Sunday, August 31, 2008

Josie on the Job Market and A Cast of Characters We All Immediately Recognize from Our Own College.

I should have suspected something might be up from the fact that I was invited immediately for an in-person interview several states away without even the slightest phone conversation, which had not been the norm thus far in my 6 month long job search. There was ALWAYS a phone interview before the invitation (boy could I relate to Clay from Cleveland's complaints about phone interviews!)

Of course I accepted the offer of an actual in-person interview. The position was actually a level higher than what I would have expected for a new grad with very little experience but still that didn't raise my eyebrows. I promptly made my flight arrangements and did the requisite research on the department, university, etc. I worked on my presentation and finally the day came when I flew into the small airport an hour from the small university town somewhere in the Midwest.

Two colleagues from the department picked me up at the airport (I was only expecting one of them) and they seemed overly excited to be taking me to dinner at a local chain restaurant before heading off on the hour drive to the university. Again, it occurred to me that maybe this excitement over a chain restaurant might not be a good sign. But what was I to do by this time? And they were nice enough.

So the cast of characters I encountered began there.

The first, I couldn't decide if he was gay or not, but I quickly realized he seemed the most like me--somewhat alternative and liberal, and if I was offered the job, we'd be friends. The second I was sure was gay (don't ask why, it would be too obvious then who I'm talking about if he ever read this), but married and in denial. Oh well. Still two nice men.

I was dropped off at my hotel, where I barely slept, going over my presentation and notes for the next day most of the evening.

The morning began with committee interview after interview. Then the assistant dean and the dean. Then a tour of the facility by a very fake-smiling yellow-dyed brush-cut with a million earrings.

I continued to be surrounded all day by the following:
  • the immaculate woman in the perfect suit who smiled perfectly at all times

  • the ancient/experienced woman with long gray hair that looked like it hadn't been cut in 20 years

  • the young, sneering, and silent woman dressed in all black who refused to make eye contact with me at all

  • the lumberjack (yes, he was wearing flannel and he was about 6 foot 8, complete with full bushy beard)

  • the disheveled woman in the moon boots (though there was never any snow the entire time I was there)

  • the old man who was retiring (and looked as though as soon as he was out of that interview he would be officially retired--in sprinting position waiting to run out the door)

  • the nondescript others who now have faded into oblivion

The best part of the day, I must say, was my presentation. I was asked for my "powerpoint" to which I replied that I don't use PPT, but do my presentations from the web.


Lots of bored looks, talking, sneering--there were some polite attendees, to be fair. And the final insulting question from the 20 year gray haired woman, to whom I replied the only thing I could "You're right," instead of getting defensive and getting into a battle over my choices for the presentation.

No wait. The best part was actually when they took me to lunch after my presentation. NO ONE SPOKE. I mean they did NOT talk to each other. At all.

I was sure I must have bombed my presentation horribly and they were all aghast at having to even bother continuing to go on with me one more minute. Of course, later on, I asked the man who would have been my best (and only friend), some oblique question that lead him to say "Oh, you did fine. Any of us would have done the same thing."

By then, I knew SOMEthing was wrong. And how would I fit in here? They kept calling me the girl from New York. As if I was from NYC (not). Okay. I was from the BIG CITY apparently.

I did not get the job. Saved by the fact, I think, that I couldn't hide that I'd take the job and run as soon as I had enough experience to go someplace else. But the story of all those different characters is fun to tell, and I was flattered to be asked for an interview for a position I really wasn't ready for at the time.

I'm sure they were all nice people. Really. But then why have I seen 3 ads for positions there, since I interviewed? For the same position I interviewed for, besides.

If I Have to Train Myself and My Students On How to Deal with an Earthquake, an 'Active' Shooter, and Letter Bombs, I Won't Be Able To Teach Biology!

A reader from Southern Illinois University sent us this note and the accompanying Emergency Response Guide. The faculty member writes: "I have received no emergency preparedness training. I do not know CPR or the Heimlich maneuver and I do not have a cell phone. I do not acknowledge the right of the administration to place any item on my syllabus and I do not appreciate their attempt to shift their legal liability on to me with this cover their ass policy."


Dear Faculty,

As you prepare for the start of classes next week, I want to remind you that according to University policy you must discuss emergency preparedness issues with each of your classes. To make this easier, I have pasted the emergency procedure clause that must be included in its entirety in your syllabus. In addition, I have attached a pdf of the Emergency Response Guide. Please present the first page of this guide as a slide on the first day of class. Thank you for your cooperation in this important matter.

We are committed to providing a safe and healthy environment for study and work. Because some health and safety circumstances are beyond our control, we ask that you become familiar with the SIUC Emergency Response Plan and Building Emergency Response Team (BERT) program. Emergency response information is available on posters in buildings on campus, available on BERT's website at, Department of Safety's website (disaster drop down) and in Emergency Response Guideline pamphlet.

Know how to respond to each type of emergency. Instructors will provide guidance and direction to students in the classroom in the event of an emergency affecting your location. It is important that you follow these instructions and stay with your instructor during an evacuation or sheltering emergency. The Building Emergency Response Team will provide assistance to your instructor in evacuating the building or sheltering within the facility.

samples from the guide.

Active Shooter:
  • Go to the nearest room or office.
  • Close and lock the door. If there is not a lock on the door, try to quickly barricade the door or block the door with something.
  • Cover the door windows.
  • Keep quiet, silence cell phones, and act as if no one is in the room.
  • DO NOT answer the door
Suspicious Letter or Package

  • Call 911.
  • DO NOT handle the package.
  • Leave the room and close the door.
  • Wash hands.
  • Identify & isolate all who came in contact.
  • DO NOT go to emergency room.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Final Followup On Principled Paul. Snowballs in Charge.

In the aftermath of the Principled Paul posting, someone wrote, "Paul is living proof that those who can't do, consult." Someone else wrote, "Well, Paul's an asshole and I hope his consulting money chokes him."

First, of all, why the animus against someone who consults? Paul used to be full-time faculty, so he must have the academic chops; that he went on to consult full time for a while has no bearing on his ability to teach well. That he obviously has made a lot of money doing so is likewise irrelevant. Consulting has no a priori relationship to the ability to be an effective university instructor, and faculty who believe that it does are themselves suspect: perhaps not good enough to be hired as consultants themselves. [And no, I've never been a consultant].

Second, Paul was deemed a desirable faculty member to teach whatever the course was--perhaps he was even the best qualified--who knows? That he quit doesn't negate that. It simply seems to say that he was unwilling to allow that kind of aggressive snowflake behavior in his section; he had no problem with the student going into another section and made no move to blackball the student outside of his section.

The issue was forced not by Paul so much as by 1) the snowflake student, who behaved in a grossly inappropriate way, and then had to run to the Administration AND Mommy to get them to make it all better [instead of dropping Paul's section and adding a different one--where, one hopes, he would have been smart enough to leave off with the 'f-bombs']; or by 2) the Administration, which couldn't follow the most basic of academic rules at any institution I've every encountered: students who disrupt a class may be asked to leave and / or drop it. So why didn't the assorted deans and chairs simply tell the student that this sort of behavior isn't acceptable, and he needs to find another section of the course.

