholarship; there were no loans or Pell Grants in the bad old days], you might be able to say that the university stood for something 'bigger than just one student.' But those days are gone, for better or worse [or bits of both].

I think the best thing I learned about grading and very marginal students such as these two was when I was a TA. One of my professors recounted how terrible she felt for holding firm on a policy, only to have the student [a man about 25 years old], break down in tears and weep inconsolably after she told him she would not change the grade. She swore that she would never again hold firm for a couple of points over the course of a semester that would completely trash an individual's dignity. Another was from my major professor, who told me to be sure that before I stuck on such a principle that I could be certain that I had not made any mistake in grading for a few points here or there throughout the semester; was I so infallible that I couldn't give that C- or D+ instead of the D or F?

What's sad is that the majority of students who have perfected game-running and scams and chronic lying have made us 'toughen up' on the rest.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

What Part of Hiatus Don't You People Understand? A Huge Response to Job Seeking Jerry Nets Just One Note. (We've Been Catching Up On "Gossip Girl.")

I see you've already succumbed to Snowflake Syndrome. You seem to think you're special by virtue of your oh-so-superior R1 education from that top school. Oh my God! You had to lower yourself to apply for the dreaded 4/4 teaching position in BFE and even considered slumming around with those of us in community colleges! Why oh why couldn't any of these search committees see how truly amazing you are?

Here is a newsflash your graduate advisors shouldn't have had to convey: it's tough in the academy. It was tough when I started grad school 20+ years ago. Hundreds of job applicants are routine in most fields and have been for quite a long time. Until the Boomers retire or die, it's not going to get any better. The odds are not in your favor. But if being a professor is truly the only thing you can imagine doing, then take the following advice to heart.

Your newly minted Ph. D. doesn't mean jack. It's very rare for someone to get the ideal position right out of the gate. Most of us who have one now had to pay our dues. We moonlighted doing academic grunt work while we also did our TA/RA duties. We adjuncted or did VI/VAP stints while we sent out those hundred CVs to get a tenure track job. If you're not willing to put in the time to get the experience, this is not the job for you.

Decide what it is you really want to do. An R-1 position, a 4/4 teaching position, and a community college position are three very different animals. All have different duties and require different mindsets (none of which is Snowflake conducive). Just throwing your applications everywhere to see if something sticks is not an effective way to get a job. It's better to go for what you really want than to settle just to be "in the field." Search committees everywhere will thank you, as will your future colleagues and students.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Jerry the Job Seeker Checks In and He's Pissed.

Rate my students? I'd LOVE to rate my students. But the way this job season has gone I'm thinking I won't HAVE any students.

I'm a freshly minted Ph.D. from the top southeastern R1. My advisors and mentors smiled and pushed me through the programs happily, taking my money, taking my loans. And then they set me loose on a job market where even shit jobs get hundreds of applications for one position. I applied to a 4/4 teaching load job at a school in about the worst location in the US, and got a rejection note saying they had over 300 applicants. Who'd go there? Me, I guess. But not now because I wasn't even good enough.

I've beaten down doors of local junior colleges and they have part-timers who've been there for 20 do I get in? Wait for someone to die? And anyway, I didn't get in this profession to be a scrambling adjunct anyway. That life is too hard. Driving around, teaching everywhere. No home, no office, no respect. I studied for YEARS so that I could research and teach in my field. I want in. I want to do it. I have great credentials and am ready to join the adults at the big table.

But there's no room, and I suspect that my university knew it when they let me in. I suspect everyone knows about it except those currently in grad school.

Is it a racket? Should grad school programs be taken to court in some kind of class action suit? It's about that bad. There's nothing that makes sense to me about this job search season. I have great grades, publications, research with a well known scientist in my field. I interview well. And after almost 9 months of dedicated job searching, I'm not even close to ANY kind of teaching gig.

How do people do this year in and year out?

I think it's a shell game. I think my grad school program, and others, know that the market is flooded. But ramping down their admissions would just cost them money, and anyway, they have their jobs.

And now what. I can't really just blow off all this work, can I? I can't simply say: "I wanted to be a cowboy, but now I'll be a ballerina instead." If I'm going to do something besides work in a movie theater or a factory or a Kinko's, I have to get on it. But does that mean I've wasted my grad school years? If I hang on and stay on the market, how do I pay for, uh, for FOOD! AN APARTMENT! CLOTHING! GAS!?!?!?!?!

