Saturday, January 31, 2015

On Putting the Phone Away

As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I shall fear no millenials, for they are too busy texting
to purposely inflict any harm on my person (that is,
unless they are driving).

Here's more:

On Passive Aggressive Emails

A colleague  sent an email to our immediate supervisor (not the Dean, but the person with the powers of a Dean) on which I was CCd. Or, I should say: she forwarded an email exchange we had had for the past few days.

Rule #1: Don't CC people's bosses unless you are crystal clear on your intent and 100% sure that you are not misinformed.

Earlier example: At the beginning of the year, a colleague sent me this email, CCing a series of higher-ranking people:

"Dear Monkey,

I am searching for you and you do not appear to be on campus. I want to remind you that you may only have two courses, but you are required to be on campus during normal working hours."


No Duh.

According to a study published in the Journal of Creative Behavior, college students find athletes and dancers sexy, but not students who love computers and science.

Stat Porn: January

Friday, January 30, 2015

Alice the Adjunct Says, "I Hate The Fucking Mascot Thing. Here's Something that Matters."

National Adjunct Walkout Day Planned

What would academe look like without adjuncts? That question could be answered, at least for a day, on the first-ever National Adjunct Walkout Day, planned for Feb. 25, 2015. The protest to highlight adjuncts’ relatively low wages and working conditions – despite the fact that they make up the majority of instructors – is gaining traction on social media, including on Facebook and on Twitter at #NAWD.

An adjunct instructor of writing at San Jose State University who did not yet want to be identified by name, citing concerns about her job security, proposed the idea last week. She said the response has been “enormous,” even in a short period of time, “because an action like this is long overdue.” The adjunct said the walkout day doesn’t have a central organizing committee, and that it will look different on different campuses. Groups might highlight the “educational or administrative issues impacting adjuncts within that particular campus, across the country, or [the] plights of individual adjuncts,” she said. But the central idea of the movement is that “no adjunct or campus must face these shared issues alone.”

From InsideHigherEd.

Can't Kill What Won't Die.

Arvee the Golden Eagle
Rock Valley College

Libraries, Amirite?

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Speedy Liar Rant

Dear Liar,

Thanks for telling your friends I "make exceptions" and will over-tally the whole fucking sophomore class into my section of Chem II.  You told me you had a scheduling conflict; they're all telling me they have Professor Not-the-Wombat.  I bet you were in his class too, you fucking liar, and I should have pulled up your schedule to have you show me what the conflict was.

I don't know which is sadder, that you're all too lazy to stay in a class with a professor who makes you think, or that I'm too lazy to bother anymore so I've started to attract flies.  I'll be sure to let everyone in your class know that our class is going to be hella-difficult because the desperate lies you told to get into my section made me realize I've been too easy in recent years.


PS get friends who tell the same lies as you - either everyone lies or everyone tells the truth - you can't mix and mingle without blowing your cover.

PPS F-you

The Big Thirsty: Does It Go Uphill or Downhill After Week #1?

I'm Terrance from Terhune and I was primed for this bloody profession by Compound Cal. He was my undergrad advisor (and the best "profie" I ever had), and then while I spent an interminable period of time in grad school and fighting in the job market, he continued to answer questions and offer assistance.

And I've just finished my first week of teaching at a decent flagship state school in the Midwest.

I'm in my early to mid 30s and I'm convinced every freshman is smarter than I (am? me? See?) I felt overmatched, confused, and exhausted after even a 55 minute class. I sweated in my first class. I never sweat!

I'm rattled and I didn't expect it. I started reading this page a couple of years ago and I just know that the combined wisdom here can help.

Q: Does it get easier or harder after the first week? The teaching, I mean. How long did it take you to get your feet under you. How long until you didn't feel like you were going to puke?

Alison in Annapolis Asks: "Would Anyone Finish Grading These For Me?"

My semester just started and I've been reading through some diagnostic essays my students do during the first week.

I distribute an academic essay, an analysis of a recent book in my field. The students get a chance to read it overnight and then we discuss it in class for a half hour before they write brief, low-stakes essays about the essay.

The essay in question is quite good, but easily read and pretty accessible, about 600 words. And it is expertly built, solid analysis that deconstructs and evaluates the book mentioned in the article completely and smoothly. I like the essay very much because it models so much of the style of academic writing that I teach in this sophomore level course for majors.

And then I got to my office with 3 stacks of 30 mini-essays each, and I began to read:
  • The essay lacks personal details.
  • I think the writer failed because he (or she, I was not told the gender) didn't tell enough about his own background and culture so I could judge him.
  • I think the most powerful evaluation is personal opinion. I don't read anyone who doesn't offer personal opinion.
  • I thought it was too long generally. I couldn't finish it.
  • I couldn't even read to the end because it went on and on.
  • I wish [author's name] would just get to the point and tell me her opinion.
  • The writer didn't give me any background on himself to show me what their biases is.
  • I was taught in expository writing that it's most important to use personal evaluation and personal examples to back up an evaluation. This is all just facts.
  • I was taught that if you can say it in 50 words it's way better than in a hundred or more.
Oh, I know it's not the end of the world, and there's lots I can do to amend this type of thought as the semester goes along, but I wonder what these students all did in the first year they were here. Who let them have these ideas? Were they rewarded for this? Did they use personal opinions in their own essays? Is that enough? And the length. Everything's TL:DR?

And I have 60 more to read today. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

"Namast-No." Sid From Santa Fe Checks In.

Here, at the worst run community college in America, some nutjob in the Dean's office has embraced zen practice in a big, big way.

We can't pay our part-timers enough for them to buy bus passes (true story), but we have money for a variety of seminars about getting in touch with whatever that thing is that has been beaten out of us by working at such a degree factory.