Finally, Mommy needs to butt out and stop brokering her kid's life; no wonder he's such a jerk, if she's the one calling the dean to say that she thinks he MIGHT apologize. Snowflake city, and the snowballs are all in charge.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Where a Number of Readers Line Up For and Against The Principled One.

  • Principled Paul has me thinking: I'm going to start hiring a student from the Theater department to come into my classes on the first day and play the part of Prick. I mean, how great would it make the rest of the semester, to have the entire class see you kick someone out on the first day? And have it actually stick--as in the guy never shows up again--rather than having the pussies in the administration taking the jerk kid's side?

  • Oh, yes, the principled ones are always the heroes. Well, Paul's an asshole and I hope his consulting money chokes him. This is not some noble act, Paul. This is petulant and childish. Why not work the situation through with your chair and the Dean? Why not go to the mats about it? You took your ball and went home? Fuck that.

  • Kids do stupid things. I did, I know, and the "prick" surely did. But what has been learned from this? The kid's going to think he got Paul fired. Paul, who may or may not be a good teacher, has just turned his back on everything leaving the mess for someone else. It's ugly and awful, and nobody acquitted themselves very well.

  • This situation made me sick: speechless, stomach-churning, enraged and ultimately powerless. Apparently Paul could afford to quit rather than take that jerk back into his section, and although I'm sorry that he had to do that, I'm glad he did; sometimes principles can trump b.s. administrative fiats. But that leaves the rest of us who can't afford to quit shakier than ever. What happens when we get our 'own' asshole student? I would have done exactly what Paul did--exactly. But when faced with 'take him back or else' I would have had to cave and take him back, however much I would have hated to do so. This frightened me a lot.

  • Principled Paul is my hero. Bravo, sir, bravo. Even if it's not going to do anyone any good, because the system is so broken that they'll find a desperate someone to take their shit and eat it too.

  • Paul is living proof that those who can't do, consult. Never toss a student overboard when the structure of your class can do it for you. Darius from Dogpatch pipes up wise? Good. Go Socratic on his ass. Forever. His life, not yours, is about to become a living hell. Your problem was that you let the little mouthbreather see daylight. Consider how fast this all turned around. He's done this before. Do your job. You're the teacher. Time to teach someone a lesson. Right there. Day one. In the classroom. Darius Dunceboy's going down. He needs to explain - to you, to the class, to the flag on the wall - why he believes that his behavior is acceptable. Make him squirm. Make his neighbors squirm. Make the little birdies parked on the windowsill squirm. Next, it's essay time . . . for everyone. Let's all address this question in 500 words. Call it a teachable moment.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Bertlemass from Boston Gets a First Day Beat Down. Is Now an RYS Believer.

Okay, I give.

I taught my very first college level class today, and I'm here to say that all the hyperbolic venting and shit-throwing on RYS is absolutely true. I prayed it was all just a ruse, just a smokescreen to keep the weak ass shits out of academe.

But it's not, at least not based on my first day.

I'm not a college romantic. I don't have the Dead Poets Society kinda vibe in me. I wasn't looking for applause or respect or love on that first day.

But, tell me, am I wrong, am I completely crazy, or are all of the freshman students complete fucking retards?

My mama didn't raise me this way; I shouldn't use that word. But nothing else fits? Brain-damaged? Is that it? Have they all been locked in a room that's been freshly painted?

These are things I was asked today in class:

  • Are you a Mr. or Mrs.?

  • What days do we get off for "spring" break?

  • Do we have to take all of the mandatory tests?

  • The syllabus says essays have to be typed. Where am I going to find a typewriter?

  • Do you have a website with all of the test answers on it?

  • How do I call you on the phone? Your phone number is ext (dot) 1123. Is that enough numbers?

  • Can you spell your name on the board. The way it's on the syllabus must be a typo. There are too many "vulls."

  • I heard that some classes have class parties on Fridays. Do we do that?

  • If this class just meets Tuesday and Thursday what do I do on the other days?

There were some others, but I've blocked them out. It all went a little black there at the end. My head was spinning after about 30 minutes of class so I just let them all go.

Jesus on a Pony! What am I going to do? Do you know how long I spent getting ready for this day? Half of grad school is over and I know I'm fucked. This can't be what it's like. Am I being Punk'd?

Some Shitty College Has a Job Opening...Like Right Now. Principled Paul Pitches Prick Out of Class.

A frequent reader of these pages sent this timeline along this morning:

I'm a part-timer. I wasn't always. I taught for a while in the early 90s, then fell into educational consulting. That went very well for me and now I consult half time and teach the occasional class at a local university that has always treated me well. Here's what happened yesterday:

8:05 am

While going through the syllabus in class, I told students that it was their responsibility to be there on time, that coming late 3 times equalled an absence, and that 6 absences (university policy) allowed me to drop them. I told them that years ago when I first taught, I used to sit at the classroom door at the top of the hour and pass out red "tardy" cards to those who came late. I told them I didn't do it anymore because really it was the student's responsibility and not mine. I said, "Come to class on time, or just stay in bed. I don't want you interrupting the work of this class."

As I looked down at my syllabus to discuss the next point, a clear voice from the side of the room said, "Fuck that." It wasn't my hearing. The audible gasp and then nervous laughter from a number of students told me I'd heard it correctly. I said, "Pardon me. Who said that? I don't think I heard you clearly." There was silence for a minute and then a young man against the windows on one side of the room said, "Oh, Mr. Professor, I said, 'FORGET that.'" Then more laughter, him most of all.

I looked him over for a second and then said, "I'm sorry I don't know your name yet, but would you please get your stuff and go. This is not going to work out." More silence, and the young man didn't move. "I'm not joking. I don't care what kind of language you use in your own life, but in this classroom, any reasonable person knows that disrespecting me and this class is not going to work."

"I didn't say anything bad," he said, but I was glad to see he was picking his back pack up at the same time. I moved toward him and said, "I'm sorry this didn't work out. But there are a number of other sections of this class and you'll be able to transfer to one of them."

When he got to the door he turned around and looked back at me and said, "Fuck that." And then he was gone.

Class went on pretty normally after that, though the students were awfully quiet. We covered the syllabus, and did a sample writing assignment. I told them I was eager to get going on Thursday when we met again and they filed out. A couple of students came by to ask follow up questions and when they were done I went to a small adjunct lounge near the classroom.

10:12 am

A young lady came into the adjunct lounge where I was reading and said, "Are you Dr. Xxxxxx?" "Yes," I said. "Can I help you?" "Dr. Yyyyyy wants you to come to her office."

Yyyyyy is the department chair. I'd met her a few times during my original hiring a couple of years ago, and her husband let me use his office one semester when he took a sabbatical.

10:20 am

Dr. Yyyyyy, who I call Jane, waved me into her office and said, "Close the door, Dr. Xxxxxx." I sat down and she held up a piece of paper. "I have a student complaint. First day, and already a complaint. Do you know a student named Zzzzzzzz Aaaaaaaa?" "I know his name's on my roster, but I couldn't tell you for sure which one he is yet." "Well," she said, "he tells me you kicked him out of class without provocation this morning."

"Oh, I know who he is. He said 'fuck that' in my class, twice actually. I'm not teaching him. Let him register in someone else's class."

