Monday, May 30, 2016

From Fab.

Then there was that time when Dr. Amelia read the news

Choice tidbit from this article.
Students at Oberlin College are asking the school to put academics on the back burner so they can better turn their attention to activism. More than 1,300 students at ...
"You know, we're paying for a service here"

From Frankie: Note to self for fall--All grades will now be based on in-class, proctored exams.

It's one thing to hire a company that will take your online course for you. But it takes a certain level of chutzpah to solicit freelance writers to do your homework for you, including the professor's warning about plagiarism. 

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Weekend Thirsty.

Whom do you hate?  I mean, really, passionately.
And why?

Southern Bubba, Ph.D.

Friday, May 27, 2016


Ate us?

A Thirsty Followup, Two Years Later

Hi everyone,

I'm Atrus, and about two years ago, as a wee undergrad, I posted a Thirsty about whether or not to go into librarianship.

I just wanted to tell you all that I'll be graduating in a week with my MLIS, and that although I'm still sending out job applications left and right, I know that I've chosen the right career path.

Thank you for all the advice that you gave me back then, especially you, Cassandra -- I ended up taking classes in Digital Humanities, data curation, and cataloging, and I think that your advice was one of the things that reinforced my decision to do so.

(And I'm still a regular reader of the Miz.)

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

10 Years Ago on RYS. Some Summer Advice.

Call me Professor Patrice from Pennsylvania, though 2 parts of that are phony! Allow me to offer some advice for professors over the summer:

  1. Don't read your email. In fact, compose a little vacation reply so that you'll be spared the endless questions about grades. There's no sense in you worrying over it. I know you did a good job with grades, and letting the students stew over their Cs and Ds for the summer will do them some good. Most of them will have forgotten your injustices to them by September, so why get involved in it now.
  2. Resist the administration's pleas for summer "help" in registration, advising, and the rest. I know this is a delicate thing. But once you become a 'go-to girl' for problems in June and July, you will be hounded forever for 'extra' duty. Disappear from campus - and from town if possible.
  3. Prepare a LITTLE bit for next Fall. This is probably not your FIRST summer break as an academic, so don't spend a great deal of time worrying about Fall 2006. It'll come. You'll be fine that first day. You know what to do in a class. If you have a brand new offering, then by all means do some reading for it. But a sure recipe for burnout is to worry away summer while thinking about Fall.
  4. Keep in contact with a few grad school friends, especially the ones who have good jobs at good schools. It's always good to see how the 'other half' lives, and it's even better to stay connected to a little network of other profs who can be useful to you for future job searches, setting up of seminars, etc.
  5. Do something mindless. Do a lot of things mindless, in fact. You've chosen a career of the mind for some nutty reason, but the job has a built-in 'recuperation' period. This is it, baby. Go bowling. Put on a floppy hat and go get some margaritas. Drive to the ocean and put your toes in the sand. Let your brain have a break.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Some things you can't discuss with even the most divinely snarky colleagues. From Curly.

Ever had a crush on a student?

"Crush" as I understand it has more to do with excessively dorky interest in the person / excitement at seeing them and less with slavering sexuality, but you all are welcome to answer the question as you prefer, as you no doubt will. 

No need to share what you did about it unless you want to (and if the answer is "it was 50 years ago and I married her despite our 30-year age gap," SPARE ME.) 

And be honest, dammit. 

--Curly Charlan 

Dr. Amelia tries to be a matchmaker in this early thirsty.

So periodically, Dr. Amelia has the little flakies work together on something in pairs. She often assigns the pairings (and assigns groups, too), since when the flakies do it themselves, they often seem to learn less for some reason...So she tries to pair up people who can learn from each other, based on what the assignment is.

However, there is always that one kid. The one who talks a lot, but has little to say. The one who doesn't have the social skills to match their position in a college classroom. The one who starts talking and doesn't stop even as all the other eyes roll up to the ceiling. The kid is smart. S/he has some of the best answers in the class on written work.

Q: So when I assign the pairs, do I put hir with the popular but too cool for school kid who learn a lot from the pairing, or from the nice, but long-suffering kid who is also smart, but too kind to protest the match?

Give me my grades today

Mildly amusing, surely we have some response to the same tune? Give me your essays today?

Suzy from Square State

Monday, May 23, 2016

Gawker Series on Adjuncts Continues.