My latest favorite email came in today:

Mindfulness 101 –

This 90-minute workshop is geared for students, faculty, and staff who are
unfamiliar with mindfulness and would like more information about what it is and how mindfulness techniques can be integrated into daily life. We hope that faculty will encourage students to attend this workshop, providing “extra credit” points for those who do attend.

Ruby from Richmond Follows Up On Classroom Drama.

I want to offer one more possibility about the Contemplative Cynic's situation ("Breakups and Drama"), because I was in a similar situation with my first girlfriend in high school.

I was the one waiting for her outside of classrooms. I was the one skipping activities to be with her and joining activities to which she belonged (and which I had no business joining). I still remember my marching band section leader snapping at me, yelling, "Quit looking at your girlfriend!", because I was staring at her while he was trying to tell me something.

But I wasn't a creepy stalker. I was an abuse victim, and while I waited outside the classroom, I prayed that I could someday escape this claustrophobic relationship.

You see, if I didn't wait outside that classroom, didn't skip activities, didn't look in her direction during marching band, she'd get incredibly angry at me. Sometimes there was physical abuse (yes, I know, rarer for a male to be on the receiving end, but I was--and I haven't anonymized our genders for the sake of this post), but it was all a distraction from the mental abuse that kept me in that horrible relationship for more than two years.

Picture something like this:

Her: Why weren't you looking at me during Band?
Me: What? Because I was, uh, looking at the music--
Her: Because you hate me? Because I'm not pretty? Because you'd rather look at someone else?
Me: No! I wasn't looking at anyone else! I was--
Her: Of course you were looking at someone else, because I'm the worst person in the world, and I'm the ugliest person in the world, and I don't deserve to live, and you can go be with the person you were looking at during Band because I'm going to throw myself off the stairs!

She would then run toward the nearest stairwell, and I'd run after her, believing it was my responsibility to keep her from hurting herself.

She made a few suicide attempts, some real, some probably not real. She self-mutilated. She was my first girlfriend. I could never break up with her because I knew she'd injure or kill herself, and it would be my fault. She told me this.

I would only learn later, when I finally did break up with her, that she had been telling the whole school that I was a creepy stalker waiting outside the classroom--and when her friends looked, what did they see? They saw her running toward a stairwell, and they saw me running behind her desperately, and they thought, "Geez, that guy has some problems. He won't give that poor girl any space." This is, presumably, exactly what she wanted everyone to think.

If I told anyone she was suicidal, she said, she'd kill herself. I once tried to bring her to the school psychiatrist. That didn't go well. We'd talk on the phone every night for hours, then spend all day together at school the next day. There was nothing to talk about after a while, but if I let the conversation slip, she'd accuse me of being bored with her. (I developed a talent for extending conversations about nothing. It's a skill I use with my toddler today.)

There was crying in class. There were outbursts. I thought I was being caring and helpful. In reality, I was being very, very weak.

So why am I telling you all of this? Because in your classroom, CC, Silly may well be stalking Sally--or the real situation may be more complex. Maybe Sally is emotionally abusing Silly. Maybe somewhere in between.

And you know what caused me to break up with my high school girlfriend? Direct intervention from one of my teachers. This teacher cared enough to coach me through the breakup process, which I was too scared to undertake on my own. Thanks to this teacher, I learned to liberate myself, and--surprise--my girlfriend didn't end up committing suicide. (Last I heard, she got married and moved halfway around the world to terrorize someone else.)

I don't think it's your place as a professor to do what my teacher did. Goodness knows I wouldn't feel equipped to intervene in a student relationship. But referring her to counseling is something you can do, and it's something you should do. Whether she's the aggressor, the victim, or somewhere in between, the counseling folks will diagnose that. It's their job to help students who are emotionally incapable of helping themselves, like I was.​

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

If you could talk to them a year before they come....

Greetings, all!

It has been a minute, to be sure. I've missed your cynical avatars. Your woeful tales of miserable snowflakes. Your classy heartfelt advice. The duck.

Anyway, I have a question for you. Something to crowd-source on this not-at-all-overblown snow day that half the country has been experiencing (crybabies).

If you could contact the Freshman class of 2015 now, before they enter the classroom, what skills would you want them to have? This year's seniors are focusing on violin lessons and charity work to be attractive to their top choice. What should they focus on instead?

I feel like a running theme here is how unprepared our students are for the real work of college. I blame the Admissions process, which focuses more on how many extra-curriculars and AP tests a student has than they focus on study habits, independence, and writing skills. But if it were in your power to, I don't know, conquer Admissions and have a better sense of what students are coming in and what skills they bring with, well.... what would be on your wish list?

Proffie, can you take my phone to class with you?

A new phone application called Class 120 focuses on the problem of class attendance by letting parents or administrators know when students are skipping class.

This application is developed by a new startup company Core Principle.

“Our purpose is to promote and support student success in college,” CEO and Founder of Core Principle Jeff Whorley said.

Studies show class attendance is the number one contributor to good grades in college courses, but is also a problem nationwide.

Monday, January 26, 2015

I Don't Know. What Does the Duck Think?

Breakups and Drama

The screaming, then the sobbing, oh, the sobbing... that ensued today when one of my students received a text in class was a perfect example of why students SHOULD NOT check text messages in class. This couple, I'll call them Silly and Sally, have had an on-again/off-again romance that has perplexed, disturbed, and frustrated many of us. And today, for the fifth or sixth time in a month since classes began, it was off-again.