Dr. Yyyyyy then asked me to tell her what happened, and I did. I wasn't mad; I wasn't hysterical. It was matter of fact to me. I'm not about to let that level of disrespect go.

"You have to take him back. It'd be best if you took him back."

"I won't do it."

We were at an impasse. "I have to get into this with the Dean," she said. "Where are you going to be?"

I told her I had class at 11 and then I was headed home.

2:00 pm

At home, after an uneventful second class, a phone call came in from Disaster Dean, the dean who gets the shit jobs. "We have a problem," Disaster Dean said. "There's a student complaining about being kicked out of class and Dr. Yyyyyy tells me you won't take him back." I told Disaster Dean the story again and there was a pause.

"You won't do it?" he asked.

"No, that young man is not going to be in my class. I don't want to be subjected to it, and the other 29 students shouldn't have to put up with it either."

3:15 pm

"Hi," a voice said. "I'm Uri the Union guy and we better get our ducks in a row."

"Huh," I said.

Uri went on to tell me that some other adjuncts who'd heard the story called him and got him on "the case." "We're trying to save your job," he said. "We're trying to keep you in the classroom."

I learned that Dr. Yyyyyy had already turned in "termination papers" to the human resources office, labelling me "insubordinate." I had "refused" a teaching assignment she had given me.

"Uri," I said. "If I have to fight to keep a job like that, it's not worth fighting for."

6:20 pm

Disaster Dean called. "This can be saved," he said.

8:10 pm

Dr. Yyyyyy called. "If I got the student to apologize, would you teach the class?"

"I thought I'd already been terminated," I said.

"Things can change," she said. "I've spoken to the young man's mother and she thinks he'll apologize."

"She THINKS he might apologize? Do you THINK we'd be so lucky."


9:30 pm

I called Dr. Yyyyyy. "Well?"

"He apologized," she said. "He'll be on his best behavior Thursday morning."

"What class will he be in?" I said.

"Uh...yours, of course. 8 am!"

"Get someone else," I said.

Ten Polite Instructions For Search Committees, Courtesy of Courteous Clay From Cleveland.

Listen up to all the yabos who are getting drafted to work on search committees this year.

I know you've got a full plate and all that, but shitfire would you please follow the following "human decency" rules.
  1. I already know you can't follow this one, but it doesn't hurt to bring it up. IF YOU HAVE AN INTERNAL CANDIDATE YOU'RE ALREADY GOING TO HIRE, LEAVE THE REST OF US THE FUCK ALONE! Sure, your human resources goober says you must, the Dean requires, etc. But it's A-1 Bad Faith! Or if you're leaning toward an internal candidate, play fair with our applications at least.

  2. Write a real fucking ad with real information. Don't be coy. Don't be subtle. Ask what you're looking for. Tell us what the job ACTUALLY entails. Don't beat around the bush. You get so many lousy applications because you write such vague and (often) misleading ads.

  3. Be reasonable with expectations. Don't ask for someone who's a specialist in synchronized diving, but who also can fly a rocketship and make party dresses out of burlap and twine. I know you have these NEEDS, but put yourself in the place of an applicant and ask, "Could I do all of that shit? Would I?"

  4. Don't ask us for teaching evaluations, letters, teaching philosophy, sample syllabi, and writing samples right at the start. Are you kidding me? You're not going to read all of them. Everyone knows it. Use your fucking PhD degrees to read letters and CVs in the first round, cut out the 79.5% of the people who applied to the wrong job, and THEN ask for ancillary materials. Not only are you killing trees for no reason, you're also digging your fat fingers into my pocketbook, and I - no - likey!

  5. I don't give a shit HOW many applications you get. ARRANGE FOR SOME OFFICE HELP TO REPLY TO EVERYTHING. Don't be a bunch of rude fucking goons either with a form letter that says, "Due to the overwhelming interest in our 4/4 slave wages live in Buttfuck Kansas job, we will only contact you if you are shitlisted, er, I mean shortlisted." That's bullshit. You likely want us to treat you professionally, so how about some of the same treatment!

  6. In your first letter to applicants, TELL US THE TIMETABLE. Are you interviewing on campus in December, or at a convention, or on the phone? How many people do you shortlist? When does it happen? When will I hear? Who will contact me?

  7. In the second round, when you ask for ancillary materials, don't pose your request like it's a FUCKING RIDDLE. When you say, "send evidence of successful teaching," do you want a video of me sending my class up in hysterics with my Perez Hilton routine? Do you want something from my boss? You want teaching evaluations from students? You want a self-evaluation? You want to know about my teaching awards? Can I just send you my RapeMyProfessor page, the one where 46% of the posts are either from me or my pal Big Eddie?

  8. Phone interview with 9 committee members? Spring for the really good Radio Shack speakerphone, okay? That's the first thing. Also, when it's your turn to ask the question, AIM YOUR PIEHOLE AT THE FUCKING DEVICE. If you normally can't be heard in a church, there's no way I'm going to hear you at my shitty apartment.

  9. If we get to come to campus as one of 2-3 candidates, TREAT ME THE SAME AS THE OTHERS. I don't care if I'm your FAVORITE or not. We all deserve the same shot. Don't fob me off on a junior faculty member because you've already made your mind up on some other guy. That's not fair. Show me respect. Treat me like I were a colleague, because that's what I might be one day.

  10. DON'T TREAT ME LIKE I'M AN ENEMY TO YOUR HAPPINESS. I don't care if you were FORCED to be on the search committee. It's your duty this semester and do it well. Pretend like it fucking matters. Because, baby, it does.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Candace from Canton Lowers the Boom on Aruba-Bound Amanda. Yet Another Vacation Tragedy.

Dear Amanda,

Thank you sooooo much for e-mailing me several times over the summer. I am very glad that you took the time to read my "Auto Reply" that indicates that I won't be responding to fall semester e-mails until late August. Did you know that I don't get paid in the summer and therefore don't get paid to answer your e-mail until my paycheck starts up again? Silly me, for thinking that you would read the message (since you got one for each of your seven poorly spelled, all caps e-mails).

I know that your Previous Proffie was very understanding of your special circumstances, how kind of you to note that in your e-mails. However, I expect my students to show up to class, on time - particularly for the first week of class. I know how much you want to be in my've bought the books, you want me to send you notes and handouts, you're "ready and excited to learn" in my class. What I cannot understand is why you would think it's OK to miss the entire first week of a 5 unit class. I know you think that since you've e-mailed me many times explaining how you are special and bought your plane tickets to Aruba a year ago, but you see I have 80 other special individuals (plus waitlisted students and crashers) who will be in class on the first day with their books, picking up their handouts and actually taking their own notes during the first week that you "will miss but hope it doesn't impact your grade."

Well. my dear wonderful would-be student, it won't impact your grade. You see, you'll be dropped from my roster on the first day of class because you aren't there. I'm so sorry. I know that your life will be turned upside down because I don't understand how special you are. I know your Previous Proffie really went out of his way to not only let you miss class for a vacation last fall, but also provided you with his Powerpoint files and let you "make up the missed time" in his office hours. However, I don't use Powerpoint and use my office hours as a way to clarify and augment my lectures, not repeat them for absentee students. Clearly I am not as student-oriented as Previous Proffie because I don't realize how special you are and what an ASSet you'll be for my class this fall. I know, it's a shortcoming that I must work on within myself.