2015- 2016 Emails I didn't send

To Adjunct One
No, I will not change my very positive evaluation of your good, solid teaching to "Outstanding" in all categories. I know few teachers who might warrant such an evaluation. You're a good teacher, and I will recommend that you teach the newly revised course. I was put off by your second request to meet with me for "no more than fifteen minutes" so you can "be sure to get all Outstandings" on the next evaluation. If I could make good teachers outstanding teachers by just repeating what I wrote on their evaluations, I would do that job. By the way, please don't seem to threaten me by saying that the department is lucky that you can "cover" a class at 8:00 am before you go to your "real job." We have enough colleagues who prefer 8:00 am classes and who call this job their real job.

To Adjunct Two
 A "needs improvement" on one section of an evaluation doesn't mean that I consider you a "horrible teacher." I tried to be supportive by offering to meet with you off the record to suggest ways to improve your teaching. You argued that I should change my evaluation because "student-centered classes are the new technique." Some old people have heard about new techniques, and I do know enough about teaching that arranging the student desks in a circle does not mean your class is student-centered. Where the students sit as you lecture isn't student-centered instruction. I appreciate the value and effectiveness of good lecture, but my department asks for "student interaction;" that's why it's a category on the evaluation form. And your lecture wasn't good anyway, something I left off the evaluation. Finally, I didn't mean to insult you (as the chair reports you charged) when I said all teachers need improvement.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Gifts to Students. From Cassandra.

Of course I rolled my eyes at this headline when it came up in my newsfeed:

Why I give each of my college students a gift to mark the end of the semester

And the rolling was unabated when I read that the author is a "professorial lecturer" -- i.e. a contingent faculty member -- at a very expensive university that is not known for treating its contingent faculty well.

But once I read it, I rather liked the idea. The gift is neither time-consuming nor expensive to make (probably less so than pizza or cookies). And, most important, it offers the students something the instructor thinks is valuable (which some of them will appreciate, and many may not; see the flashback that is at the top of the page as I write).

Also, students have to come to a one-one-one draft conference (a very valuable exercise of which some students are leery, for a variety of reasons ranging from anxiety at being "judged" -- not the point -- to not having a draft -- or, in rarer cases, a draft they are competent to discuss since they wrote it themselves). In short, the gift is an extension of the professor's pedagogy, not an instance of pandering to the students' own (perceived) desires.


Fiddlebright Sends In This Trump Link.

I don't know if anyone is interested but here is a link to an IHE article from last week. The article has a pretty robust discussion about Donald Trump's vision of college access under his administration. Here are a couple of paragraphs of flava:
"Some of the ideas under consideration could be "revolutionary," Clovis said. Proposals currently being prepared would upend the current system of student loans, force all colleges to share the risk of such loans and make it harder for those wanting to major in the liberal arts at nonelite institutions to obtain loans. And even if some of the proposals would face a skeptical Congress, these ideas could gain considerable attention if Trump uses them to parry with his Democratic opponent."
"And Clovis said this does not mean the Trump campaign is against the liberal arts. "The liberal arts education is the absolute foundation to success in life," Clovis said, adding that he hoped business and engineering and health professions and education students would include liberal arts courses in their college educations. But it is a different thing altogether, Clovis said, to focus on such fields. "If you choose to major in the liberal arts, there are issues associated with that."

Saturday, May 21, 2016

An RYS Flashback to a Post With One of the Great Titles of All Time. 9 Years Ago.

MONDAY, MAY 21, 2007

"May Your Perfidy Ramify Through Your Life." If We Only Had a Dime For Every Time We Said That.

Dear Students:

The collective attitude you have shown toward reading and writing during the past semester is neither new nor surprising. You are not well-suited to do either. To your credit, you hate ignorance, as I do. To your discredit, you really only hate being shown that you are ignorant, through encountering words and ideas that are foreign to you and your immediate experience. Rather than look them up and learn about them, as is moronically simple these days, you disdain them, and then complain that you do not understand them. This complaint is disingenuous because you show no interest in having them explained.

Rather, you want to be relieved of responsibility for knowing them, and for reading the works that contain them. In short, you do not want to be educated, or even to go through the motions of education. What you want is a degree, and if there existed a system of academic indulgences, you would gladly fork over four years tuition to receive one without having to waste time going to classes. For a little extra, you could get someone like me to drop by and, for about a half-hour, confirm your base prejudices, the ones you've gotten from television and the movies and video games and life in general. You have written about these prejudices incessantly: why brute force is an answer for everything, why the whole world, with its little invisible workers everywhere, has come together for your material and personal happiness, why you live in the greatest country in the history of the world, led by its greatest leader, why your ethnic group has undergone suffering that leaves you preeminent over us, who are all racists... I will not go on.

I have read your stories about anime characters, complete with super-deformed doodles, your tales of extraterrestrials and werewolves and vampires. It is interesting that your eyes turn to the supernatural world so often, since you have such an impoverished notion of this one.

