Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sunday Evening Horrible Haiku

Haiku!  Gesundheit!
Sorry for fat-hate
Was pissed at her
Can't separate the real
Issues when writing.

Loses paperwork
Yells at employees
Makes tutoring center
Place people don't want
To be at

Places grant in jeopardy
But it's okay 'cause
She's in charge

Dear Pastor,
I am $80 short on rent
Can the church help?
I can pay it back
In September.

He says, I'll have to bring
It before the board.  We'll see.

Standing in line at grocery store
EBT balance is less than epsilon
Will it go through?
Will it go through?
Crossing my fingers
Crossing my fingers
It went through!

Food tonight!  Hooray!
That's as close as I want to get
To a gambling problem.

Peace, and sorry for the hate speach.

A Summer Thirsty Concerning "Gulley Washing."

I am still in Utah, at a cabin where I spend portions of each summer.
Several nights ago a torrential rain came through the valley, as if Hera had broken Zeus's heart, and as if Zeus's tears aimed to drown the world.

The next morning I marveled at the change. The air was cleaner, the roads and paths were smoothed, unpocked. There was a newness to the entire enterprise that thrilled me so much that I took all of my meals that day outside on a wobbly table.

But to the rain, and its effect.

A neighboring rancher said to me the other day, after the rains that cleaned our valleys so spectacularly, "Yaro, there is nothing quite so powerful in this valley - this place where I have made my home all these years - as the occasional, yet surprising 'gulley washer,' such as we experienced the other night."

And that was the genesis of the post I am sending in to the Misery today. "Gulley washer," a term I had never heard in my life, one that, richly, resonated with me. I had marveled at the change in our valley, indeed in my own attitude and comportment, the day after those heavy rains and the cleansing effect they had on all that surrounded me.

It seemed to me that I, Yaro, would benefit from a sort of academic "gulley washer," an event so transformative as to clean the dirt and pollen, sticks, and the contemptible trash of our departments, divisions, and universities.

Q: What event, what cleansing set of actions, is necessary to save us in our academic lives? What sort of torrent is needed to provide a clean start for us, individually, or as a group? If there is such a thing as an academic "gulley washer," what would it be, and is there a way for us to generate it?

NB: It was necessary to repost this, and I apologize for the deletion of earlier comments, and for the minor revision within the preamble to the question above.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

From CNN.

Don't teach, don't tell?

By Poppy Harlow and Emily Probst, CNN
July 29, 2011 4:19 p.m. EDT
Anoka, Minnesota (CNN) -- Late at night, long after class is dismissed, middle school teacher Jefferson Fietek logs on for his night shift: answering the texts and Facebook posts of suicidal teens.

Fietek, an adviser for his school's Gay-Straight Alliance in Anoka, Minnesota, says he gets messages from students contemplating suicide or those with friends in crisis at least once a week.

Some of the distressed kids are gay, others are questioning their sexuality, he said. Fietek's off-duty interventions may blur the line between teacher and friend, but Fietek, who's openly gay, said some of these kids have no one else to turn to for support.

"I'm worried and concerned about the kids in my school district who are struggling to navigate in a toxic environment," explained Fietek, who said talking to CNN could cost him his job as a theater teacher at Anoka Middle School for the Arts in Anoka-Hennepin.
 The suburban Minneapolis school district, he said, has a climate where kids "feel they have to lie and cover up who they are."

The district's curriculum policy, adopted in 2009, bars teachers from taking a position on homosexuality in the classroom and says such matters are best addressed outside of school. It's become known as the neutrality policy. Anoka-Hennepin is the only Minnesota school district known to have such a policy.


Click to play

"Goodbye, My Own Personal College Misery." Lucy from Leadville Gets Out.

I am an adjunct. Scratch that: I was an adjunct. Well, fine, I technically still am an adjunct, but only until the end of this summer term, which is in a week or a week and a half, depending on which course’s schedule you’re perusing.

I’m winding down three slightly different freshman basketweaving courses at two institutions right now, which is much more boring and difficult than you might initially think. This is mostly because I’ve hit a point where I teach pretty much the same thing in every class. There are only so many ways you can jazz up freshman basketweaving: eventually, you have to call a basket a basket and accept that baskets are only capable of so much. Anyway, my point is this: I’m boring myself with my own teaching, and I can’t remember to which class I mentioned what because they’re all pretty much the fucking same.

To make things worse for me as I trudge my way through these pages-short essays and senseless citations and lifeless lesson plans: I’m mere days away from leaving behind my own personal world of college misery for what right now seems like a dewy, pure, untouched land of freedom and money in the private sector.

I’m sure once I arrive in the capitalist oasis of a cubicle in an air-conditioned building an hour from home, I’ll look back fondly – or, perhaps, even with a sense of homesickness – on my time as an adjunct instructor. But now, right now, in this dreamy purgatory, hovering just above comma splices and in-text citations without reference entries and overuse of personal experience as evidence, I can look outward and see the faint glow of potential happiness.