There's something rotten with the system and every year a new crop of Ph.D.s is going to get screwed.

Monday, May 12, 2008

During Summer, A Proffie's Expectations Are Different.

To my six summer school students:

Class hasn’t even begun yet and I already love you all. See, I’m making a flat rate for teaching summer school and six students is the minimum class size needed for the class to exist.

There are six of you. That means I’ll make my money while doing the minimum amount of grading and office hours.

Bless you! (Don’t any one of you think of dropping. I need to buy a new hot tub.)

Surf’s up.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

"We Reach For Summer." Caitlin from Cucamonga Helps Us Cope.

On another blog I follow, the college administrator group is whining about how they stay sane during the last stretch where they listen to complaints that student x cheated and instructor x hates me. To counter their quaint coping mechanisms - "I smile a lot" - let's talk about how we deal with it in the trenches where student x cheated on our papers and student x thinks I/we hate him/her...and we do.

  • We Use Some Normal Coping Strategies. We do the typical things, like keep food on the snack table, walk around to break the tension from grading, and check our personal e-mail to stay in touch with the outside world. This way if anyone walks by, they think we're still sane.

  • Music. Yesterday the music started to leak into the hall. My neighbor takes on a mixture of country and 80s disco style music. I, on the other hand, am into a subtle exchange of Joan Osborne kd lang and Deep Purple. The music department fills the next two offices and they actually play opera. I don't know what the other two in my stretch of the hall are into because they're plugged in -- that's right, the dreaded ear buds we've been banning in our classes all semester. By late afternoon yesterday, I had kd lang's Hallelujah blaring, followed by Osborne's Let's Get Naked while my friend next door was trying to out rock me with Chicken Train.

  • Screaming. Every so often someone screams. Mostly there are words "I'm Not Having Any Fun" to "What Part of No Wikipedia Do They Not Understand" to "Cheating Bastards Don't Know How to Do Anything But Plagarize." Yes, occasionally it is unprintable. It can also be groans and moans. The most famous is "They Learned Nothing" followed by "Dibs on the Wal-mart Job" because we start feeling like if this is the result of all our effort, we'd be better off abandoning this underpaid marathon to stand in the doorway and hand out carts. Welcome to Wal-mart.

  • Mocking Student Papers. Many of us are grading final exams and we want to share the pain. Hence, we mock the little darlings every chance we get. Hitler is related to Saddam and together they killed the Jews. Geography is like Music because they both deal with location. Without learning, I would not have cum this far. Citation: Moses, et al. The Bible. It goes on and on. We struggle to top each other, willing to dredge up even the most legendary of years past. And then...we laugh. We roflol.

  • Pledge to be Heartless Next Time Around. Every point we've ever given a student comes back to haunt us. Those few extra "maybe he'll try harder if I cut him a little slack so he can see some success" have only put Sammy Screw-up that much closer to the points needed and now he's within 2 or 3 points of passing when it should be 50. Can you help me becomes almost reasonable. It actually seems unfair to fail a student who is within two points - I mean he attended every class. We vow to have "NO" tattooed on our forearms. We swear we'll never take another late paper. We promise to start being draconian from day one.

  • We Fail Their Asses. It is the best of times and the worst of times. We feel defeated as we mark the dreaded D/F on the roster. At times, we feel a little bit of happy. Truth be told, there is almost always something we could do to fix a broken grade...but we don't. Everything we ever do to help a student comes back to bite us in the ass - so better their ass than ours.

  • We Reach For Summer. The only thing that keeps any of us in this madhatter race is knowing that summer is coming and we have a break. Even those of us teaching this summer have a couple of weeks off. Summer students at our location are typically better students. They actually want to be there or they're coming off embarrassing failure and really put out some effort. Summer is a Win-Win no matter how you look at it. At the end of the semester, win-win is what we want and we don't care who we have to step over to get there.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Samantha from Syracuse Sends In Some Smackdown.

L - What's the word I've seen used on this forum that describes you? Oh yeah: yummy. You're also rather bright compared to most of your sorority sisters. You always smile and flirt with me when I see you outside of class and you look like the girl from the Breck commercials. You're a bit too tan for your own good, but for the time being, your 20-year-old skin and body wear it well. But please spare me the pain of visiting me at your 15-year reunion when you look like a handbag.