Some history: Silly walks Sally to class, he waits for her outside of the classroom, and walks her to her next class. Silly skips his own classes so he can sit outside of Sally's classroom to watch her. They are in LOOOOOVE, as displayed by Sally's waving and blowing of kisses to Silly as he moons over the distance of the 50 feet that separate them when she's in class and I refuse him entrance to the classroom. On the occasions when I have shut the door in Silly's face because he presents a distraction to not just Sally, he merely moves to the outside of the classroom to observe through the window. They usually settle down after a minute once we engage in an activity or lecture, so are not as disruptive as they could be. At the end of class, their reunions have included Sally doing a running jump into Silly's skinny arms, the likes of which we usually only see when military personnel return after a deployment. Then sometimes Silly and Sally break up, usually at her behest, and Silly sits forlornly outside watching Sally from afar until they make up again. It's not an example of a healthy relationship.

The Continuing Saga of Tyler Text-thumb. From Prof. Chiltepin.

Me: Put away your phone.

Tyler: I wasn't looking at my phone.

Me: Regardless, put it away. Okay, so, the favorite fruit of the marmoset is, by convergent evolution, also the favorite fruit of my nephew George, and does anyone know what that is?

Dan: The muskrat?

Me: Okay, so, let's see. A fruit is what, Dan?

Dan: Has a seed inside.

Me: Does a muskrat have a seed inside?

Dan: [thinking hard] I don't think --

Tyler: [interrupting] Muskrats are wacky!

Dan: [lost train of thought] Yeah?

Me: [long breath] Okay. Tyler. When you interrupt class like that, especially when someone is thinking and trying to come up with an answer, it undermines the whole process of learning. I won't put up with it.

Tyler: What? I was just agreeing with you!

Me: I am not arguing with you. I am telling you. These outbursts stop, and the texting stops.

Tyler: I was just --

Me: I don't care. Just say 'Yes, I understand.' That's all I want to hear from you right now.

Tyler: Why are you such a dick to me?

Me: I am a dick to anyone who interrupts my class, because these people here are all paying quite a lot of money to be here, and I have a responsibility to make sure they get their money's worth. That means they're paying for me, an expert in my field, to help them understand a complicated topic. They're not paying to hear your comedy routines.

Tyler: You're a jerk.

Me: Yes. I am. Moving along, Dan, you were saying that a fruit had a seed in it . . . ?


Probably not best practice, having that conversation in front of the whole class, but I lost my temper. It did have a couple effects. Dan came up, thanked me for stopping the interruption, and asked if he could move further away from Tyler ("Sit where you want, man, you're an adult."). And a girl came to my office visibly trembling and almost crying because she wanted help with a paper and she thought I might yell at her. Man alive. There's no middle ground, is there?

NOT SAFE FOR WORK. Graphic Stat Porn.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Misery's the River of the World. Everybody Row.

With apologies to Tom Waits. 

I think this might qualify as an Existential Thirsty:

I am currently gearing up for the semester, which starts Monday. Finishing touches on the LMS and all that. Tweaking lectures.

On Friday, and again yesterday, reports have filtered out that the governor's budget is going to include a $300 million cut to the system where I am employed, as well as changes to shared governance structures and tenure.

This insult is added to the injury perpetrated by the same governor back in 2011, which I will not go into here. Sorry in advance for linking to Wikipedia but I just don't have the energy to revisit this, since we've basically been living with the aftermath for the last 3+ years. It is long since we had any hope.

ASU Modifies Plan Forcing Instructors To Teach 5/5.

Arizona State University angered many of its faculty members last month when it announced that it was upping full-time, non-tenure-track composition instructors’ teaching loads to five classes per semester from four, without any additional pay.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Hey, I've Just Recently Found Out That Lots of Readers Hate the Mascots. And Enough Time Has Passed Since I Was Told How Much People Hate the Flashbacks. So, Here We Go Again. Remember. The Page is Dying. It's Always Dying. 8 Years Ago.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Old School: Tammy in Topeka is Tired of T.
I can't resist the chance to put the smackdown on T. who is in my English Composition class this term.

He was home schooled, preciously so, and he works that detail into every discussion. He won't shut up. He comments on everything I say and everything anyone else says. He tells us, "This is the way it is for home schoolers. We're very active and involved."

After someone in class read her opening paragraphs to us, his comment was, "I wouldn't read any more of that. I think that maybe she needs a new topic entirely; Dr. Tammy, what do you think?" When someone in class quietly said "Harsh," he replied: "This is how it is for me. I'm all about telling the truth, and sometimes people don't want to hear it. But that's my way. People either really love me or really hate me." (You can imagine how that was met by his classmates.)

Three times in four classes we've heard how T. doesn't watch TV, and certainly doesn't read the "porn and obscenity" on the Internet. He was taught by his family in the "great books tradition," and he doesn't understand why our class in expository writing can't do the same thing. When asked to purchase the textbook for our class (a writing rhetoric with instructions and assignments about writing short essays), he said, "Can't I find the same stories and poems in one of the anthologies I already have?"

After each of the classes so far T. has stuck around to deconstruct the class with me. He said yesterday, "I think that went pretty well. I could tell that S.'s feelings were hurt, but I think it's better she learns now that her essay isn't good rather than later. I'm sure she'll thank us later."

I'll admit I'm a young professor, but I've never had a student like T. I suppose some of you will say it's good that he's so involved, but this early on he's already sucked all the life out of that classroom, and I don't know how to rein him in so that others can have a voice as well.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Mascot of the Day.

Awesome Squirrel
Faber College

What part of "I'm a lazy lousy moderator" don't you get?