This summer semester has been -- well, it’s been something. I currently have the most obnoxious student I have ever had the misfortune of teaching, and I’ve had my fair share of doozies. He is a jock at a community college without an athletics program. He loves his car and his abs and his supposed future as an engineer. His first piece of writing on the first day informed me of three things:

  1. He learned nothing in the previous basketweaving course.
  2. He hates baskets.
  3. He wants an A in this course.

This summer-snowflake has not made the semester very fun for me or his classmates. He’s not disruptive; he just acts as if he is better than everyone else. He complains about his B-range grades on the discussion forums; he zones out during class only to ask what we’re doing when we break into groups for activities; he brings his textbook on all the days we’re not using it. In a small summer section, his idiocy is off-putting to the other students, and I find it incredibly annoying. But, on the bright side, his nigh-unshakable belief that he is smarter than I am when it comes to basketweaving leads him to ignore my helpful advice, comments and feedback on his work. There is some justice in the world, and it is shaped like a C-.

On the other hand, I also have a dozen students who have made my summer an absolute pleasure. I have received two separate emails in the last two weeks from students thanking me for their non-A grades and my feedback on a huge project. I have students whose thinking and writing about basketweaving is improving right before my – and their – eyes. Many of them will go on to do good, if not great, things.

Still, despite these small victories, I am only an adjunct, and the job is just, in the end, a job. I came down with a potentially scary health problem in the middle of the term, requiring an ER visit and a call to a sub to cover a couple of classes. I returned the following week to the yellow admin paper in my mail folder stating that my absences would be unpaid. This in spite of the fact that in a haze of pain and fever, I put together a sensible lesson plan, contacted the sub myself, and emailed my students to let them know about the sub. The only thing I did not do while I was in the ER was stand up in front of the class and deliver the lesson myself.

Alas, I am an adjunct, and I only get paid for the time I am physically present in the classroom. I can teach like shit, I can forget to do the reading that I assigned, I can take my sweet time giving feedback on essays, and I can make shit up as I go along, and I’ll still get paid. (I don’t do this, for the record, but it is ever more attractive the closer I come to the end.)

But heavens forfend if I come down with an actual illness that makes it literally impossible for me to stand up straight, let alone for two hours in front of two dozen faces. Taking time away from the classroom – even if you do all the preparatory, invisible work of grading and planning – is just too far. Adjuncts are, quite literally, the Wal-Mart employees of higher education. Nothing in my career of teaching has made this more apparent to me than the “unpaid absence” check-mark and subsequent stunted paycheck two weeks later.

So, you can imagine my delight when the voice from the dewy capitalist oasis said: “Job offer. Benefits. Overtime pay. 401(k). Paid time off.” I had nearly forgotten those words existed in that order.

Here it is, then: goodbye, college misery. Goodbye, good students. Goodbye, bad students. And good riddance, adjunct employment. May you rot in hell.

- Lucy from Leadville

Friday, July 29, 2011

A Friday Thirsty on Avoiding the Baby Adipose

I can hear you from my office!
I don't know what to do.  I cannot stand the new Lead Tutor, but in order to continue receiving unemployment, I must not refuse any work.

Friday Thirsty!
With two classes already on my fall schedule, I am very tempted to just not work in the tutoring center regardless.  So, here's my thirsty:

Q:  How likely is it that the unemployment office will find out that I refused a job.  And, have you ever done this?  Have you ever turned down an unpleasant job without the unemployment office finding out?  How did it turn out?  Photonic minds want to know.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Big Thirsty On the Seven Deadly Sins And Which Ones You're Most Guilty of Having, Or Showing, As a Colleague, I Mean, And Don't Worry That Some of the Sins Seem Absolutely Identical. Just Play Along.

Q: Which of the seven deadly sins (or 7 Capital Vices) are you most guilty of as a colleague?

Your choices? wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Baffling early thirsty

This note arrived in my email inbox yesterday:

Greetings Proffie Bubba,

I'm in your Fall 2011 Introduction to underwater Wittgensteinian equestrian basket-weaving class. My grandfather is sick and he's in the Netherlands, and so I'm going to fly to see him in September. Can you please tell me what my options are before I buy my airplane ticket? How many classes can I miss? Will it affect my grade if I miss too many classes? Will I be able to make up missed classes?
Thank you.


Bobby Zox

Polite, well-written note. Sounds like a nice kid. And the student is planning ahead. Bonus points for all that.

Q. How would you reply?

A._______________________ [Be creative, dammit.]

Everything Is Wrong (?)

Like many of us, it seems, I missed Terry's recent Amy Winehouse post. I realize that all too frequently, I'm a day late and several dollars short up here, because I'm spread pretty thin these days, but I thought it might be relevant to post Moby's thoughts about her death. It seems like a lot of what he says about networking, personal responsibility (whatever that might be), and the shortsightedness of youth can be easily applied to whatever it is the writers, and readers, of this blog do. Read and respond as you like.