Randall Jarrell, in Pictures From An Institution, a book you'll never read, anticipated a world in which people could do without culture. He likened it to a kingdom, where the king and queen have always observed the rituals of piety. Then, a man - an advertising man - tells them that they need do no such thing. They are surprised, but, newly liberated, they go to Mass - real fast - and then have a swift one at the club afterwards. You are just as enlightened as they are; your only problem is that the term does not pass swiftly enough to suit you.

From your perspective, ignorance is not a curse, and so I cannot curse you with ignorance. Nonetheless, I curse you. May your mergers not merge and may your acquisitions not be acquired. May your perfidy ramify through your life, so that all your dealings are as twisted as you are. May your lack of concentration result in an accident that kills you. May your illiteracy prevent you from reading some crucial document. And may you be transferred to Europe, where your lack of foreign languages renders you deaf and mute, and where your lack of culture will be seen for what it is - barbarism.

Oh, and don't worry about the evaluations. What you have to say is irrelevant.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

This week's big thirsty. Just under the wire. From Nick.

Q: My colleague always brags about her evals and how popular she is with students. This means she's a soft touch, a people pleaser, and probably a useless teacher, right?

How low Dr. Amelia's standards have dropped.

  1. I am sincerely grateful when a student emails to cancel a conference they scheduled even if it's an hour before it is supposed to happen. "They bothered to write!" I think.
  2. When the journal editor writes to say my paper was bumped to the next issue, which means it won't be on my annual report for this year, I am thinking "well, it'll get published sometime."
  3. We had a 2 percent raise pool, with 1 percent of that designated for merit. I got 3 and feel like I won the lottery. "That's like 20 pizzas, you guys..."
  4. When senior Sally craps out 2/3 of a semester worth of work the day before grades are due, I'm grading it without time penalty just so I don't have to have her again. 

Proffies' Public Push-back

These are a few years old, but I tender them for your consideration anyway.

La saveur: One day a few years ago, I got an email from someone who called himself Davis.

"hey carl, i have 2 do a report on the book parasite rex. and i kind of need help on chapter 4 i dont really get it! can u please help me?"

...But getting a string of words on your computer screen is not the same as learning, or as understanding. Once you find an article on, say, carnivorous plants, you need to read it deeply. Let the ideas sink in. The first time through, you may not appreciate how all the pieces of the story fit together into a whole. Read it again. Resist the urge to click away to Facebook after every sentence. Print the story out if you have to. Save it as a pdf if you have to. The more you focus on reading, the stronger your mind becomes.
The Article.

Commentary: I sometimes get these requests , too. My response is often similar to "I suggest you reread the chapter, and then if you have some specific questions, maybe I can answer them." I almost never hear from them again.


Il sapore: Once in a while, I am approached about taking on a high school student over the summer. I always say no, for the same reason that I turn away most premeds: they want research "experience." ...High school students want to look awesome so that they can get into a fancy university. That has nothing to do with why I am paid to work for the State of California, so I'll take a pass. But I don't let the high school students off with a simple "No, thank you." The Article.

Commentary: This one was linked from a comment here a few years ago, but as far as I know not discussed here. Colleagues and I have, over the years, hosted several high school students in our labs for summer stints. It's now occurred to me that the outcome is consistent with none of them having deemed our school good enough to attend. On the other hand, we don't have firm statistics on those who interned in labs at other schools and then matriculated at ours. I totally get that such unpaid internships favor the privileged. The sad truth is, if we paid them comparably to other summer jobs, in most cases they wouldn't be worth the money: their time with us is too short to learn the techniques and apply them well.

Brought to you by OPH.


The future is coming to Northern Kentucky University.

The flava:
"Six of those faculty positions are currently filled, but are on the non-tenure/tenure track and will be cut next year. Those employees will still be teaching this academic year, but their contracts will not be renewed.

The cuts will bring the total number of faculty down 6 percent to 550 positions. The positions were drawn from all six colleges and the currently filled positions were selected by chairs, deans and the provost because they can be replaced with 'capable and qualified' adjuncts."

-- Agnes of Dog

Quick Update from Bella on Eviline

​You may recall Eviline, the student who raised a fuss that anxiety from a mean teacher caused her to fail her tests.  Since she has an anxiety disorder, she said that it wasn't fair to expect her to do well on tests with such a meanie.  The professor offered to allow her to take the tests over this semester, with help from the tutoring center to study and a proctor of her choice.