  • I'm not interested in refereeing pissing contests held in the comments. 
  • If you post or comment, live with the consequences. Kimmie, I took yours down as a one time courtesy. If you don't know by now that Frod condescends to humanities profs then you've not been paying attention. 
  • Nobody needs to announce they're leaving the blog, Reg W. If it's not for you, then it's not for you. It's not like we are all sharing the rent and utilities.  
  • The page shouldn't be a chore for anyone. Dig it? Don't dig it? Either is okay. 
  • Somebody get Leslie on the hotline. She was the toughest of all of us. 

Stat Porn.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Solution: Don’t work quite as much

Dr. Jekyll:  I say, Hyde, the fine folks at Iowa State University seemed to have solved the conundrum that is faculty work/life balance.

Prof. Hyde:  The University of Corn?  What do they know about this issue?

Dr. Jekyll:  Well, it seems their Faculty Senate President-Elect told them not to work quite as much.

Prof.  Hyde:  Ah, well, that does solve it!  I should be more respectful of Iowa State University.  Perhaps for their next trick they will invent a time machine.

"Tenure protects lousy professors." From the U of Toledo Independent Collegian.

Tenure: Me Time.
The University of Toledo is a mixed handbag of professors. I have had wonderful and insightful professors, but I have also had professors that should have retired years, or even decades ago.

This coming year a wave of retirements is finally shaking up UT. The administration has begun a faculty hiring plan to replace a considerable amount of retiring professors next year.

This exodus of senior professors is long overdue. Over time it is very easy for senior, tenured professors to become complacent, stagnant and outdated. A serious problem begins to arise — tenure policy protects bad professors.

The Rest.

K in K.

Terry asked me to address K in K and her most recent submission to the page. (I am glad he didn't utter her name, as I'm still looking over my shoulder.) It came in yesterday but Terry has told me he will not be putting it up.

KinK (that couldn't be much better) was a regular at RYS and in the early days at CM. She is a well known academic blogger with an avid readership, and she also sent us posts for publication. (These were occasionally a bit more hyperbolic than her own writing, but oftentimes the stories were identical - BFFing with her students, etc.)

This same person, however, often asked us to take down her posts after the fact, most times claiming not to have sent them, even though IP addresses and email addresses (even her personal college one) matched. I corresponded with her several times over a few years, trying to reason with her, but it never amounted to much.

When she did her last post with CM, it had been several months since she'd asked to be "left alone." Fab or Leslie K asked me to verify she'd sent the thing and I used her school address to double check. Yes, she had. The piece was posted, it got some rough treatment (it was nutty - go figure), and she wrote CM to claim plagiarism. The last thing Fab wrote about it, I think, was to say if she claims she didn't write these things she sent to us, well then we're okay with that, and we'll just ignore material that comes from "her" in the future. I thought that was a good idea.

Her most recent submission to CM, which I've seen, is directly from her own page, and it's such a self-aggrandizing screed - and a take down of all those in the academy who have long tried to hold her back (out of sheer envy) - that it's probably best left in her journal.

So, despite the anticipation that KinK might be on these pages again, I'd say be careful what you wish for.

Big Thirsty on the green-eyed monster of professional jealousy. Have YOU ever hosted it?

Starting when I was a talented kindergartener, I was often at the receiving end of jealousy from other kids. This didn't stop when I became an adult: several times during my academic career, I've had to grapple with professional jealousy.

The worst was when I was an Accursed Visiting Assistant Professor. I was the best-funded person in the physics department. The department was so dysfunctional, though, this obviated me from getting the accursed "visiting" removed from my title, amazingly. I got a tenure-track position somewhere else, but it kills me that those bastards got to keep the overhead on my grant.

Of course, when I graduated from high school and went off to a "most selective" college, I stopped being the most talented kid in the class, since I was now one among many. I got over it. In more recent years, however, there's been something new for me: feeling professional jealously myself.

So, have you hosted it toward others? More to the point, has it ever become a serious problem? How do you deal with it?

(Above is a picture I took of the Milky Way, just to make you jealous. The horizon appears to curve upward because I have a fisheye lens: eat you heart out. When I was an undergrad, I took organic chemistry and got an A in it, just to annoy all the premeds.)  ;-)

Heart not in it.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Sammy in Saskatoon Says: "The New University of Moncton Ad Makes Me Want to Go Back to College."

Hiram on the Netflix.

Two people on the blog, and two in emails forwarded by the RGM, have expressed a range of responses to me watching Netflix at school.

I'm not taking about bingewatching Orange is the New Black. I'm talking about watching the occasional half hour of something funny or distracting instead of staring at my computer screen and watching YouTube videos of cats falling off of pianos.

I do my job, and sometimes a bit more than what might be considered my job, and I'm not going to feel ashamed about how I practice my particular profession.

We all do things differently. I have a colleague who scurries around campus as if he's on fire. He doesn't utter anything without prefacing it with, "I don't know how I'm going to get through this day!" He burns the morning oil, noontime oil, midnight oil as well. And he makes sure that everyone he ever bumps into knows it. (He would have made an excellent Puritan.) He only grins when he says, "Oh, I see you're going home early today; what a nice treat for you."

I just smile and say something as inane like, "Well, I got around to my work, so, yes, I'm going home. You keep beating the Spartans back."

My whole life has been college. It doesn't feel like a place that I need to or want to run from at the end of my duties. So, instead of driving home, I might watch some Netflix, visit some colleagues - shoeless (but with CLEAN socks, thanks for that insult Nate) - and then do whatever it is that is needed to be the best teacher and human I can be.

If that's not enough, then so be it. There was a time in my career when I might have let myself be made to feel bad about myself, but I'm past that now.

Sorry. Once a plan is set in motion, I'm powerless.

Kutztown U

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


From 4:27 to 5:23 pm (Eastern time) we ran a simple survey for proffies who teach 3 or more classes per term.

We simply asked, "How many hours a week do you work?'