Cue piano music:

EMH Ranting (Censored Version)

Hi everyone!  Long time no talk! It has been a fun semester on unemployment and public assistance. 
Alas, the new semester looms and I am dreading it.

I can hear you from my office!

New Tea-Partying Tub of Tea-Party "Lead-Tutor":  I know that we hadn't interracted for about 2 months, but I guess I  was still sick and tired of your snowflake idiot self when I almost cussed you out the other day.  You throw people out of the tutoring center when you can't take the critical thinking any longer.  Your tendancy to tell the employees "I can hear you from my office" is getting old.  Your office is only 10 ft away in the same room.  For crying out loud, shut the tea-partying door if you don't like it.  Whether you like it or not, we work with students, and sometimes that creates noise.  And referring to yourself in the third person (ie. Snowflake is trying to grade and you are too loud!) only makes you look like the nut you are.  I grade papes too, so cry me a river!  Berating the tutors when their students no-show is not cool either. You know, when I stopped by the other day and you asked the tutor "If your student no-showed, why are you still here?", I think he had a valid point when he said he was waiting for a ride from his girlfriend.  After all, his shift would have ended at the end of the hour, had his student showed.  It's not like his pay allows him to have his own car, but you insist on reminding him that "this is not a hang-out". You really tea-party me off lady!  I mean, it's not like we ever have more than 4 students in there at a time.  Give the guy a break.  After all, he's there to help the students, even if they don't appreciate it.  So, go eat a box of twinkies and leave everyone alone.

And while I'm on the matter of the tutoring center,

Title-III Misappropriation:
    Yeah, you.  The guy who is pocketing the grant money.  So what if I can't "prove" it.  I don't need to see it actually happen to know that it's happening.

     1)  You pay the tutors $6.75/hr.
     2)  It takes you two semesters to get a white-board for the tutoring center, when the grant is awarded every semester.
     3)  And everything else we needed, like staplers, was a tea-partying act of congress to get.

And while I'm at it, I don't like how you brag to everyone about working with "high-risk" individuals.  You don't. All you do is set on your tea-party.  The people who you pay $6.75/hr are the ones who work with "high-risk" individuals, and they have the battle wounds to prove it.  You rarely visit our campus unless it's to fire someone for "putting the grant in jeopardy" (or atleast that's what you call it when the students complain too loudly).  You are a grade A tea-partyhole, and I'm afraid that the debt-ceiling crisis is only going to make people wake up and realise what's going on, and you better get out of dodge when they do.

I am proud to say that I will not be working for the tutoring center in the Fall, as I will be too busy teaching and running my own private tutoring service.  And if you have any thought about having the Dean call me into the office to tell me that it jeopardizes the grant and is a conflict of interest, well you can go tea-party yourself and talk to my lawyer while you are at it.

EMH out

Summer in the lab

I managed to get by this summer relying only on the generous donations of US taxpayers and wisely converting all my research grants into gold. Woot, as the kids might say. That means no complaints about students, right? Please. Who do you think is working in the lab right now?

Complaining Carl isn’t happy about the progress he’s making. You want to meet with me to discuss this. Again. For the third time this summer. You leave work early, you go on vacation and you want to schedule a lot of meetings. Yeah, big mystery. You might be the first research assistant I’ve had who is destined for college administration.

Sick Sandra can’t seem to show up four or more days each week. You’re smart and you do good work while you’re not doped up on meds. Can you just get over the plague so that I can publish some data this year?

Below average Bob used to work for me, then failed out and transferred, then transferred back and into a different, easier major, then couldn’t even pass those classes to graduate, then signed up for a summer independent study with me to fulfill his final three credits, then does work more typical of a sophomore. I hope this run-on sentence conveys my feelings towards Bob.

Grad student Gerald will not maintain this nickname for long if you doesn’t finish your fucking literature review.

Flashdrive Frita is a loser. You are a loser of data which is the worst type of loser. You store everything you ever wrote, calculated and graphed all summer on a cheap USB drive, which you then lose. Loser.

The worst bunch of researchers I've had in a while. Why can't they do what I want them to? I pay their salaries! It does feel good to say that.

After sharing my summer (and research funds) with these lab rats, I’ve never been more excited about the beginning of the semester.

Whither the Apostrophe.

I'm sitting here surrounded by an unexpectedly difficult set of student essays.

I mean, I asked for them. I told my tiny class of summer students (mostly high schoolers and returning adults) to please write me an excellent essay about some readings we'd done.

But what about apostrophes? I mean, I didn't SPECIFY that they should use them when they're appropriate. In fact, I never talked about them at ALL! How are they supposed to know if I don't TELL them?

Essay after essay with "Dantes poem" instead of "Dante's poem." Countless references in one essay to the "narrators mania," and it's only the ONE guy.

Did I miss the apostrophe meeting? Did it go away the same way it seems semi-colons did. (Don't get me started on how commas are about the only punctuation mark students will willingly use.)

Whither the apostrophe? Withered?