I sincerely wish you well in your future academic endeavors. Should you want to enroll in my spring class, please do so and plan on showing up on Day 1 and Every Day of class after that.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

"Dear Previous Proffie..."

I know you had my students in your class. I know you passed them when they did not deserve it, much like a second grade teacher will pass little Billy even though he can't read because they don't want him setting fires in the garbage can in the classroom anymore.

How do I know? I am so glad you asked! I know only five students in my class can read simple directions and only three of them can form a coherent sentence. Since this is not the obligatory "first" course every student has to take at this fine institution I know that this should not be happening. You failed your job as the gatekeeper. You are supposed to keep these retards out. (Gasp, did you just say what I think you just said?) I have said it before and I will say it again. Not everyone belongs in college. My current class is a prime example of this.

Being what I like to consider a reasonably intelligent adult I can tell the difference between lazy, ignorant, and just plain stupid. The ignorant I can deal with, they just don't know any better - yet. It is the lazy and the stupid I have little time for, as they either cannot or will not learn what I have to teach them. At first I thought that with a little guidance and patience my student's would improve. However with just three passing papers for the first written assignment (on a curve) I am coming to the realization that this just will not happen. When my little darlings randomly put words together in the middle of their paper and expect me to decipher the meaning it becomes glaringly clear that you, my dear previous professor, have put me in this position.

You coddled them, didn't correct their writing ability, and clearly did not enforce plagiarism rules. They believe they are prime examples of stellar academic abilities. Now it is my job to crush their dreams. Thank you, I hope you enjoyed your good performance reviews at the expense of these student's education; because I know my reviews will be going right in the crapper since I am forced to teach them what you did not - accountability!

PS: I am going to find where you live and beat you with their rolled up papers.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Our Favorite Rhetorical Question of the Week. Olive from Olympia Loses the Office Shuffle.

I think they are trying to tell me something, in a passive-aggressive way.

Due to 'renovations' we had to play office shuffle, and though I have no memory of straws, I obviously lost.

The new office is perched on the third floor, conveniently snuggled between the men's room and the ladies, with the water bubbler attached to the outside wall next to the door. There are no windows to distract me, and it is dark and cool and cave-like.

The consistently echoing sound of synchronized flushing successfully creates the illusion that I am huddled under a waterfall....there is even an occasional whiff of 'mountain fresh' disinfectant.

How lucky am I?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Sundeen from Sudbury And Her Specialest of Snowflakes.

Can we talk about my snowflake? A really big important snowflake?
This snowflake thinks I should allow her to take her exams whenever it's convenient for her. For instance, she wants to take her final exam the following week so she doesn't have to take final exams two days in a row. After all, she needs a breather.

Oh, and she'd like to take the midterm after class instead, because it's really hard to get up early in the morning, and she has a long day. Another problem she has is that my course conflicts with another course she's taking, so she's going to miss some of the lectures so she can be in her other class. She actually had the cojones to ask me if my class was hard, because the other class she's taking is very hard so she really doesn't want to take two hard classes! Like I'm really going to say, oh no, my class is really easy, you don't have to work at ALL.

And of course the fact that it says on the syllabus that exam material will come from the text and the lecture isn't enough. I have to tell her that live, in person, face to face when she stops by my office OUTSIDE of my assigned office hours time (and I, admittedly stupidly, opened the door - guess I got what was coming to me, huh.) So after we do all this, she wants to know the exam format, like what kinds of questions are going to be on the exam. Um, questions about the MATERIAL? Yeah, things covered in your textbook and in lecture. The kind where I ask a question and you write down some stuff about what you know, that kind of question.

Oh, oh, and this was priceless: she asked me if it was going to be like a college exam! She did, I swear she did! I looked at her and I know it was all over my face, I couldn't help it, but I asked, "As opposed to what???" What other type of exam would you get in a college course? She said, "Well, I'm just looking for some direction as to what to study, because (okay, wait for it - here it comes) I'm not very good at remembering things."

All I could think was, Oh sweetie, what are you doing here?

The Continuing Adventures of Pedro the Proctor!

A new installment from an old friend:

It’s the end of spring term and time for everyone's favorite ritual: the sitting of the final exam in the cavernous athletics complex. This is a third year course so I make the na├»ve assumption that everyone is familiar with the drill...

As the students are settling into their seats, we wander around the room ensuring that no lingering iPod ear buds are still streaming music into student's heads and that cell phones are turned silent and stowed in backpacks. One young lad has his cell phone on his desk so I kindly ask him to put it in his bag. "I don't have a watch so this is how I keep track of time" referring to the LCD clock on the outside of the phone. On the wall ahead of him is a gigantic athletics complex clock, must be two feet in diameter. I point to the clock, "There's a clock on the wall." "Too much reflection from the lights; I can't see it. I'll put away the phone if you'll come by every 15 minutes and tell me the time." My suspicion is that Millennial-Boy doesn't actually know how to tell time with an analog device or he missed the whole Big- Hand/Little-Hand class in Kindergarten. Time to move onto the next snowflake two rows over...

"I don't have my university ID card with me." "No problem, do you have some other picture ID, like a driver's license?" "No. The only thing I have is a VISA receipt that has my name at the bottom." For three years you have been showing up at midterm and final exams. For three years proctors have been asking for your ID. Do you not carry a wallet? Worst case scenario if you drown in the creek that runs through campus then I guess the police could ID you from the VISA receipt...

We told the class in advance that we'd be using Scantron bubble cards, yet we still have people showing up without pencils. Luckily we have a few golf score-card pencils to pass out. I'm sure the next request is going to be for erasers since the pencils have none.

The exam finally starts and I wander around with the other proctors. One girl has five rolls of Rocket candies and a huge bag of pretzels to carry her through the 2 1/2 hour exam. Two seats up Bladder Buddy has a large coffee, a 1.5 liter bottle of water, five granola bars and a box of Smarties candies. 1500 ml of water / 150 minutes of exam time, that's just under 1/2 and oz. per minute. Maybe this guy is a star at "Century Club" - the old beer drinking game of 100 oz of beer in 100 minutes. Between the candy, food, and water if the athletics complex collapses today, no one will perish before the authorities dig us out. He also has 5 sharpened pencils, a pencil sharpener, two mechanical pencils PLUS a package of 5 disposable mechanical pencils that he has just opened on his desk. If we run out of golf card pencils, Buddy can spot us a few from his personal stock.

A hand goes up in the back, I wander over. "I'd like to get a drink." "So would I," I think to myself momentarily, before I get back to the needy student at hand. This being the athletics complex, our exam writing space is blessed with not one but two cooler-style water fountains. "There is a water fountain at the front of the room." "No, I need something from a vending machine." "But we have water right here in the room." "I didn't eat today and I've got really low blood sugar. Everything is fuzzy; it’s hard to concentrate. I'm sure I saw a vending machine on the way in." Escort the student through the doors at the front of the room. Nope, no vending machines. Wander out the other exit doors at the other end of the room. Again no vending machines. After all that the student sits down to resume her exam without any added nutrients. I'm guessing the low blood sugar has induced vending machine hallucinations. A more benevolent prof would have nicked some Rocket candies for this young lady.