Some of you asked for an update, and I have one!  Eviline fussed and fretted and continued to say the whole thing was not fair.  I had e-mailed the Inner City SLAC program director to tell her that the grade was under dispute and that the dispute would be resolved by April 1.  Eviline fussed and fretted and April 1 came and went.  Evilne went to the Dean one last time saying it was not fair to ask her to take tests from last semester.  Our Dean pointed out that this was what she had agreed to, and also that she was claiming a B+ or A- mastery of the material (and she could not show it because of anxiety over Professor Mean).  Inner City SLAC asked for an update, and I was hesitant to give them one (being worried that any language could be construed as hurting Eviline's chances).

Finally we had a drop dead last chance schedule for late April, and Eviline came and bombed the tests!  We sent her a letter that she had failed and to please take the class again, we wished her all the best, etc. etc. etc.  And we sent Inner City SLAC her final transcript.

Sometimes justice does prevail!


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Everybody Loves Student Evaluation Time. Sent in By a Longtimer.

Failed #2. An Early Thirsty.

I could be failed, failed #2, have I failed, should I fail, feeling lost. I certainly feel like a failure. I've used the same tests and assignments for over three years. Evidently, my test security is great, because if my students are cheating, it is for naught. Looking at grades over the last 3 years I see a downward spiral into nothingness.  This semester only 7 of my 150 students earned an A. SEVEN  There were so many Fs that it was staggering.

I loved (love?) my job. I love teaching and talking about my field. Students used to say that I'm so funny. Not now. I feel I've lost myself in this job, that I've been hammered by students who don't care, don't get it, don't care to get it.

Students used to say that one of my assignments increased their average grade. They got it. They understood it. Now they look at me with confusion on their faces and worse yet, disdain. How dare I make them complete this assignment. It has no value to them and they just don't get it. Their grades show it.

What do I do? What do I do? I am begging you for an answer. Do I dumb it down? Do I bump up grades at the end of the semester, so that a 68.0 becomes a 70 (or a 67 or a 65)?

I remember an old RYS post that always inspired me. It was entitled A Call to Action. This was my favorite post and I read it often. So often now, I feel like a failure and this post doesn't inspire me anymore. My students sap the energy out of me. 

We never had great students, but there was more than a handful of excellent students and they were my coffee. I have a mere few years before I am able to retire and I am considering it.

Q: What do I do? How do I satisfy administration without lowering my standards? It's not possible. Is it? More importantly how can I get myself back? How can I love what I do again? I want to go out with a bang, a celebration of a choice well-made later in life. I want to see fireworks and feel proud. What do I do?

Oh, the precious dears...

Our online class evaluation system produced its results the other day, and I got to see what my Introduction to Hamsterology 101 students thought of my teaching this past term. Based on the comments, I was schizophrenic during the term.

I was:
  • very interactive with the class 
  • not interactive with the class 
  • very easy to follow along 
  • difficult to follow along 
  • very interesting 
  • very boring 
  • very approachable 
  • very unapproachable 
  • giving tests that directly related to the stuff taught in class 
  • giving tests that had nothing to do with what was taught in class 
I particularly enjoyed the section that asks students if they have any suggestions on what they would like to see changed about the course:

"Add more words to the online lecture slides for those students who study at home"

Yes, yes, "studying at home" is vitally important for those students who don't want to actually come to lecture, where I explain the shit out of every slide (which was another student's complaint: "he could spend 20 minutes explaining one slide that only has a diagram on it.")

"Lectures should be recorded (and posted online) because with class 3x a week it is inevitable that some classes will be missed."

Excellent use of the passive voice here. It is also inevitable that, with reasoning like that, I'm going to tell you to shove that suggestion up your arse.

Prof Poopiehead

Tuesday, May 17, 2016


I wish I had quit instead of giving in to the pressure of my colleagues, my students, and my administrators.

For reasons everyone here understands, I've been encouraged into edutainment, and my classes have gotten easier and my grades and evaluations higher.

If I were younger, and still spined with ambition, I wouldn't have let it happen. But the academic world seems off its rails and I'm close enough to retirement to taste it.

And each semester's worth of fudging and "fixing" and changing my classes made the next step easier and more palatable.

My mentors would not have done these things. They would be turning over in their graves (or assisted living beds) if they knew I was.

But I've been beaten by it. I'm embarrassed at the professor I've become, although I've never been more popular or lauded. (I won an award! I nearly choked on it.)

I write this admission because I hope most of you are fighting the fight I gave up on. I won't sign my name. I'm a failure and not worthy of being remembered.

Like, somebody really needs to tell EMH to stop posting so much! He's always in my space!