Received at 3 AM

(lacking any formal, or informal, salutation)

It wouldn't be possible to get an extension on the assignment would it? Because I have a paper I'm writing right now, a quiz at 8:00 tomorrow morning, 3 howmework assignments due tomorrow, a 1 page paper due on thursday, and a 5 page paper due on thursday, and I honestly doubt I'll be able to get it done.

jamie justintime

(no formalities in return)

You may turn it in up to 24 hours late for 80%. Otherwise, you should submit a formal request indicating why exceptional circumstances over this past week should warrant an extension. Hint: Asking at 3 AM the day the assignment is due does not help your case.


Also not helping, that I am up at 3 AM.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Why your dissertation sucked, or will someday suck.

OK, so sue me, but this makes me think of "Katie," if only because in one of "Katie's" RYS posts she bragged about how her committee told her that her dissertation was already good enough to be a book, which is how she had always known that she was a star.

But on a serious note, the article does point to a fairly pervasive problem with the way that advisors and committees handle grad students and their dissertations. I've always tried to be honest, sometimes brutally so (I know, real fucking surprise there, right?) when I've been on a committee. And, of course, I'm always straight with my advisees. But when I'm not the lead advisor, I have often found that my brutal but honest advice gets drowned out by the colleagues who want to be all fucking positive. I hate those fuckers, and I hope that someday they get hit by a bus with "you're doing a GREAT JOB crossing the street" written on the front of it.

One thing the article doesn't address is the fact that English (the author is an English proffie) and History are almost the only disciplines left for which a book is still the central exhibit of the tenure file. Indeed, in some fields a book can be seen as a black mark, or pointless in comparison to journal articles. He also doesn't address the fact that at lots of English and History departments, including where he teaches, one can now substitute a certain number of refereed articles for a book. Still, I like Cassuto's columns. His advice is generally thoughtful and solid.

And for all you grad students and junior proffies out there, go buy the book he mentions. It is an invaluable tool, which I highly recommend.

Anyway, here's the fucking flava:

My last column centered on the new difficulties that graduate students face in turning their dissertations into books. Some readers responded that plenty of dissertations shouldn't be revised into books in the first place. Indeed.

and here's the fucking link.

Did I get it right this time?

It Is I, Yaro.

He is a gentleman I've not met, yet, without doubt, I, Yaro, feel as though I know him, his humor, his intelligence, his joie de vivre.

I imagine, and this must be universal, that he must be something like me, since we find ourselves in the same locale, at times nonplussed by our young charges.

Upon this spot yesterday I saw that he would leave us, and I wish him well. We all know his name. I feel foolish saying it now for some reason. He will always be CM Citizen #1 to me. May you find yourself a good book, a fine mate, a stiff drink, and the wherewithal to know which needs attention when, my friend.

Summer School Smack

So, I just read the entire Katie/Dr. Crazy debacle/kerfuffle/clusterfuck and laughed my ass off, mostly at Katie/Dr. Crazy, yet it got me thinking. What if someone at my institution were to take posts from my personal blog (if I had one) and post them here on CM? Would I use my contacts in IT to find the fucker? Would I let it slide? Or would I go batshit crazy and say that the RYS/CM universe was a part of a conspiracy against me (led, of course, by Strelnikov), the only purpose being to make me look like the shallow, unprofessional, jackmonkey that I am (I mean . . . Katie, yeah, Katie)? While I don’t know the action I would take, I do know that I am currently sitting here listening to an Atreyu song from their album Congregation of the Damned thinking “Shit, only a week before I get to visit my in-laws in Nebraska. Talk about the damned.” Fuck. Oh well, on to the smack.

Absent Anna – OK, let’s see if I have this straight. You were in regular attendance for the first week of an eight-week class, missed the next two weeks, attended two out of four days of the fourth week, missed every class until the last day of the seventh week, and expect me to change the rules that everyone else remaining in the class has followed diligently since day 1. Yes, this is a self-paced class, but there are certain protocols, such as only one exam per class session (what, you thought I’d let you take them at home; look at your syllabus, dipshit), complete homework being required, only being allowed to begin an exam in the first 10 minutes of class, etc. I’d say that I was sorry for not allowing you to take an exam on the last day of last week when you arrived more than halfway through class, without your homework, if I were actually sorry. Damn me. Damn me to hell. Oh, have I mentioned that due to the number of tests you can no longer take since you’re running out of time, you can’t pass this class. Not that you would have passed the next class anyway. The professor of the next class isn’t Katie from Kalamazoo. The professor of the next class has standards.

Jury-Duty Judy – Yes, our college has policies regarding final exams and jury duty. However they require that you give your professor at least four weeks notice. What, you didn’t get your jury duty summons until last week? Bullshit. I have received multiple jury duty summonses since moving here and have never had less than three months notice. Gee, I wonder why the college requires four weeks notice of jury duty for professors. Furthermore, one of my drinking buddies works for the county and has told me that one week’s notice is illegal in our county. Unfortunately for you, your jury duty is irrelevant, since you can’t pass this class, as I told you prior to the drop deadline. I believe the statement, “You are the weakest link. Good bye,” would be appropriate here. Not even our analog of Katie from Kalamazoo would accept this excuse.