Our stat program says we had (approximately) 226 views during that hour, and the survey stopped collecting data when we hit 100 responses - the limits of a free account.

Here is a graph and a chart with the results.


So, You've Been Wondering Where They Come From?

Ah, Isomorphic Learning Center;
You glorified table and chairs.
$75/session (of which I get $17)

Positive reinforcement!  Tokens!
But you have no idea how to use
positive reinforcement with the staff.

I'm really feeling defeated here.

So, there's Sweetheart.  He-she was making progress in terms of actually understanding algebra, the manipulations.  He-she was actually drawing neat graphs.  Yet, he-she still gets an F in the class.  Mom says send hir home with some extra problems.  Did you do them?  Ummm...  no, and you are digging in your backpack and can't find them.   Hmm.. that's weird, you say.  You don't know what you did with them.  It's the same each time we meet.  Send you home with problems.  They magically disappear.

Well, we have to be working on something today, so I need to have you do an assignment from our program.  What did you work on in class?  You don't know?  All you can say is that there was this one thing that he wrote on the board and it was really confusing?  Can you describe it?  Oh, all you can say is umm...  hmm...  I don't know it was really confusing.  You really want me to believe you have no fucking memory whatsoever of what happened in class today?

Do you have a moment?

Baskets in Haikou 03.jpg
A Basket case
(Foto by Anna Frodesiak
Licensed under CC0 via Wikimedia Commons.)
A short interaction on a grey, snowy morning.

Suzy is lugging bags with various baskets for her basket-weaving class. She is late, as traffic was bad.

A student in a white T-shirt jumps out of the project room across the hall.

T-shirt: Oh, Mrs. Suzy, do you have a moment?

Suzy: [To self: Why can't they ever call me Dr. Suzy?] No.

T-shirt:  But I have some important questions!

Suzy: My office hours are on Thursday.

T-shirt:  But I have to work then!

Suzy: Well, I have to work now.

Is our school the only one where basket-weavers have such lucrative part-time jobs that they expect us to have time when it fits their schedule?

Who Knew?

Atilla the Duck
Stevens Institute of Technology

Monday, January 19, 2015

You've Been Waiting For This One...

Artie the Fighting Artichoke
Scottsdale Comm College

Sunday, January 18, 2015


Arnie Corsair
U of Mass - Dartmouth

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Because yelling "You are NOT stupid, but you're NOT really trying!" while they cry has yet to work.

Of the 150+ students registered for my spring courses, 100 are pre-nursing students (which is funny, because most of them have decades of experience working as nurses).  Most of them are math-phobic middle aged women who panic at the sight, sound or smell of anything mathematical.  Like when they see the room number.  Or smell chalk.  Or have to write the date on their lab reports.

These same women are always on time, or early.  They make study groups and do all of the things you hope struggling students will do.  They take METICULOUS notes.  They can answer any question I ask during class.

And then they take a test.  They can do literally identical problems in class that they can not do on an exam.  During problem solving sessions, they are adamant that they can "only do this when [you] help me.  As soon as I go home I am lost."  As God is my witness, I do not do a thing while they do problem sets in class.  I am literally in the room with them and that is it.  Put it on a test and they go from solid B/B+ students, to beyond F.  Like they do work in class that's worth uninflated high 80's, on a test, I can scratch together enough excuses for partial credit to give them a 40, and if someone audited my grading, I would get fired for grade inflation.

My husband is in Ed. Psych. and he's got these journal articles all over our office about "Stereotype threat".  That's exactly their problem.  I have tried once in a while to give a pep-talk the class before an exam, and include the concept of stereotype threat.  It usually pulls one or two of these students into reality and they proceed along a more enjoyable trajectory.  It rarely makes much of an effect on the group as a whole.  So I had this idea...

I want to attach an article on stereotype threat to the syllabus.  Have it as a reading assignment right from day one.  But the articles I have here in the office are real deal research based peer-reviewed psychology articles.  Giving this out would also throw the ones with reading disabilities into a twirl and then I'd have two kinds of canaries to calm instead of one.  And my plea to the social scientists of the community is:

Does anyone have a pop-science version of an article on stereotype threat that I could give as suggested reading to my health-science class?

Making Kids Act Adult. From Prof. Chiltepin.

I have a freshman class, a requirement, and one I actually enjoy teaching. The material is fun, the discussions can be downright energetic, and I'm damned good at teaching it.

On Wednesday, Text-thumb Tyler spent the whole class on his phone. The whole class. I called on him. "Tyler, what do you think the mangoes might symbolize?" Nothing. He shrugged, barely looked up from his phone. I foolishly moved on.

And then, another complaint from a student. She came to my office today and said "I really like the class, but those three kids in the back won't shut up. They keep making snarky comments about the readings and you, and it's distracting. Why do you let them do that?"

I thanked her and said I'd handle it. But the answer is, I let them do it because it was invisible to me. I keep forgetting that I'm teaching children, because I signed up to this job to teach adults. So when they act like children, they're often just beneath my notice. But yeah, they're interfering with other people's learning, and so I have to put a stop to that.

But how the hell do you do that? Say "You get a demerit?" I mean, in real life, their behavior just gets them labeled assholes. What's a way to get adults to behave like adults? I have no idea. I'd be interested to know how you handle such things. Everyone around here either commiserates "but what can you do?" or offers really insulting advice ("well, maybe if you exhibited more respect for them as people, they'd return the respect." Sure, asshole).

Friday, January 16, 2015

Do We Still Link Shit Here? This Has Got at Least One Huge Inside Joke In It, the Apocryphal Military Student Who Defeats the Liberal Proffie Story, But Maybe Some Will Chuckle.