From EMH

10 Years Ago on RYS. One of the Most Visited Posts in RYS/CM History.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


I cleaned out my office over the past two days. No more teaching. Today's the first day that I'm not a college professor. I've been teaching a dozen years, the last 6 at a medium sized state university in the northeast.

I tell my friends outside the academy that I just got tired of babysitting, and that's as close as I can come to explaining it to anyone.

When I was in college, it never occurred to me that I was there to be placated and entertained. I wasn't brought up in a time when every spelling bee contestant got a ribbon, and where every soccer team went home at the end of the year with a 4 foot high trophy. College was tough, and it was worth something.

But something happened - or so it seems - between the end of college and the end of grad school. As soon as I started teaching I was pressured in minor and major ways to ease the students through the big educational machine. Low student evaluations - always a result of tough classes or "honest" grading - resulted in ominous visits to the chair's office or the Dean's office.

And so I slacked off like my colleagues had done, became popular, and taught less and less. I won a teaching award 2 years ago. We have 350 faculty members and I was chosen professor of the year. I'm glad I didn't have to make a speech because I would have choked. I knew I wasn't a good teacher. I had become an entertaining facilitator and that was all. That I was good at that brings me nothing but unhappiness.

And so I got sicker and sicker of it. Sicker of the entitlement and the low expectations of everyone around me. My colleagues have drunk up the Kool-Aid and they look at me like I have two heads when I say I can't do it anymore.

I don't have a job, but thankfully my wife has worked a long time in the bio-tech world and I can probably have a year to figure out a new career. But it won't be teaching. At least not in a traditional college or university. Those places are now - by and large - jokes. So little is expected that drunk and horny students make the Dean's list, and we all smile and pat ourselves on the back for making it so.

I guess I shouldn't say "we" anymore. It's your problem now. I quit.

Monday, May 16, 2016

So, Compound Cal Did This Terrible Thing...

Some newbies probably don't know the full story of the end of RYS. Oh, there was that big Crampicle article that is often referenced, and the history of this page includes the broad and comic details.

But, I still don't entirely know why I did this one thing at the end of RYS.

I was the last moderator and solely in charge, and when I shut the page down we had more than 4000 posts online. I started going through them, thinking of curating them a bit, archiving the best material and ditching the rest. It got out of hand. Like a bad barber, I started cutting and didn't know where or HOW to stop.

At the end of the orgy there were about 1000 posts left. Now, I LIKE those posts, but I cut stuff too quickly without the foresight that I should have had. Truthfully, I was burned out. The amount of email we got back on the old site was a little daunting, and nobody ever ran RYS alone, and certainly not for the kind of time I did.

However, using the fabulous Wayback Machine at, it's still possible to get your eyeballs on posts from the past. It ain't easy, but today I dipped back into the archives for May of 2006 and found this lovely piece that I cut for absolutely no goddamned good reason.

Seeing the wonderful Bubba chalk up CM post #6000 today made me wish I'd taken better care of the FULL RYS archive, so here's one that's been missing online for years. Please to, as we once said, in the goon old days, in the manner, enjoy:


May 15th, 2006

Where Someone Wonders if There's a Point - And Then Someone Else Answers

The Post:
I watched a number of favorite students walk across the graduation gauntlet on Saturday. As always, it made me think a lot about our job, what it is we do. What we try to do.

Afterwards, standing in the hot sun with some students and parents, I was unsurprised to hear one student say, "I am SO glad college is over with. I can't wait to get on with my life." And everyone slapped him on the back, and the parents all cheered, and I stood there like a dolt.

Why have I even bothered? What is it that I've been doing? Am I just a cog in some kind of machine that spits them out. Are we just an obstacle to the real world? A hurdle to get over?

If that's it, then I don't see the point anymore.

I wanted to be happy for my students, but how they viewed college just minimized my whole life's work. I can't believe I let them make me feel so small.


The Reply:
I think what you're seeing is the effect of a kind of tunnel vision these seniors are experiencing - most of them have never been anything other than students, and after sixteen (or seventeen) years of it, they're ready to be something else. Personally, I can't blame them for that.

One other thing you should consider is that most graduating college seniors think their lives are about to become a whole lot easier and more exciting. They *think* they are about to start jobs that pay more money than they'll be able to spend - certainly more than they imagine they'll need for a comfortable, middle-class existence.

Of course, most of them are wrong about this. Almost none of them understand what it really means to hold down a regular, full-time job, or the pressures of life outside college's protective bubble - if they did, I imagine you'd hear much less of the "thank god college is over" claptrap.

I nearly pissed my pants laughing. CM Post #6000.

A friend emailed me this morning and told me I needed to read this CrampicleVita article because zhe wrote one of the comments beneath it.