Drunk Daniel – I thank you for buying a drink for me and my drinking buddy (I have a lot of drinking buddies) the other night. Yes, it’s a small world. I never would have imagined finding a student hanging out at a bar with amazing happy hour specials on a night where the Street Fair raged outside (drip, drip, sarcasm). Shocking. If you think that as a result you’re going to earn a passing grade, you’re sadly mistaken. Your exam scores prior to your bribe (OK, OK, I mean friendly gesture) were abysmal, to be generous. If I weren’t so generous, I’d say that your scores were lower than the lowest limbo stick, lower than my hand versus the dealer’s, lower than the slime under the scum on the bottom of a pond. Just so you have no case, I’ve deposited the cash value of the purchased drinks with the Dean, having anticipated your move. I mean, who do you think I am, Katie from Kalamazoo?

Monday, July 25, 2011

"It's all the same."

In the past year, I've heard all of the following statements:

"There are no best business practices. There are no best academic practices. There are only best practices. What works well in one environment will work in any environment."

"There should be no difference in the faculty perspective and the administrative perspective. Both should just want to do what's best for the school."

"There is no contradiction between being a faculty member and being an administrator. There's no reason someone can't be both at the same time."

Some days I feel as if I've stepped through the looking glass. When I first decided I wanted to go into higher education, most of the administration came from within the faculty. Although they put on the administrative hat and had to change perspective, they at least understood what it meant to be faculty. They also acknowledged that sometimes it was difficult to have made that switch because they could empathize with the faculty perspective yet still had a job to do in an administrative capacity. And above all, most of them took the jobs because they wanted to use their talents to be of service to the college. It wasn't uncommon to see people go into administration for a defined period of time and then return to the faculty.

Today I see more and more people who came into higher education with the sole goal of becoming administrators. They may put on the sheep's clothing of faculty just long enough to say they were "one of us," but they certainly have no intention of staying in what they perceive as the ghetto for any longer than they have to. They are destined for "greater things." And they are the ones who made the statements I listed above.

Maybe I am old school, but I think that only is there a difference between the administrative and faculty perspectives, but there SHOULD be that difference. I don't see it as necessarily divisive unless certain individuals go out of their way to be disagreeable. We serve different roles, we have different types of commitments to the institution, and we have different experiences we need to bring to the table. I recognize there are times we have to straddle that line. Faculty get released or reassigned time to carry out administrative duties on behalf of the college, or administrators teach as an overload or even as part of their contract. But in the end, the faculty member is still faculty doing some administrative work and the administrator is someone who happens to be teaching a class. They may develop more empathy with the other side and they do what's required for the "other team," but ultimately they still identify mostly with their primary roles.

I also think there should be a difference between business and education. Certainly business provides some ideas we can use to better serve our students, but to say we are just a different type of business completely distorts the work we do. I'm so tired of hearing about how we can adapt the latest business fad to improve everything. I have no customers in my classroom, and I refuse to use that word to describe the people who attend my courses as such. I also wish that we would at least use some fun corporate environments to emulate. We never get the Google or Southwest Airlines models; it's always some stodgy paradigm from Boeing or AT&T.

Are you hearing the same kinds of statements at your schools? Where, if anyplace, do you see the line between faculty and administration? Is such a line healthy or detrimental in making things better for our students? Is it possible to truly be both faculty and administration at the same time? And how well does business mix with education? Is it really all the same?

Hey, Grant Bitch, If you can't distribute information in a timely fashion...

stop being such a fucking bitch. 

I know the Two Whiny Bitches had you wrapped around their little fingers because "It's very stressful when students don't receive feedback regularly.  You need to distribute information in a timely fashion."  I know that compelling argument does carry truth.  And I know the definition of "timely" might vary between you, me and them.  But when you sent me two bitchy e-mails per day over the holiday weekend demanding their final grades, though their final work hadn't been in my in-box more than a day, I thought you were going to DISTRIBUTE THE FUCKING INFORMATION IN A TIMELY FASHION!!!!!!

If my less than a week turn-around rate is too slow for YOUR definition of "timely", then what the fuck is THREE WEEKS!!!

Give them their god damned grades so they leave me alone.  You wanted control over that information so no one could skip town without doing your god damned satisfaction survey so you could justify your fucking grant.  So fine, the ball is in your court.  But I know the little bitches did that fucking survey (they probably found more time to do the survey than they had all semester to do work, because it was an opportunity to trash me) so, not to be too redundant here, but, GIVE THEM THEIR FUCKING GRADES!!!!!!!!