45 minutes into the exam, Bladder Buddy's hand goes up. The double whammy of the coffee's diuretic effects and the shear volume of bottled water are taking their toll. He gets an escorted trip to the loo. Almost exactly 45 minutes later, hand goes up again. Another trip to the water closet. It’s been the other proctors dealing with him thus far. His body is near saturation - after 30 minutes now his hand goes up. "I need to go pee," comes his plea. "You've already been TWICE! It’s your own fault for drinking this much water." I say as I point to the half-way mark on the big ol' water bottle. "But I really have to go." I tell him there is only 1/2 an hour left, cross your legs and hope for the best. As I walk away, I think to myself "Learn to control your urethral sphincter Grasshopper; these lessons will serve you well later in life when the ol' prostate starts to go." No one faints, explodes, ends up with permanent eye strain from squinting at a badly lit clock or is found face down in a creek clutching a VISA receipt so I figure it was a good exam in the end.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Three Quickies On Buses. Including the Story of Speedbump Sally.

  • Our colleague with the shuttle bus problem got me thinking about my first shuttle bus experience from last year. Our college was in a financial crisis and the parking prices went through the roof. Many of us younger faculty took advantage of the very inexpensive "shuttle pass." The first day we parked in the remote lot we were horrified when a dingy "Ramada Hotel" bus arrived for us. It was in terrible shape, though the driver in those first weeks was a decent fellow. The bus remained emblazoned with the Ramada Hotel signage for a few weeks, but then one day in October the bus arrived with a new sign and driver. Ramada had been crudely painted over with some kind of white primer, and the words "CAMPUS SUTTLE" had been stenciled in with flat black paint. Worse than that, our driver was a young woman who clearly thought that time was of the essence. She raced that bus in and around campus in unchecked glee, swiping curbs, forcing pedestrians back onto sidewalks, and hurling us all over the campus speedbumps like she was trying to jump a line of barrels. It got the heart going, I must say. But by November we'd all stopped the experiment. One of us with a minivan started shuttling us in herself, and we never had to ride with Speedbump Sally again.

  • Beat admin at their own game. If it was me, I would register for a class, get whatever f'ing parking pass students have and then flaunt it all semester. Drop the class at the last possible minute and keep the preferred parking. I did exactly that a few years ago.

  • This is a college that is about to find out what it's like not to have a single adjunct sign up to teach. As it is, I skid into the parking place(for faculty, of course), and take the stairs two at a time to get to class comfortably 5-10 minutes (o luxury) before the hordes. No way in hell would any of the other adjuncts I know put up with that ridiculously named"Students First" policy--most ESPECIALLY if the board has their own parking places. WTF!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

What's the Problem? Those Shuttle Buses Always Smell So Good, And There's No Smoother Ride. Those Drivers, Too. Their Training Is Extensive.

This fall I am being "asked" to park off campus as part of a "Students First" campaign. The school is building a new parking structure, which will remove 10-15% of the parking slots for fall AND spring. The students will be allowed to park on campus. The faculty must drive an additional 15-20 minutes to an off-site parking area and be SHUTTLED INTO campus like prisoners. Or, we can take public transit - with no allowances for the cost or time either mode will take us.

If you opt to take the shuttle, you will add approximately 45 minutes to your commute either way (for driving, parking, waiting for the shuttle and shuttle ride). I live 5 miles from campus, the only way to get to class using our inefficient public transit is going to add over an hour each way to my commute. I could bike, if I wanted to brave freeways, but I actually don't feel safe on the freeway with a bike.

We are expected to just take this on the chin, with no compensation for time, frustration, gas cost, etc. Mind you, the board still parks on site. And, if we are late for our classes due to shuttle issues we are supposed to find a way to "make it work" by adding extra assignments to the class or expanding our office hours.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Modern College (cont.) - "Mistakes Have Been Made."

I can't say I'm on board with everything the "Modern College" proffie wrote yesterday - you're against lockable offices and are unhappy to have a new building? - but I do share his nostalgia about what I thought "college" was going to be like.

I grew up in a small town about 100 miles from the nearest college. My pop occasionally took us there so he could use the library - he was an amateur (and sometimes very explosive) inventor. As a boy, I'd walk that campus and marvel at the place, all greenswards and Roman columns. The students looked like young happy adults, laughing and studious all at the same time. The professors eased out of buildings in the cliched uniforms of the day.

And by the time I was in the 10th grade I knew I'd be a professor some day. My romantic notions for the profession were high, and as with many things, they soon faded.

What my life is like now, of course, is nothing like what I'd imagined. It's meetings and fights over textbooks, and so little about the actual opportunity to teach and help students find their ways. I go weeks sometimes where I might as well be a coal miner, just trudging along, doing the dirtiest work I can imagine, keeping my head down, and longing for 2 pm on Friday when I can get in my car and go home.

It's been 15 years of this now, and I've long since forgotten the bucolic and pleasant campus of my youth. I teach at a giant state university which rises out of metal and concrete and does indeed look more like a shopping center than anything else.

It's a job I have to pay the bills. It's something that I got instead of what I thought was the life of a professor, and now I feel I've done it for too long to get out. And I look at my younger colleagues and their romantic notions get dashed as well, usually in that first semester as a visiting assistant professor. They come in happy and leave disgusted.

If this is what the modern college is like elsewhere, then mistakes have been made somewhere.

It's Our Experience that When Someone Thinks Someone ELSE is a "Wingnut," Well, We're Just Saying. Modern College (cont.)

What do your readers smoke? Really. And can I get some?

The wingnut from yesterday made me smile. Of course he's right, the modern college does not resemble at all the institution I thought I'd be joining all those years ago when I was in grad school.

But have you looked outside lately? I'm glad to have keys and locks and terror training. I wish they let me carry pepper spray to class, and I wish I could teach my cretins from behind a glass partition, just like some Cleveland Motel 6 night manager. (Don't judge. I did that when I was a lowly serf.)

Oh, and your sweet Georgian building, with the rats and the asbestos, please. You should be so lucky that you have a college that has replaced that ugly pile of rubbish with something new, something with more electrical outlets and fewer toxic chemicals.

I guess his fear is that the world has changed. Yes, Lindsay Lohan used to be a cute little freckled-face girl whose biggest concern was that kid at camp who looked JUST LIKE HER. Now, though, we're all grown up. (Oooh, and I like that little boy she's dating now, Sammy Ronson...he's a sweetheart.)

Anyway, tell modern college wingnut to put his feet up and show Dead Poet's Society on a nice flat screen in that new building his college gave him ... and to shut up.

Make way for the new world.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Modern College.

Gave up my fingerprints this morning at my bullshit college. Some rough woman with a 50s beehive twisted my hand so hard I thought I might be going to the pokey.

Last year had to sign a document that said I would defend the constitution of the US against enemies.

I have 3 keys and one key card to access my building.

What gives?

I took training sessions last year for: "How to handle toxic materials," "How to recognize sexual harassment," and "How to recognize and report possible terror activities."