M - You emailed me once a month to demand help, while in the same sentence telling me what an awful teacher I am and how my class is a waste of your time. Whatever happened to "please" and "thank you"? These past few weeks, as the realization set in that your minimal care and effort were not going to produce your coveted grade, you turned syrupy-sweet. I wish I could enjoy your temporary pleasant demeanor, but I know that I'll receive at least one more nasty missive once I submit final grades.

H - I told you before the withdrawal period ended that you were going to fail if you didn't step it up. You chose to stay in the class. I didn't think your output could decrease, but lo and behold, since that day, you've turned in nothing. Why did you show up for the final exam? You could have gotten a few hours more sleep rather than trudge across campus for such an act of futility.

B - When you want to be excused from a few absences, try "my girlfriend has cancer," or "my parents are getting divorced," or "I had to resolve a police issue in court," but for the love of God, don't use all three of them at the same time! And then when I advise you to withdraw from school to take care of business back home, don't tell me, "Oh, it's all OK now." Out of curiosity, was it your parents' rekindled romance that healed the cancer, or was the judge somehow responsible?

Thursday, May 8, 2008

First Summer Haiku

Smoke from the barbie
Infuses a rack of ribs.
No students for me!

The pedant’s mind clears
At great speed on a racetrack.
Adrenaline eraser.

No snowflakes to melt?
RYS on hiatus?
Summer must be here.

PASSWORD: *********** {INCORRECT} PASSWORD: ************* {INCORRECT} PASSWORD: ************ {UH OH!}

omigod ifinally foudn the cmpoudn and it wasntr really that hard. you just take a cople oe diret roads and there it si with chain linkfence and a moat and wolves and alligatrosa dn abig fukcin iguana statue that mus beall of 56 feet high at least. and the powere is still on and there's actually food in the refridgerator andtheyve got computers out the gizmo and new linen on the bedzand my god thats actually p picture of all the modderators. and theyre all wearing hawiian shirts and cabanae hats and they smoking out of a 3foot tall waterpiep that is stillhere! and theya got the new grand thefet auto game i'mgoing toplay that SOB before anyonegets back. maybe I just take it back to myplace and lete these guysbuy themselves anotherone with ytheir big RYS moneybags.
you know now tha ti take a look aroudn thie place its ab it of a shithoel. couldnt' they get someone to vacccum this place eveyrone in a whieol. theres dust and bits of chesee and ti smeslls kida funny. man what is that smell. uhoh i hear a motor running outside. i better chekc and see what;s going on

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Thankless Unappreciative Assholes. Nancy Nutjob Returns.

You know, how don't know how you beautiful boys do it all. If the complaint letters you sometimes post are any indication of some of the mail you get there, I would never keep going. I'd tell everyone to build their own blog, bring in hundreds (thousands?) of different perspectives, and leave it at that.

Hiatus Shmiatus is a turd.

If y'all want to take the summer off, you go right ahead. I'm going to teach because I need the money, and I'm going to miss the daily FLOOD of great posts, but what can you do? If you were my cable company and you stopped showing Oprah or Law & Order, I'd bitch and moan. Because I'm paying for that.

But you guys do the blog for nothing, and I - among many, obviously - are grateful for it. Very are my sweet poopies.

So, drink 'em if you got 'em, get out the hookah, drive fast without headlights - whatever. But do come back in August, okay? And tell us all about it? We're going to miss you, Momma-Bear most of all.


Sunday, May 4, 2008

What Will You Be Doing With Your "Free Time" This Summer?

  • You people suck so hard. Your cheery absinthe-flavored hiatus post just made me want to croak. I hope it's all an act and you're actually teaching summer school like me. It would make my hate for summer a little less to think at least you had to share some of the work. But, if I'm going to play fair, yes, I'm going to teach one session, but I'm taking the other session off to be with my family, race around with pals, go golfing in Miami with my brother, catch some big finned tuna in the ocean, squire Britney to a tractor pull in Shreveport, perform Shakespeare for a cemetery full of earthbound spirits, and, of course, shoot some coconut husks off a split rail fence. Like I said, you guys really suck.

  • Pursuing maximum pain for two students who plagiarized their lab reports.

  • I'll be studying my ass off with all my "free time" this summer. Qualifying exams come up in the fall, and I have absolutely no intention of taking them twice.