On unworkable schedules and H8te

Two unrelated rants:

Rant 1: Twenty years ago, our college made the switch from quarters to semesters. Instead of starting after labor day and ending after memorial day, we now start the week before labor day and end mid-May. The only problem is, the 10-month faculty's contract time still runs from mid-August to mid-June, leaving us with one week to prepare for fall classes (with Blackboard content made open to the registered students the week before we officially return), and a full month to sit around doing a whole lot of nothing after the spring semester ends. When administration is asked about moving the contract year to start and end early, we get responses of "that would create far more problems than it would resolve" and a patronizing "you don't really understand the implications of making that change" and other bullshit. Thankfully, my department chair has for years -- despite explicit orders from higher up forbidding this practice -- allowed me to leave then return early, since it's just not effective to do all of the prep work required for my hands-on CIS courses that far in advance. Unfortunately, she's retiring at the end of this calendar year, so things could change dramatically depending on who takes her place.

Rant 2: I'm not even in the office and I can see the mass of delight and congratulations being showered on my co-worker for her recently announced engagement. While I'm genuinely happy for her, for me it only emphasizes the deep silence that was the response when I announced my plans to marry my Spouse in California, before Proposition H8te passed. I get it that I live in a county where 2/3 of the votes for Senator were for a right-wing Tea Party nutcase (though thankfully the final vote went to her opponent), where people talk openly about how the recently passed civil unions bill (which decriminalizes our marriage, since we were not simply not recognized as married, we could have been fined or even jailed for it) is the work of the "forces of evil that must be conquered", and where our county council and school boards fight to be allowed to open their meetings with a Christian prayer. I've never had any real expectations of support, but it doesn't stop me from recognizing that I work with a bunch of homophobic assholes.

Great Colleges To Work For.

The Chronicle has released its 2011 list of "Great Colleges to Work For." I always groan at this map, at entire states without a single dot.

Are you telling me that there are no great colleges to work for in Washington, Oregon, Arizona, and New Mexico? (And the others?)

I do think readers might be surprised at the number of jucos, though.


Before dawn
the instruments of my career
spill out of my case
onto the floor
of my den.

It has been
months since I was in
the classroom,
and only now I have
begun to plan for
autumn's return.

But on the floor
are pens, textbooks,
grade sheets,
a syllabus in need
of polish or fertilizer.

And I think of retiring,
as I have thought of it
each year in the past three.
My wife has places for us to go,
a dream of getting to the mountains.

There is not enough space
to wrestle with my own thoughts.
The desire to teach on,
the desire to pull the cord.
Would the students be better off
without me?

Would I be better off
without them?

A career in that case, nearly,
perhaps there was another,
same brown, same clasp,
when I was a younger man
with vivid dreams of the path.

It is different,
the old days from now.
I am no longer a professor,
but a processor.
Today my students have such
little goals, little aspirations.

Just a salary bump, one said.
Just need to get a credit, another said.
Want to get into a better job, another.

Silly fantasy from my past, perhaps,
of what "it" meant,
what I went to college for,
what my profs were like,
how they stood like giants,
and how I stand squatty instead.

Dreamed, earlier,
of Mr. Chips scene at end,
but know now
that it will just be me,
a box of things,
a slow walk to the car,
and that someone with his own case
and instruments
will teach after I'm gone.

I ask my wife about mountain towns,
about the occurrences of coyotes.

And I leave my case on the floor
for tomorrow's worry.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Business Proffie surrenders in the face of rampant cheating

This was in the Crampicle of higher Ed, and I have to say, it made me a little queasy. As a friend of mine who works for one of the companies that every ambitious undergrad wants to work for once told me "when we see an undergrad degree in business on a resume, we read that as code for "moron" and throw the thing in the recycle bin." With that in mind, this proffie obviously shouldn't have been surprised to learn that his business students were stupid, rat-fucking, cheaters. On the other hand, he waited seven years to start enforcing any rules against cheating? So maybe business proffies are also rat-fuckers who make it harder on the rest of our sorry asses by being lax and easygoing. On the third hand, NYU uses student evals as a criterion for merit raises???? What kind of sorry-ass third-rate shitbox are they running there? (parenthetically, I know someone who teaches there, and he informs me that to his knowledge none of the departments in the Arts and Sciences use evals for that purpose, so that brings me back to my first point--business students are fucking lame, and so, apparently, are their proffies).

Anyways, without further ado, the flava:

Post un-redacted.

I wonder if Amy Winehouse knew she was loved. Shooting star, indeed. Perhaps many of us proffies are not so different from her.

We shouldn't apologize for loving other people, or for saying so. Love is a good thing.

@TP: Perhaps you've saved more students than you realize.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Leave me the F Alone

A student I mentored years ago came back wanting letters of recommendation for graduate school. Student had a low GPA for entering grad school due to some health issues, but they were real and have since fed this student's work and research interests. In short, I could easily see how all the parts of this person's life were tying together and made a Master's degree make absolute sense and would increase his/her earning power. Cool. I said so in the letter.

Student got into several very good graduate programs despite the somewhat low GPA. Cool.