A college professor was addressing his history class. He began his lecture by saying, “Let’s get one thing straight: God is not real; the only God is Obama and the powerful female clitoris.” One student raised his hand and stood up and said, “Sir, I’m sorry to interrupt, but where I come from we don’t talk bad about God, because he’s our best friend.” The professor then said, “What are you, an idiot? Shut up, idiot. This is college and we hate Christ. Who do you think you are, Christian?” The student responded by picking up his bag, putting on his cowboy hat and punching the teacher in the face. “My name is Sgt. Johnathan Gunderson. And your plan won’t work, Goltar.” Because when the sergeant punched the professor, he punched the mask off of his face, revealing the praying mantis head underneath. “You’ve figured out my evil plan this time, Sgt. Gunderson. But as long as there are aborted fetuses for me to feast upon, I will always be stronger than America!” He then flew away to his lair. Share this status if you want to save America and end abortion.

A college professor was addressing his history class. He began his lecture by saying, “Let’s get one thing straight: God is not real; the only God is Obama and the powerful female clitoris.” One student raised his hand and stood up and said, “Sir, I’m sorry to interrupt, but where I come from we don’t talk bad about God, because he’s our best friend.” The professor then said, “What are you, an idiot? Shut up, idiot. This is college and we hate Christ. Who do you think you are, Christian?” The student responded by picking up his bag, putting on his cowboy hat and punching the teacher in the face. “My name is Sgt. Johnathan Gunderson. And your plan won’t work, Goltar.” Because when the sergeant punched the professor, he punched the mask off of his face, revealing the praying mantis head underneath. “You’ve figured out my evil plan this time, Sgt. Gunderson. But as long as there are aborted fetuses for me to feast upon, I will always be stronger than America!” He then flew away to his lair. Share this status if you want to save America and end abortion.

Nine Years Ago from RYS.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Washington State Checks In.

With each new semester I want to believe that my students are going to be better. But after 5 years I am always disappointed.

We've just finished our first week of school. I provide a lengthy syllabus with instructions on everything from grading to attendance to dates of tests. Yet this weekend I received more than 20 emails asking questions that are easily found on the syllabus.

Not only do I distribute the syllabus, but we talk about it in class, and I take questions over the important matters. This might seem like a minor matter, but couldn't my time be better served on something other than replying to 20 emails that never should have been sent?

"How many tests are there?" one student writes. That's on page one under a heading called 'Tests.'

"I can't be here on January 19th. Will I miss anything?" Yes, there are three readings and a comprehension quiz all noted on the syllabus next to heading that says 'January 19th.' And, in the syllabus itself it tells you the policy on missing quizzes. That's page 2, under a heading called 'Quizzes.'

One student wrote, "I have a night class on Wednesday nights, and sometimes because of so much studing (sic) I oversleep. Do you have a policy on arriving late?" Yes, under the heading 'Late Policy' on page 3, you'll find all you need.

If this material doesn't sink in, I have grave concerns about the more intricate material that we cover in the actual class. Why aren't students listening, reading? Why aren't they plugged in to what the class is about, how it runs, what I expect? Do they really care so little that they can't be bothered to read the syllabus, or LISTEN to me when I read them the syllabus? These are the rules of the game, the rules of the road, the map to a final grade. And these are not freshmen either; most of my students are sophomores and juniors. You'd think they'd know better, or at least know better than to reveal themselves as complete dolts in the first week.

These students who have written in with questions on material they are expected to have learned in our first classes are starting in a hole with me. I already think they lack the intellectual rigor to do well in college. They already have shown me something of their abilities, their attention to detail. I'm already tired and it's just the second week.

What on earth do we have to do to get them to care about the class as much as we do?

Middle-Aged and Morose Sends This In.

Do I LOOK like
an instructor?
Scene from the AHA Book Exhibit. A youngish book rep is talking to a middle-aged professor.
Rep: Are you an instructor?
Rep: (a tad flustered): Oh, I’m sorry. I thought you were a professor.
Prof: I am a PROFESSOR. I am NOT an instructor!
Rep: (starts to stammer a bit, wondering if he just pissed off a possible customer)
Prof: Do you understand how faculty ranks works in American universities? (Before the rep can answer) Apparently NOT!
(Prof then goes into detailed explanation about the different ranks.)
Prof: So, you see, I am NOT an instructor!
I was so tempted to say something like “So, where does ‘Asshole’ fit into those ranks?” or “Dude, he was just asking if you taught classes. No one, absolutely no one here cares about your rank but you. Look around, there are 5,000 other PhDs here. None of us care if you’re an adjunct or a full professor.”

I resisted the temptation, not because I wanted to avoid an argument, but because it would have put
the poor book rep in the middle, and he was having a bad enough day.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Vance From Vacaville With a Big Thirsty - "Detective Style."

We hired someone last year and some details about it always bugged me.

The hire said she was a trailing spouse, as a way to explain a strange hop-scotching of jobs, 6 in 12 years. She said her husband worked in finance and had moved them from NY to DC to Chicago to Florida and to Texas. (Those are not the real states, but they're geographically comparable.) She'd had a couple of t-t jobs, but about half of her gigs had been part-time.

Her spouse had left his job to consult full time from home, and what a great chance to settle down, and wasn't she happy that we were considering her!

There also had been some gaps in the hire's work history, 2 years at one point and two 1-year breaks of work that the hire described as "sabbaticals." I brought up in a committee meeting that these could not have been traditional sabbaticals, but nobody seemed too worried about it. We were at the end of a long and contentious search and this person fit our job needs nicely.

Well, within six months she told us her husband had gone back to finance and was now going to commute weekly to a large city (we're a dinky city) 250 miles away. It was not a problem, she said, etc.