Oh, and a year ago they tore down a beautiful Georgian building where my office used to be, and built a shopping mall replica in its place.

Did any of you think college was going to be like this?

Friday, August 8, 2008

The Latest Entry Into the "Why Do You Post Students On This Site?" And The Answer Is, "Because They Taste So Good."

My friend showed me this blog and I think it's really funny. Here is a snowflake teacher story. Almost all of my professors have been great, this one guy is the only one I ever didn't like. I just needed somewhere to rant, because I'm about to start another semester with a class and a lab he teaches. Since ya'll are on the subject of "snowflakes", I would just like to point out that there are actually snowflake teachers. I don't care if ya'll rip me to shreds over this, just read the damn story and then think about what you would do to this guy is he was a student in your class.

I am in a very specific engineering major. We have a small department and this guy (let's call him Dr. Z) teaches a couple of classes in it, so there is no way getting around him. I could rant on about him for about 3 pages, (including the time the department head asked the students not to mention Dr. Z to the accreditation committee), but instead I'll concentrate on one story that occurred at the end of the last semester.

My grandfather passed away the week before finals last spring. (Yes, he really did die; I'll send you the fucking obituary if you don't believe me.) I missed the last class test and lab final for Dr. Z's class for his funeral (Monday...The last class test and lab final were on the same day). I promptly made up the class test after the next class period (on Wednesday). I asked Dr. Z when he would like me to make up the lab final, and we agreed to meet at 2pm the next day (Thursday). When I went to his office at 2pm, he told me he was busy and to come back same time tomorrow (Friday). I did, again he told me he was busy, and to show up in his office at 10 am Monday. When I showed up at 10am Monday, and waited around for an hour or so, he never showed up. That afternoon he told me that he forgot, and again said he would contact me about another make-up time. By this time its finals week, and I'm supposed to start an internship in another state the following week. He never contacted me, despite several emails and notes taped to his door (he got rid of his office phone, don't ask).

On Thursday afternoon, he tells me that I have not yet made up my lab test and demanded to know why. I really wanted to stab him with my pencil, but I refrained. He told me to show up at 10 am Friday. I explained to him that I had been trying to take this test for over a week, and that I was MOVING TO ANOTHER STATE on Friday. He basically said, too bad, and that I'd get an F. So I asked if I could possibly take it earlier, around 8, so I could leave in time to move several hundred miles away? He said no, that I had to take it at 10am or later. So I show up at 10am, wait around for an hour, he doesn't show up, and I start to panic. I have to leave to start the internship, and I didn't want to get an F in the class. He shows up at 11:30, an hour and a half late, just as I was about to email the department head and try to explain the situation. I take the test, leave, and get an A in the lab.

He treats all of his students and colleagues like this (all of our other teachers hate him...quite publicly...). And I still have 2 more classes and a lab with him. Oh and as a last want to bitch about students being late for class? Us students started playing this game where we totaled up the amount of time Dr. Z was late to class, and converted it into equivalent class periods. Because he routinely shows up 15 to 20 minutes late for class, last spring semester we calculated that he missed the equivalent of 5 class periods in lateness-time.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Where We Continue Our Study of the Species.

Smarty Snowflake - These 4.0 pre-med/pre-law student are anxious rather than pushy. They are mostly polite young people who have been driven to uncivil behavior by competition for spots in the professional program of their choice and by their parents'--and their own--high standards. An A- will cause a full-scale panic attack. Equipment advisory: soothing music, herbal tea, empathy, zen-like ability to wait it out.

Sweaty Snowflake - Athlete Snowflakes are similar to Smarty Snows, but at a lower academic level. Sweaty needs to get a C, sometimes a D, in your course to maintain team eligibility or a scholarship. The Sweaty Needs-an-A subspecies must get an A in your course to compensate for Fs in other courses. Desperation can make them whiny, but nowhere near the level their coaches can achieve. Equipment advisory: crystal-clear syllabus, email reminders, steely gaze or frosty email tone, documentation.

Precious Snowflake - Mommy's and Daddy's Child Who Could Do No Wrong grew up and went to college. Precious is special, with easily hurt feelings, intellectual potential that can be unlocked only by the most telepathic teacher, and a heaping helping of attitude. Often has natural dramatic talent. Precious is attended by a helicopter parent whose role in life is to defend Precious against the melting powers of the cruel world. Be prepared for frowns, smiles, rolled eyes, sighs, and flouncing out of rooms when things are going well--and an email from your dean when they are not. Equipment advisory: Ability to keep a straight face, direct gaze, time, steady nerves, elephant skin.

Super-dense Iceflake - Throughout the semester, this negotiator will pester you with long, detailed arguments about quiz questions that are worth one-half of 1% of the course grade. Telling them directly that they need to choose their battles will result in a blank stare and a re-set of the quiz argument to its starting point. Equipment advisory: Slow, steady explanation of basic math and social skills. Repeat. Repeat.

Emotional Snowflake - Emo has issues that are small and special, like exquisite jewels, and are very, very deeply felt. Emo wants to meet with you, but it's never a good time. If pressed, Emo will write you a long single-spaced letter or an email full of run-on sentences detailing the struggles. This student may shape up after this ritual, but may stay home and submit a paper written for a different course. A few will become your new grateful shadows. Equipment advisory: Tissues, patience, half-listening skills, boundaries.

The High Cost of One Student's Complaints. One Proffie's Experience.

I, like most people posting on RYS, love teaching. Of course, I simply mean the act of teaching. I do not really care for the administrative nonsense or dealing with troublesome students, but usually my good students help ease the pain. I've been working at a community college for several years teaching developmental mathematics (this is the basic math that is essentially junior-high and high-school level), and I've always emphasized personal responsibility in my classes. Each semester on the first day of class, I would end the period with a "warning" of sorts: I would tell them that their grade in my class is all dependent on the effort that they put into studying, reviewing, doing assignments on time, and the usual list of student responsibilities. Now, as an adjunct I was subjected to class reviews, which was a simple and relatively standard process where an administrative individual would visit the class and make observations of my lecture style, student interaction, and so on. For my first couple of reviews, there were little issues that I needed to work on (such as talking too fast), but after a couple of these little tweaks, my reviews were spotless (naturally, I took their remarks constructively and worked on my faults diligently). Now, despite the fact that my reviews were consistently good at this point, the occasional student would still venture down to the math department to make some gripe about the way I dress, the way I talk, the number of questions on my tests, or the amount of time in a class period. Usually the administration would simply brush most of the comments off, since they were obviously spawned from the frustrated student's minds. When I asked what I could do to help the students stop stressing out or complaining, I was usually given some little useless "teacher trick" which I naturally tried to implement in my classes (to no avail). Of course, since the administration was so calm and carefree about the students remarks and complaints, I simply tried their advice and left it at that. As a final side-note for background information, all of the professors are required to turn in their grades to the department for statistics and such.

Fast-forward to the summer semester, 2008. This semester was a rough one, as I had very small classes composed almost entirely of disgruntled students. I did my best throughout the semester. I always kept a very friendly attitude around the students, I always did my very best to address their concerns and I always treated them with respect regardless of how they treated me. After finally reaching the end of the semester and submitting my grades the the almighty department, I began preparations for the next semester (I had already been assigned two classes for the fall). It was at this point that I got the email...