So often, I still think, "Wow! You're famous! You got published in the paper! How exciting!"  (Next thing I know, I'll be clipping articles from the paper and snailmailing them to my grandchildren who will throw them away without reading them.) So, anyway, I read the article (or essay or column or op-ed or whatever it's called now).

I remember reading the Crampicle when I was a student.  I thought they were a pretty important paper.  But things have really gone downhill there. Even more than what I remember.  The article (or whatever it's called) is condescending blather or maddeningly useless or some variation of such adjectives.

Are their writers serious? They remind me of that proffie-blogger mocked by CM awhile back.  What was his name? Strudel? It was something like "Strudel".  He was writing crazy pedagogy stuff from on high, I think. It makes me think that all administrator/educator experts are just smart 12-year-old kids who were instructed to write like adults--and then some publisher slaps an adult's photo on the gibberish and publishes it.  What horse crap.

But I'd kind of like to invite those commenters to CM.  They're almost good enough to fit in here.

Southern Bubba, PhD

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Quick Finals Misery from Bella

I have a final at the last possible time on Monday.  Grades are due the next day at noon.  One of my colleagues teaches two sections of another course, and offered Make-Up Mike the option to take his final with the second section when Mike missed taking it with his own class.  That "make up" final takes place during MY final (obviously, my colleague teaches his second section at the same time as I do, as my college is careful not to double book any class for the same exam block).

Make-Up Mike e-mailed me, telling me that he had to make use of his other professor's "make up" time, which was during my final exam, so he'd need to use my "make up" exam time.  When was my make up exam, he asked?

I explained to Mike that I do not have a make-up exam period, and that technically, neither does my colleague.  "He's allowed you to take the final during a different time period that is convenient for him, but it is not so convenient for you, since it's during another of your exams.  You'll have to ask him whether you can retake his exam at a different time," I told Mike.

Mike explained that my colleague had made it clear that this was completely out of the question.  Mike also "explained" that I was remiss in not scheduling a make up time for students, as my colleague so politely did from the outset.  Mike is going to the Dean to complain about how unprofessional and inconsiderate I am, to not take steps that other professors take to help students succeed.

Mike is an asshole, and I am not happy with my colleague either.  That's all.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

For once, something refreshing and encouraging

From KCRA 3 via EMH:

A Sac State Sophomore ROTC Cadet was awarded the Silver Valor Medal for saving a man's life. Click here for the scoop.

That Nourishing Mother

Alma mater, the kind mother, have you ever checked yours?  I just looked up mine, the one that granted my BA.

Communication: one full time professor, the rest adjuncts.
English: two full time professors, the rest adjuncts.
Professional studies: no full time professors.
Hamster Fucking (my major): Two full time professors, the rest adjuncts.

I've been giving them a very small amount of money yearly since I graduated grad school and had money to give.

No more.  I'll let them know that I'm no longer donating a penny until they stop using it to exploit part time labor and cheat students of access to full time professors.  I should point out, this is a very small school, smaller than the very small SLAC I currently teach at as one of eight full time professors in the department of Hamster Fucking.

Maybe that's the way to change things: let our almae matres know that we don't think it's all that alma to exploit people.  Maybe until we tell them, paedicabo ego vos et irrumabo! will they change things.

Wow, my auto-correct really hates Latin.  But you know why I know that much Latin?  Because I had a goddamned full time professor who had the time and energy to teach me, that's why!

- unknown sender

Friday, May 13, 2016

I, Teaching Assistant

Here's an interesting development in the classroom: A Georgia Tech professor created a chat bot to answer students' questions in an online forum.

A pretty good article about this is here. 

This seems remarkable at first but now I just shrug. How hard is it for a computer to say, "It's in the syllabus"?

Beaker Ben

What the hell is wrong with people?

Midwestern SLAC. Less than 200 proffies. In the last few months one has been accused of a serious Title IX violation, and another is being investigated for downloading kiddie porn to his school computer.

What the hell is wrong with people?

I wish I had confidence that our feckless leadership could get us through this storm, but I don't.


An Open Question from Oliver in Opa-Locka

This one's going out to my two students in a class of 12 who have the good fortune to have 10 highly engaged, erudite, genuinely original thinkers and reflective, respectful discussants for classmates:

You have spent the whole term not paying attention, looking at me disapprovingly and as though I am speaking in tongues, taking bathroom breaks at times other than during the halftime break, staring into space, dropping things on the floor loudly as if you are zoo animals or toddlers playing with your sippy cups, and, it goes without saying, not having a writing implement at the ready.