Then at the end of the fall semester she put in a request for classes that only met on Saturdays and Mondays. Nobody has that kind of leverage here, especially someone so new.

She told the chair yesterday that she's now going to move to the big city to join her husband, but it's not going to be a big deal - except for committee work, faculty meetings, etc. The chair wants to assuage the hire and give her the odd schedule, but a few of us in the department are grumbling. I wanted to go all detective style on it and find out how long the husband had been working in the big city, was it all a hiring ruse, etc.? (We are not a social department, and a sort of large one, so we don't often see spouses at all.)

She's tenure-track, and got 3 years of her 7 year clock lopped off for her experience elsewhere. She seems like a diligent teacher, and I like her personally, but I'm getting some bitterness about her being on the verge of being on-call for us 2 days a week with no possibility of being around for the day-to-day work of a full time person.

Q: Should I be bugged by this? Is it a portent of a new search committee? Has anyone ever seen this happen? What would you do if it happened in your department?

SO very sad: when a once-respected colleague goes bad

It is SO sad whenever a once-esteemed colleague drinks the Kool-Aid, and their once fine mind becomes invaded by an alien presence. My department is on the verge of mutiny to demand that our current Chair either step down or walk the plank---and frankly, making him walk the plank at the end of a sharp object would be much more fun---and the semester has only just started. He's always had a knack of making a good first impression, but he's a lazy tenure-abuser whose research dried up years ago and who's trying to stick us remaining productive faculty with his job of writing our department review, now 3 years late, not that any of the administrators who are bellowing for it will ever read the stupid thing.

His case is bad, but come to think of it, he probably never truly did deserve the degree of respect we gave him: he just had a talent for looking good. MUCH more painful is when a colleague who once had genuine merit starts advocating sitting in a circle, holding hands, and singing "Kumbaya" as a method of teaching inorganic chemistry. AND NSF IS PAYING FOR IT.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to HURL. I know that it's possible to hurl for much longer than after when one thinks one is finished. When I do get done, though, I am going to be more determined to write that grant proposal for ACTUAL research.

P.S. Like my new graphic? I drew it myself! I know, it still needs a plastic pocket protector, and some bloodstains, of course.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Horny Mascots (Double Team!)

Doc Slash Has Academic Dating Misery

I'd like to think I've grown older and wiser in my dating habits over the years, but one thing that still jumps up to bite me from time to time is my tendency to give a slight mental bump to dating prospects who also have some experience with academia.

'After all,' I'll think to myself, 'They understand what it's like working in this business, so we ought to have plenty of common ground. I'm tired of trying to explain exactly how much shit I have to shovel on a daily basis to dates who think I'm so lucky only having to teach 15 hours a week, and presumably sit around twiddling my thumbs in between classes.'

This mindset landed me on a long string of dates in grad school with grad students from other departments, who would happily ramble on about their dissertation prospectus while I politely nodded my head like Homer Simpson being lectured on the difference between apple juice and apple cider and thought about how explaining my teaching schedule to academic novices really wasn't that bad after all.

I've mostly stuck to my 'Dating Academics Is A Bad Idea' rule since then, but I do find myself backsliding on occasion, which is how I found myself on a date earlier this evening with a Ph.D. student who asked me only a single question over the course of our 90 minute (Damn you, slow bartender! Can't you tell the air of quiet desperation that screams 'ring up our tab now?') interaction:

"Oh, what journal did you publish that in?"

90 minutes, and that was the only question s/he could think of to ask me. Naturally, I decided to share this with the RGM as soon as I got home.

I don't know if this topic deserves a full-fledged thirsty or if it can be sufficiently debated in the comment section, but I am curious--anyone else have any Gob Bluthian 'I've made a huge mistake' moments while attempting to date (or mate) within the academy?

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

We Welcome Your Misery. Or Angst. Or Ennui. Or Top Ten List. Or Just a Funny Story About How the Dean Screwed You Over.

If you'd like to share your own college misery, email the RGM. It may not bring you much acclaim, but it will stop the manic mascot flood.

Yeah, So.

Argie the Argonaut
U of West Florida

Monday, January 12, 2015

10 things not enough kids know before going to college. From

6) Do the minimum foreign language classes

Not a Monday Thirsty on FUNDING!

I'm not sure how strictly we adhere to the Thirsty Rules, so I'm calling this "not-a-thirsty" instead... I've come up against needing funds to help students to go to a conference (at my insistence encouragement, they submitted papers and got them accepted to an academic conference), and now I find myself baffled (sorry, Hiram, I'm breaking all the rules today) about how to pay for them to go. Our department doesn't have a budget for such things and the dean's office has said they have no budget and that in the past, departments have raised money through bake sales so we should be able to also do so. The dean hasn't tasted anything I've baked, clearly!

Does your campus have funding for such, and if so, where does it come from? Any ideas for raising funds that would bring in more than bake sales in the next three months? I've considered all of the online ones that people post on FaceBook and flat-out asking my friends to help, but that would alienate them pretty quickly, plus most of my friends are academics who have no money!


Aristocat [seriously]
Tennessee State U

Sunday, January 11, 2015

You Know.

Archibald Eagle [guffaw]
U of Southern Indiana

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Mascots Return

U of Nevada - Reno

Friday, January 9, 2015

Suing Over a C+? From NPR.

The latest person to sue a university over a "bad" grade has failed to make her case.

As the Allentown, Pa., Morning Call reports, "a Northampton County judge on Thursday rejected the claims of a Lehigh University graduate suing over her C+ grade, a verdict that upheld the school's insistence that she earned the mark she got."

The Morning Call adds that: "After four days of testimony in a civil trial that captured worldwide attention, Judge Emil Giordano decided that the Bethlehem university neither breached a contract with nor sexually discriminated against Megan Thode, whose lawsuit had sought $1.3 million in damages."