  • Summer? Your old fashioned notions of academic life having a seasonal rhythm are so quaint. As an online instructor teaching non-trads at a school with classes starting every month, I don't have summer. I don't have winter. Or Christmas. I never go to class, but I never don't have class. I can go to the archives in Bananastan whenever I want and teach from the Internet café in the evening. I can take any day off I want to take a day trip with the kids. I can go to conferences anywhere at any time without groveling to the department and rescheduling classes for dozens of knowledge-starved students. I just teach online from the hotel. But I can never take three days in a row off. Ever. I cannot - ever - leave the Internet. My university posts an automatic e-mail message to me, my department head, and the dean if I do not log in to class within 72 hours of my last log in. If I wait that long, the stack of e-mails and unanswered conference queries would be overwhelming anyway. Every month is grades month. Every month is "new syllabi" month. Every month is right in the middle of the term, with discussions to take part in, papers to grade and tests to do in several classes. To reach U.S. median income I need to have at least five or six going at any one time, enough to prevent any month or season from bringing significant differences in workload. July is just like January.

  • I'm going to drink caipharinas in South America,courtesy of my tax rebate and the money I made selling unwanted desk copies of mediocre textbooks online.

  • I'm teaching five courses over the two summer sessions. Business Writing, English 101, English 102, Gothic Literature, Shakespeare. I'm jist a girl who cain't say no. (Oklahoma--Ooooooh kla homa where the wind comes sweepin' down the plain.) It's like a vacation. But you have fun, guys. I admire your work ethic!!

  • Enjoying the company of adults, or people who act like them, at least.

  • My summer plan consists of three stages. Stage 1: get drunk. Stage 2: ................ Stage 3: write papers.

  • What on earth am I going to do with all of my free time this summer? What kind of fucked up question is that? I already know what types of responses you will get to that question: 1) pissy responses from hardworking academic types who don't have the summer off because they will be teaching, writing, trying to publish, etc., and 2) jubilant responses from those who will claim that they actually spend their summers drinking margaritas by the poolside. I feel sorry for the former type, and the latter type... well, I hate those assholes. By the way, the semester is not over where I work so I'm still stuck in the classroom with these whiny little grade-grubbing bastards for another week, so I resent the timing of your question. But thanks for asking.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Oh, Don't Be Babies. It's Just Summer Hiatus.

Shit, we're tired. What a year this has been. The moderators have each logged hundreds of hours on the site, and we've taxed our brains coming up with monikers for all of you. Really, it's the only part of the job we enjoy.

But summer is upon us. Two of us are already done, out the door, living free and easy with friends, family, in-laws. One of us has a broken arm from water-skiing (dumbshit). One of us is in Canada, soaking up that socialism. One of us is still working, finishing grades, and manning the compound computer bank all by his lonesome. (Boo effing hoo, right?)

Anyway, every summer brings a hiatus and 2008's starts today.

Over the next 3 1/2 months we'll be posting material about once a week. We've found that this is the limit of what we're able to do. You can't believe how difficult it is to sit at the computer when your Speedo is full of sand and tequila. So, check in occasionally and we'll be putting up the best summer posts as they come in.

Also, we are famously lazy when we're not on the clock, so please don't feel bad if we don't reply quickly (or at all) to your emails. Someone is looking at them, scanning them, er, deleting them. But we love you all, really, even you, you the asshole who sends us 10 posts a week, all starting with: "I didn't think this kind of thing would ever happen to me, but..."

And although we hope you know this already, we get more than 400,000 page views a month because you guys make the page so interesting. Sure it gets contentious sometimes, sometimes feelings get hurt. We made quite a few of you cry! But it's all in the service of the greater good, which is, er, as we all know, um, the greater good is clearly the, uh. Well, we'll let you know what it is when we find out.

We consider ourselves fortunate to have a loyal and "involved" readership. And we especially are lucky to lurk in the background and bring this page to life.

The compound is very quiet this morning. Still. The heat has already come to this part of the world, and it will be nice to get away to some place with a breeze, some place without scorpions and wolves. But we wouldn't trade this life for anyone else's. The eating of the smoked meats, the drinking of the absinthe, shooting coconut husks off a split rail fence at 4 in the morning, driving small Japanese cars into the ravine at the end of the property and burning them up with explosives we get from our meth-lab buddies who live over the hill.

We love the academic life. That's the message, right? And we love you.