Why is it -- and how is it even possible given the laws of probability -- that not a single idea from a single one of our readings or discussions on a single day has at least lit an infinitesimal kernel of your potential interest? It simply does not seem statistically probable, let alone possible. We are making connections with a range of historical, social, cultural, anthropological, musical, artistic, and geographic concerns and other realms of human endeavor. Can it be that there is really zip, zero, zilch interest (or even heartbeat) on your part for, like, anything at all?

I know you, and I know your level of ability. It is not that you do not, or cannot, understand the material, or do not have ideas of your own. It is that you have chosen not to have any thoughts. On one level, I can understand your decision. You are adults and you should do what you choose. What I do not understand is how it is possible, given our extraordinarily productive and positive classroom atmosphere, your generous and highly motivated peers, and your game discussion leader (moi), that you cannot experience one single moment of engagement that might snap you out of your chosen apathy. If not among such likeable peers in a firecracker of a class like this one, when? Whatever will become of you?

You are embarrassing me -- but only in front of myself and in my own mind, since your 10 classmates are so taken with one another's ideas that they do not even notice your vaguely humanlike sloth.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

From Emergency Mathematical Hologram. If you don't want to fucking take this seriously enough to show up, then why the fuck do you schedule appointments?

I just met with D. He showed up at 2:50 when he had a 2:15 appointment. Unfortunately, I did have an exchange with him over the issues with cancellation.

It has to be assumed that when appointments are made, they are made because they don't conflict with school. Those things are to be figured out on the student's end. This is a basic principle of adulthood.

If he feels that it's okay to cancel/no-show because he "has school" then that's unfortunate. The remedy for that is simple: schedule sessions when it doesn't conflict with school.

We've discussed these issues time and again about attendance. Tutoring sessions are an extension of school and should be treated as such.

He grumbled under his breath: "You aren't taking my money." I understand the frustration, but I did discuss the cancellation policy when we first met.

At this point, I am at a loss to what appears to be a blatant lack of respect. I do not know what else to do other than to not schedule any more appointments.

- Emergency Mathematical Hologram

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

An Early Thirsty from Aware and Scared - How do composition instructors survive?


I am not a composition instructor. Ostensibly, I teach the Care and Feeding of Wombats. Be that as it may, my days overflow with the written word – discussion posts, short answer assignments, and the motherlode of composition frustration, thesis proposals and drafts.

Attempting to wade through the muck and mire represented by student writing has crushed my soul. Ironically, I returned to graduate school for my doctorate because I believed collegians would be more skilled than the high schoolers I was enduring at the time. In that setting, my supervisors kept telling me that I was not “just a wombat teacher” and I was obligated to correct student writing (and math)! Since I was doing all this cross-curricular correcting in high school, once at the college level, I thought I would – finally – be able to focus on content instead of incessant red inking of misplaced modifiers, dangling participles, mismatched subjects and verbs and myriad misspellings.  

Jesus Christ on a cracker was I wrong.

So … composition instructors (or anyone, really, in the boat with me):

Q: How do you do it? You are on the front lines of this fusillade of fudgepacking. How are you able to get through a stack of assignments without wanting to stop and cry after the first few pages?

Meanwhile, does anyone know where I can get a stamp made that reads: “I am not the one with whom to fuck”?

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

3 Days After Grades Are Posted.

Dear Dr. Pantsuit,

I noticed I had earned a B so far for a final grade. Is there any way I could get just one more assignment? I have to leave Thistown Thursday though.

Thanks ;)

Monday, May 9, 2016

Gawker is posting adjunct stories to millions of celeb-obsessed readers...

Here. I did NOT find it while reading about Lamar Odom. 

Friday Fun in Donorbucks Hall

A CM Playlet from OPH

Scene: interior of generic office. A single figure, OPH, stands facing the exterior wall.

Narrator: Ah, early May! That wonderful time of year in which professors are averaging five hours of sleep per night. It's a Friday afternoon, and they have retreated to their offices in the seventh floor of Donorbucks Hall, hard at work at their desks, oblivious to the meteorological mayhem ensuing outside. All except for one, that is, who is taking a short break. He has noted several Canada geese swimming in a pond that has formed around a storm drain visible through his arrowslit window.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

I'm Annie from Abelard and My Student Made a Funny

Just wanted to pop in and share something nice what with all the negative bullshit I've been sharing before. Good things sometimes happen to me, I swear. I'm just very good at dealing with emotions like happiness and humor. I have excellent coping mechanisms for those.

Last Friday I just got done reading all my Spring evals when I had to go teach for my condensed intro to mathematics course (mentioned it briefly before; weird, condensed summer course that starts late Spring).