The rest.

Free college, Amirite?

from Frenna:

I am not sure how I feel about this.

I love the idea of making education more accessible.

Even by our
standards this
graphic is awful.
What is free? Only courses that lead to a degree? Sadly many students at the CC level need lots of help with remedial subjects like reading, language and math.

How will it be paid for? How will this influence the use of adjuncts versus hiring more full-time faculty? I think education is woefully underfunded (more likely wrongly funded) currently. More money needs to be spent hiring good people, full-time to do the work in the trenches! We also need support faculty. The ability to make photocopies (I work at a place where we can no longer photocopy syllabi - budget cuts), have a computer, pens, paper, dry erase makers, professional development funds, etc.

In a side note, kind of related, a University nearby is planning to hire ~100 Professors. Now at this particular University one must do research to obtain tenure. Unsurprisingly, most of these hires will be in the sciences. Where will these young prof's get their grant money to fund the research to get tenure?

The system is woefully broken in places!

Hiram is Baffled By His Own Committee.

I sit on a tiny committee of department chair, vice chair, and one Dean's office person. (I truly don't know what his job is, and he rarely says a word. He likes to take notes on a tablet, but I don't know what they get used for.)

We review adjunct hiring in our department once a year or so, making sure the part-timers are doing a good job. Oh, God, I don't mean we visit the instructors and offer help. No, that'd be too much work, and when I asked about it I was told it was "overkill."

So in a meeting yesterday, we filled in 5 new empty first year sections from a pool of about 8 part-timers who taught with us last term or at least in the past year. Two veterans got 2 sections each, and we had one section left over.

I know Part-Time Patricia, a funny and bright woman who is likable and quirky and just a delight. She has been here a couple of years, and she comes to the occasional department meeting. She's regaled me with stories from her world, freeway flying, and they stun me. But her attitude is fantastic, and I admit she seems smarter and more diligent about teaching undergrads than anyone else in the department, including me.

So, I said, "Let's give it to Patricia. She's dynamite."

The chair nodded, the Dean's office person tapped away, and then the vice chair pulled out some papers.

"I've got her evaluations here," she said. "They aren't very good. You can tell she's not a favorite with the students."

I was handed the papers first and THEY WERE PRINTED COPIES OF RATE MY PROFESSOR. They were mostly positive, but some angry kids had raked Patricia over the coals in the following examples: "She grades to [sic] hard," "I came late once and she made fun of me," "There's too much writing," "She won't let me email my essays," "I think she gives more help to the A students."

"What about the real evaluations," I said.

"Oh, they're about the same," the vice chair said.

"Do you have them?"

"Not with me, but I looked them over."

"Is there time to get them?"

The chair said, "No, let's just wrap this up."

I'd go on, but I just can't. The chair gave the class to someone else instead, someone I don't know.

I just slumped - I'm given to slumping.

The vice chair smiled, and we started to dismiss.

At the end it was just me and the Dean's office person.

"That's bad luck, huh?" the Dean's office person said.

"For everyone," I said.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Delicious Coincidence or just (VERY) Bad Karma?

Our quarter began on Monday and I assigned a prompt for the first day of class where the potential flakes needed to argue something based on a recent controversial topic in the news. As I skimmed through to gauge their writing, determining who's half-assing it (65%), who's truly earnest (5%), and who is pretending to play my game (30%), I came across one entry where the student's phrasing was VERY familiar to a phrase I'm very familiar with.

Why am I familiar with this phrase? I have a twitter account, and with some of my followers, we've formed bonds, sometimes-flirted, always-teased, and just become friends. I've been pretty good about keeping my identity a secret on there, not sharing too much about my irl self, but I have become fairly friendly with one individual, whom I shall call GrundyFlax68 (I used an online name generator to come up with that one). GrundyFlax68 always ends his Direct Messages with a brief phrase he's coined, the same phrase at the end of that assignment.

GrundyFlax68 and I have been "twitter friends" (no twitter crush for me) for three years now. GrundyFlax68 is my buddy, my pal, my backup, and the person I have vented to about my hoarding neighbor's habits, or to let him know the pomegranate tree he advised me to prune looks dead now. He has a wicked sense of humor, is hilarious online, and now, yes, you know where I'm going (there's no subtle buildup to this "big" reveal): GrundyFlax68 is a 23-year-old lanky guy with an unfortunate haircut who spent much of the class yesterday and today drawing a fake tribal tattoo on his arm with a Sharpie.

In order to be 90% sure of this, I asked the class today to "share" a little bit about their hobbies, talking about which of their hobbies or activities they think will be helpful in supporting their academic endeavors and which they think might become a problem for them when papers are due. He revealed that he spends a lot of time on twitter, but that his tweets are "more intellectual than you'd imagine." I blinked twice at that one because I don't contribute anything intellectual to twitter, nor would I characterize his posts as intellectual in any way. Words have been exchanged over varying interpretations of scenes from Disney movies, but that's as intellectual as it has gotten!

Tonight I logged in to absolutely make sure. And yup, his tweets reveal that he's signed up for a class with a prof he's not really sure about because they had an assignment due on Day 2 and she made them write a "lame-ass opinion piece" in class about something he just bullshitted his way through. (Yes, his entry was way more abbreviated than that, but I don't want to post it as is here.)

So... there's no question that I'm never revealing to him who I am. But it's going to make for an interesting quarter if he ends up staying in my class. I'm not sure if I should attempt to encourage him to switch sections before the Add/Drop date, or whether to just do what I had originally planned by being the consummate professional (but how?). Either way, it feels like both good and bad karma are trying to tell me something here.