Now student comes back at the very last minute wanting another letter to take his/her life in an entirely different direction that makes absolutely no sense at all. I'm swamped with moving and a major change in my career. They have no way of knowing this, but still, it's there. I don't want to just say no to the letter (which would have to be recrafted), I want to drive to where this student lives and shake them till their eyes bleed. I mean, for FUCK'S SAKE. You got into better graduate schools than I did with a shitty ass GPA. You had an honest to god AWESOME plan for research and everybody who read it SAW THAT.

No, I have no idea how to write a letter for CompletelyDifferentField and I have no idea why you'd want to do that. I don't know the employment statistics. They might well be better than my current field at large, but what you want to do is still in high demand. I think you'd be fabulous at it. WTF is going on and why do you think that the end of July is the right time to make it go on?

To My Online Summer Studentz

Dear Student 1: Your first essays were suspiciously eloquent, considering that when you took this same class last fall you could barely string two words together without making a mistake. I know this time you were getting someone else to do your work, but there was not much I could do about it. This didn’t bother me, because I knew it was just a matter of time until that far more eloquent person got sick and tired of doing it. That took about a week, and you are now back to your old standard of cluelessly strangled prose dotted with proofreading and factual errors. You’re going to get another D, Student 1. Or fail outright. Why? Because the Nun’s Priest is not a lady, that’s why.

Dear Students 2 and 3: You’d think that students sharing their work would at least attempt to conceal that fact, by perhaps changing the odd font both papers share to something more ordinary, or not centering the entire text of both essays. You’d think. You’d also think that really stupid students incapable of reading the assignment and responding with any degree of intelligence would keep their work to themselves. But you two are not smart enough to know how stupid you are. Thus: you fail. Why? Because the Canterbury pilgrims did not travel to the island of St. Thomas to escape a drought, that’s why.

Dear Student 4: What part of “do not copy and paste text from Wikipedia and present it as your own work” don’t you understand? The whole part, apparently. Do you think I am some sort of deluded moron? Telling me that you didn’t look at Wikipedia when your text matches the Wikipedia text exactly only makes me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry. You’re an idiot and you fail. Why? Because telling me you’ve gotten away with this before and haven’t been failed as of yet doesn’t really help your case, dumbass, that’s why.

Dear Student 5:
I can feel you straining to convince me you are a good student, whose grades in my class are somehow aberrational. You’re doing this by writing me every day and expressing concern about said grades, which are in the low C, high D range (and that was only because I was feeling charitable). Well, Student 5, I have speshul powerz, which include being able to access your entire transcript within about thirty seconds. Guess what? Your GPA is a 1.92. No surprise, as you have completely ignored my suggestion to turn your drafts in early so that I can comment upon them. This would be too difficult for you, obviously. It seems as if merely using spell-check is too difficult for you. Instead, you complain about your grade after the fact, in a tone that indicates you are under the assumption that you are Mary Poppins, “practically perfect in every way,” which I somehow lack the vision to perceive. Now, you state emphatically, “it’s time to set up a meeting.” You are going to get a D anyway, Ms. Poppins. Why? Because attempting to look concerned about your grade, and demanding an in-person meeting, is no substitute for actually following the teacher’s suggestions, and doing the difficult work of trying to improve. That’s why.

Dear Student 6: I don’t care how many hours you’re working. In fact, if I actively tried to care less, I doubt I could achieve it. Do you care how many hours I’m working, having to respond to daily emails complaining about how many hours you’re working? Work your ass off Student 6. You still fail. Why? Because I don’t give a shit how much you’re working, that’s why.

I've finally finished my Master's program and am looking forward to starting my first job next month in a TT position at a small JUCO. I'm both excited and terrified. I want to be a good teacher, but I don't want to deal with all the same bullshit I dealt with as a TA. So I have mixed feelings and think I should run away very fast and enter med school. Any advice for a first time "real" instructor, other than "don't care more about their education than they do?" That, and I already know to start drinking...hell, I drank as a TA...

A Summer Thirsty on Student Gear.

I was ranting in class this morning about how Facebook, Twitter, etc. had ruined the college experience for me. I was vaunting on the good ol' days, and my 19 year old stunned steer were staring at me as if I were a shiny, sweaty bauble in a tank of virtual meat behind glass.

I hate their clicking and fake note taking on their laptops and - now - iPads. I just want to enforce some kind of pencil and paper edict that I know my FORWARD-THINKING and SOUL-SUCKING college would never let me enforce. (I'm afraid they'd send me back to take the "Technology in Education" webinar again, the one that ran unwatched on my desktop computer one day while I was trying to pry open the new $70 million photocopier that works about 9% of the time.)

Then I read this thing in the Chronicle. Well, I won't post all of it, because that would be, well, something. But the link is below. (There's a funny line in the real article, something about students earning summer money; but you can decide for yourself.)

Chinese Professor Is Criticized for iPad Requirement

July 21, 2011, 12:56 pm
A Chinese professor has been criticized for requiring that his students purchase iPads and recommending that they take on extra summer jobs to finance the tablet if they cannot afford one, according to a report in Shanghai Daily. Henry Liang, who teaches finance in English at Shanghai Maritime University, notified students on his personal blog last week that all course materials, including tests and PowerPoint presentations, would be in iPad format only.