The man in charge of the developmental math classes (and my direct supervisor: the one who had given me all of the classroom evaluations) sent me an email requesting that I meet with him to discuss the summer's classes. I had similar meetings with him in the past, and it was usually a simple, 15-minute meeting where we just talked about ways to make the discipline better. I walked into his office that morning completely unaware what was waiting for me. He sat me down, and began his rant.

He told me how students were complaining about me in almost every thinkable way (and saying "students" is misleading, since it was mainly one student that he had told me previously to simply ignore when he was making negative comments). He told me that one student was coming to the office frequently saying that I would skip class, come to class late, and leave early on a daily basis. These were, of course, lies. Not only did I never skip class, show up late, or leave early, but I would frequently give extra sessions of assistance with many of my students in one of the computer lab (off the clock, doing this on my own time simply out of care for the students). I told the administrative prat that I would never be so negligent in my duties, and that the student was simply frustrated. I reminded him that this was the student who I was told to basically ignore...and Mr. administration pointedly ignored that little fact. He went on to tell me that this was a serious concern...and he then told me that my passing rates were too low for his tastes. Again, I reminded him that his evaluations of my techniques and procedures in class were all exemplary, and again, he ignored me. He continued on, saying that there were many adjuncts who were applying to teach the same classes that I was teaching, and they had specifically requested the times which I had been given. He continued to say that he would be speaking with the dean of our department about my performance, and he would get back to me.

I have yet to hear back from him, but he has already had my classes removed and I have been fired from my position...I was given no warning, and I thought that everything was perfectly fine before that day. I was taught an important lesson, and that is the fact that students now run the colleges. If we had any doubts before, we can be sure now. They run the college because they are paying the college for their degree, and as paying customers the college cannot afford to have any of them fail. After all, if a student fails they probably won't come back and pay for another semester. I had foolishly thought that colleges still had a long way to go before we reached this point. This is a very sad time for me...I loved teaching, and I loved trying to improve upon the deteriorating education system. I loved the academic environment, with brilliant professors from every field all around me. I've had that taken away from me. I had thought that I would spend the rest of my life happily teaching college classes...but that's no longer an option. The time has come where student and administrative corruption is so great that we cannot act as effective communicators and professors while still maintaining some sense of academic integrity.

I've had to give up a dream today...and all because a student complained.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

My Student. My Celebrity.

I don't want to stir up any more trouble for you with the "Julia Allison" crowd, but your piece last week really got me thinking. (My hubby is a geeky Wired reader, too, and after your post I read the offending article.)

But you're exactly right. Julia Allison is exactly like my undergrads. It's depressing that JA is 27 and STILL like this, but my own students have been coming to me for the last few years as their own mini-celebrities, well "known" in their small town, celebrated with humongous photo galleries on Flickr and Facebook and MySpace, and their attitude is that the world is truly waiting to see and hear what's next for them.

Imagine if you had Miley Cyrus in class this semester? She'd have her retinue, her busy schedule, countless appointments and events that took her away from attending class, and she'd probably expect you to cut her some slack. Now imagine 20 of her, and then multiply that by every class you teach.

I don't have an answer for this, but I think it's a widespread problem at most college campuses. Is it merely generational, this "everybody gets a trophy" mentality that I've read about on this blog and elsewhere?

My students treat me and their college life as if it were a little party thrown in their honor. They drift in and out of class, in and out of my office as if they were doing me some gigantic favor. Their social schedules take priority, hell, their need to update their Facebook page in class takes priority over taking notes.

And when I call them on it, it's as if I'm a well-meaning but out of touch oldster who doesn't understand. "But my friends are waiting for me. I HAVE to go now."

Attack of the Profess-Oppressors!

In a fit of frustration at the resistance she was getting in her required-for-majors class, one of my colleagues once said of her undergraduates, "They just don't trust me."

I think this is a problem lots of professors experience in college classrooms. Many [not all] college students do not trust their professors. They do not trust the professors to have their best interests at heart. They do not trust their professors' expertise as both scholars and educators. They do not trust that when the professors explain expectations that they really mean them. I think part of this stems from students mis-attributing portrayals of fictional college experience (usually from film & TV) as well as their inability to grasp the difference between the education and agenda of their High School instructors and that of their much-more educated University instructors (who are often also scholars). Along with this ignorance, factor the self-esteem, snowflake blizzard of specialness (such as that leading to some secondary schools discontinuing Honor Roll so the poorly performing students don't feel bad and even grade inflation) into this mess and we have a whole generation of kids with some warped ideas of what college education is supposed to entail.

Thus, we have the fiction crafted by irrational(?) students of what I am now going to forever call:


You see, undergraduates feel oppressed when professors do any of the following:

  • Expect students to be punctual

  • Expect students to attend class regularly

  • Expect students to meet deadlines

  • Expect students to respect the professors, the class, and fellow classmates

  • Expect students to turn off their cell phone and refrain from texting during class

  • Expect students to use laptops in class for note-taking (not IM, web-surfing, or solitaire)

  • Expect students to format papers properly (like double-spacing & using proper margins)

  • Expect students to use proper punctuation, grammar, and capitalization

  • Expect students to complete assignments (full-stop)

  • Expect students to pay attention

  • Expect students to take their own notes

  • Expect students to participate in class

  • Expect students to buy the textbook (and other supplies)

  • Expect students to read the textbook & other assigned readings

  • Expect students to read the syllabus

  • Expect students to familiarize themselves with the policies in the syllabus

  • Expect students to learn the lessons taught in the course

  • Expect students to earn at least mediocre grades (C) on all assessments

  • Expect students to ask questions to clarify expectations

  • Expect students to demonstrate a modicum of intellectual curiosity [on anything!]

All of these things [and a litany more I am sure I missed] are now considered emblematic of professorial tyranny against the undergraduate! Such Draconian policies as expecting regular attendance are tantamount to heresy on some campuses. And some apparently believe that the expectation for a student to buy a book for a college course exemplifies class oppression!

Good heavens! Class oppression!

Maniacal professors actually expect adults to read for class?!?!?!? They must be stopped at all costs.

With 40-60% of the faculty teaching undergraduate courses on American campuses being listed as "part-time," "adjunct," or "contingent" with little job security, poor pay, and no benefits (including such perks as office space, copying facilities, or basic human respect from office staff), I think that job's getting done right quick.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

It's Just About Time for the Yearly Riot Act for Freshmen, and Ivan from Indiana Leads Us Off.

A piece of advice to all the first year students I have or will have: To hell with your parents' expectations.

Mommy and Daddy have spent the past 18 years of your life hovering over you, awarding you 9th place ribbons. Your parental overcompensation has come in heaps and droves. Consequently I see students who, after getting their first B back on a paper, clutch their chest in agitation; some even break down. One student told me just last week that "I know I seem calm right now, but I'm actually very troubled that I got a B+ on this test." Another one asked, in response to an A on a paper, "What could I have done to have made this a perfect, A+ paper?" I wanted to answer that he could have kissed my ass.

They don't give a shit what they've learned - it's all about the letter stamped on the end. I marvel at what kind of rubber-stampers these students had in the past, particularly the first-year student in my composition course who told me, quite seriously, that "our high school teachers used to do all this for us."

High school doesn't live here anymore, Laguna Beachers, and you're all high off your ass if you think any of the following:

  • your tuition dollars entitle you to an A in my class

  • I work for you

  • my research and scholarship is purely confined to the realm of a university and has no use in the "practical" world

  • I will acknowledge that your status as "millennial" students in some way legitimates my having to repeat things about my courses that can easily be found my READING the fucking syllabus

I mean, are you even in college to learn? Anything? Do you even know how to think for yourself? I'd much rather have a student who didn't give a shit about a B average, but loved to debate me on topical content of a course, than one who debated me BECAUSE he got a B.

In the real world, no one gives a flying fuck about whether or not your GPA was a 3.8 or a 4.0. This type of shit seriously portends an increase in cardiac arrests for your generation.

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Care Bear / Snowflake Axis. It All Makes Such a Lot of Sense Now.

I think this Care Bear guy is on to something. I had a Care Bear lunch kit in kindergarten, with a matching thermos. So here are a few Care Bear/Snowflake equivalents for you to chew on.

Tenderheart Bear - These are the snowflakes with dying grandmothers and sick children. They often appear at your office with watery, puffy eyes begging for time extensions, grades, etc. They're also soooooo sorry for the trouble. Yeah right.

Grumpy Bear - Ah, the smug disillusioned snowflakes. These like to make biting comments during class meant to make them look smarter than you. They also like to dominate class discussions and KNOW that there's no way possible they can fail your pathetic class.

Friend Bear - If I'm your friend will I make an A? These kiddos like to chat after class, bring baked goods around the holidays and, surprise!, have so much in common with you. Anyone up for a study session at the pub?

Wish Bear - The snowflakes who were told growing up that the could be anything they wanted to be. Now they think they can get a passing grade on a wish and a prayer. Sigh.

Love-a-Lot Bear - A special kind of snowflake, usually female. The kind that wear revealing clothing, flash million dollar smiles and want to "get to know you." Not to be confused with Friend Bear (above). Whatever you do, avoid seeing them outside of class if at all possible and keep the office door open. Don't go there. Trust me on this one.

Sounds like Sarcastic Sarah and Her Snowflake Are Headed to Maui.

I got an email from a student yesterday about the course she's enrolled in that starts next week. It turns out she can go to Hawaii this summer after all - isn't that great? I am so totally excited for her!

But she's going to have to miss a week and a half of classes. Bummer. Now keep in mind, it's only a six-week session. We meet a total of 12 times, and she's going to miss 3 of those. Yeah, a fourth of the course. She did offer to come to extra office hours, though, and do extra assignments.

After all, I don't have anything else to do except hold extra office hours for her so she can go on vacation. Plus, I love teaching the class so effing much I want to give her private lectures on my own time. And the exams that I have to create and grade aren't enough, I need to spend more of my time creating special work just for her so she can go on her trip to Hawaii.

I get paid about $3.35 an hour as it is for summer courses, and I can't see reducing that any further so Precious Snowflake can go on vacation. I'm seriously considering telling her all this, and offering to hold the class in Hawaii for her so her vacation time isn't interrupted by ridiculous things like college. I wonder if she'd mind taking me along.... She won't have to feed me, just buy me drinks.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Brick From Buffalo Wants a Snowflake Spotting Guide, Genuses, Families, Species, That Whole Thing.

This summer, I had a realization that of all the snowflakes we see in our classrooms, the pre-med snowflake is probably the most obnoxious. This kid has yet to hand in an assignment that doesn't come equipped with sycophantic hand delivery, neurotic emails, and appeals for a higher grade. Even if it's a 90--an A--he wants a 92, 94, or 96, so he can cut back on working in my class when the finals of his "real" classes come around, and he can skate on a B or C for my classwork. And each time he swaggers up to my desk or sends an email (with return-receipt flagged--because he's just that important!), I think back to RYS.

We all love to talk and write about our snowflakes, but after six years of teaching college composition, I've started to realize that there are different kinds of snowflakes. Think about snowfall--the collected mass of snowflakes. There is dry, powdery snow, and there is wet, mushy snow. There's yellow snow and grey snow. Likewise, there are different snowflakes. A greek and a pre-med are both snowflakes, yet each is snowflakey for different reasons.

As we gear up for the 08-09 academic year, hundreds of new faculty, TA's, and adjuncts will be joining our ranks here in the compound. Just like zoos sell spotting guides, to allow visitors to identify animals, I propose that RYS solicit and publish a series for the year--a snowflake spotting guide as a way to help these new faculty members settle in to their teaching positions. Remember the Care Bears--that mid 80's attempt to teach children empathy using themed (and highly commercialized) plush animals to symbolize a single emotion? Think of this project as a set of Care Bears to better help new faculty truly understand the super-special-importantness of Gen Y.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

"The Fix." A Longtime Reader Opines on Ralph Nader, Consumer Reports, and Different Types of College Education.

Everyone needs a good education and we are nowhere near providing this. Part of the reason is that we assume everyone needs the same education. A good education for one person may be meaningless to another.

I do research and teach at a mid to lower level comprehensive university. We have a PhD program in philosophy and offer an associates degree in physical therapy. We have courses in quantum mechanics and auto mechanics. Our most popular majors are psychology, communications and fashion design. Most of these students probably end up working at the mall (but who knows, the psychology major may be a better parent than his equally low paid sans degree co-workers).

Graduates from our aviation management program earn top dollars working at our nation's airports. And some of our science graduates go on to do graduate work at major universities. We have a world renowned music program. Our six year graduation rate is 40%.

Students and their families are ill equipped to sort through the maze of options. A simple example. We offer a bachelors degree in dental hygiene while the community college down the road has an associate’s degree program in dental hygiene. Does it make any difference? The lucky student will have a cousin who took the four year plan. This cousin might gripe that for all the extra time and money spent she earns no more than her colleagues with two year degrees, or she may boast how she quickly rose through the ranks and has come to really appreciate those shows on PBS. But, most families will have no such connections.

I once had a conversation with two young women who had degrees in management, or was it marketing, who had grown tired of dead end jobs and were now enrolled at the community college's nursing program. They could afford this because they had each married an engineer. Most people can't afford do-overs after realizing they made the wrong choice. (I am reminded of the Talking Heads song Seen and not Seen.) Of course, if they had started at the community college they would have never met their current mates!

All readers of RYS know many similar stories. So, what is to be done? People need much more information and it needs to be in a form they can use. They need a Consumer Reports. They need a Ralph Nader. Instead they get U.S. News & World Report, self-serving college websites and Margaret Spellings. If you buy a lemon of a car, you are screwed -- it will take you a few years for recover from the loss. But, getting a useless college degree is very hard to recover from. The information people need cannot be gleaned from statistics gathered from colleges and universities. Consumer Reports does not determine a car's safety by asking the manufacturer, they do it by testing the car itself.

The information can only come from surveying college graduates (and the non-degreed). We need large surveys done by a disinterested party with aim of finding what types of education serve different types of people, both in terms of income and other forms of life satisfaction. Where will our Ralph Nader come from?