Q: What is your bottom line on student gear? What "equipment" are your students allowed to have, and what stuff can they NOT use in your class, in your exams, etc.

"Oh! What do you teach?": Yet Another Thirsty

We've had possession of our new house for a few days now and I've been diligently working to clean and paint it. All the new appliances are in and I'm waiting on the flooring. This heat wave has been hitting hard and the grass is on the verge of death. So I went out yesterday evening to hand water (I'm hoping a new irrigation system comes when my dad visits).

While I was watering I met one of my new neighbors, Anne. She's a nice retired lady who lives next door. Of course, one of the first things that anyone asks is, "What do you do?" The question was asked and I gave my usual nondescript answer, "I'm a professor at [very well respected university in town]." I don't like being more specific than that since it seems to make people a little uncomfortable. I get lots of "I was really good at Algebra/Physics in high school" or "My son/daughter was really good at Algebra/Physics in high school" or worse yet "I hate math/science. I always liked art/reading/PE". (I'm not trying to insult the humanities proffies here. I'm just stating an observation I've made over the years).

Anne was absolutely delighted that I (a woman!) was a college professor and she was even more delighted when she found out I was in the natural sciences. It was a very unusual reaction I must admit. But perhaps she had some socially unfulfillable dreams in her life that are realized in today's society. After she returned to the air conditioning I thought about what a nice exchange it actually was. I couldn't put my finger on the reason. But then it hit me. She didn't ask, "What do you teach?" after she found out I was a mathy type.

My experience has been as follows:
Joe Schmoe: What do you do?
Me: I'm a professor at [very well respected university in town.]
Joe: What is your field?
Me: Math.
Joe: Oh! What do you teach?

That last question always throws me. I'm not sure what is meant by it. On the one hand it could be that since I'm a youthful woman that I must not teach "real" math since I wouldn't be qualified. On the other hand it could be that people think that we only ever teach one or two courses in our lives or that there are only one or two math courses beyond high school math. Either way I'm not sure how to answer. I don't want to be a prick and say I'm qualified to teach it all but I also don't want to imply that I only every teach 12th grade/freshmen courses.

The fact is that university teaching these days is getting more and more remedial. Easily 50-66% of our courses are Calculus or below (this is probably mostly because math is service department). I'll pretty much always have to teach a business calc or math for math haters course but I usually get spoon full of sugar to help the medicine go down. So my answer to Joe's last question varies from term to term.

Q: Do you get that last question, too? Or is it just a question young looking, 115 lb, blond women get? Or is it just a math thing? How do you answer it without sounding like a prick or remediation specialist?

If I Have a Hypnotist at Orientation, Instead of Having Him Convince Students that They're Justin Bieber, I'd Ask Him Just To Convince Them to Bring Some Paper and a Fucking Pen To Class.

Friday am WTF

It's that time. Students are turning in term papers. One has 2 ½ inch margins on both sides and two lines between the one sentence paragraphs (sigh). What throws me for a loop though is the paper which uses several sources which as not exactly peer-reviewed. OK, let’s be blunt. The student used several openly racist sources and not as examples to argue against. I am dreading reading a paper on the role of hamsters in society when the student uses “books” written by people I see on the news everyday ranting about how awful hamsters are and spreading lies about how they spread disease and crime. Some of the other sources are fine, such as straightforward government sites with statistics from the US Bureau of hamsters. But how to handle the rest? (sigh) I used to like this student. Now I’m disgusted.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Administrative logic

Because I teach computer science, I automatically get a new PC for my office every three years. Because I teach at a state community college, the old PC that gets taken off my desk would normally be dumped in a state warehouse and ultimately destroyed, because they simply can't consider the possibility of, say, selling it to make money for the state and help someone else (such as one of our many financially struggling students) save money. But because I teach CIS I can request to keep my old desktop PC so that my students can occasionally actually tinker with a PC without the wrath of our IT department coming down on their heads, and I habitually make this request even if I have no specific need for it in any of my current courses.

Because I teach CIS I'm regularly required to learn new versions of software, and my plan for my summer break included making time to finally learn about Windows Server 2008. I'd planned on borrowing the old PC from my desk which had been sitting in my office for over a year, unused, and my department  chair agreed to that plan. I asked IT if I could also borrow a monitor and mouse, and that's when all hell broke loose. Apparently, there are absolutely no circumstances under which an employee may take a regular computer off campus -- this I learned in a meeting I was called into which included the Dean of Instruction and the head of IT.

Their solution? Since we're allowed to take home laptop PCs, I can take home one of the brand new high-end laptops that they just purchased, and keep it for the summer. It doesn't matter that the PC I'd hoped to bring home was worth maybe 1/10th of the one they gave me, or that there is so much greater risk of something happening to a laptop, or that laptops weren't really meant to be configured as servers. We can take home laptops, but can't take home desktops, period.

Is anyone else plagued by administrative decisions and policies that make absolutely no sense?