"Alright, everyone, we're going to have a pop quiz."

After all the nervous/anxious sounds had died down, one of my students said, in a *perfect* mock serious tone, "I don't know, Professor, I feel kind of blind-sided by this." I had to support myself on the podium, I laughed so hard. I still smile thinking about it. I found out previously that he's a comedian by trade. I wonder if he'll give me free tickets.

Annie From Abelard

The Site That Must Not Be Named. From Bella.

So....remind me again why we don't care about this site?  A student in my lit class, seeming like she was trying to be nice, told me one of the people in the class had just posted a slam on this site. 

I tried not to look, but yesterday, I did.  The funny thing is, I do not think it was one of the three students I recently had little conflicts with here.

No, I think it was a student who recently got an "F" for not following the directions on her essay.  She was also mad because she had e-mailed me her essay, late, and it took me a while to get it back to her.  I state in my syllabus that essays handed in late are put in the bottom of my correcting pile and that I get to them "when I can" which at this time of year can been a while.  But they never get it.  The kicker is that I told her she could rewrite the essay (I wrote a whole page of comments and suggestions for rewriting) and have right up until the day before grades are due to do it since she was getting it back a bit late.

Anyway, the review just said I was horrible and mean, or some such, and the writing style, even in its brevity, smacked of this particular student.

And I am trying not to think about it, but thinking about it I am.  So I thought I'd share my angst.

Why do some professors get NO bad reviews on this site, and others get slammed every once in a while?  I am one of the latter, but I have colleagues who I know for a fact to not be pushovers who never have a bad review on there.  I know we have said on here that it is the easy professors who have consistently good reviews on that site, but while this is sometimes true, it is certainly not always true. 

Waaaa.  Why am I such a sissy to even care?  I know I did not do wrong in this situation.

Saturday, May 7, 2016


Well, they've started to trickle in. The end-of-term mercy requests.

One student emailed me four times already. 

At 5:03 pm, he asked if there was any extra work he could do to raise his C to a B (receiving a C would "destroy" his GPA).

At 5:15 pm, he complained how his lateness ("why should my coming in a few minutes late here and there effect my grade?") was holding him back from a summer internship, which he did not want to "loose." (We covered frequently confused words several times.)

At 5:37 pm, he informed me that his younger brother had been sick all semester ("in an out of the hospital") and that yes, he should have told me earlier, but still, "(I)t is ruining my dreams for pharmacy school."

At 6:01, he asked, again, if there was any extra work he could possibly do to receive a B.

I received these at 9 pm; I am actually out of town, which I announced to the students weeks ago and reminded them last week and again this week. I'm not sure what to say to this young man except to quote my syllabus: "Lates count for half an absence" and "Students who miss more than four classes will have their final grade reduced by a full letter grade. Remember, lates count as a half of an absence." 

I might also point out that I emailed him and messaged him in Canvas three times over the course of the semester reminding him of these policies and tabulating his absences and lates for him (2 absences, 9 lates). 

I could also point out that he was more than "a few minutes" late on many occasions and that each time, it was disruptive. 

I will definitely point out that his final paper (which he called "pretty good") was not enough to bring up his average (73%) to an 80%. Yet I think I do need to address his revisionist history.

I'm not sure what I'll do. I'll be diplomatic and to the point.

My real point is that it is disheartening--nay, depressing--to know that he thinks this will work on me. Or that he deserves it. Or . . .  something.

- Potter Filius in Potters Field

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Thursday Open Misery.

What's your problem?

I'm Thirsty for Oral. A Big Thirsty From Prof. Chiltepin.

Yesterday I gave oral exams all day for one of my ethics classes. The tally:
  • On being asked how they determine if an action is right or wrong, fourteen students informed me that everyone has their own opinion. Then they looked at me, waiting for me to move on to the next question. That was their whole answer.
  • Two separate students agreed that the Nazis weren't that bad, because they thought they were doing the right thing. We never even talked about the Nazis in this class, but maybe I need to figure out some way of fitting them in. The second one, I just stared at her and blinked, repeatedly. I didn't even hide my contempt. Then I said "Six million Jews were killed in concentration camps." Then blinked some more.
  • Every single student used "I just feel that . . . " to mean "I think that . . . " I hate that shit.
  • Only about half the students mentioned anything we read. Many more students mentioned the movie we watched in class. 
  • One student picked his nose. Then he looked at the result. Then he did it again.
  • One student did her nails. I'm not shitting. This happened. It was worse than the nose-picker. At least that might have been unconscious.
  • One student ate lunch, a large and greasy sandwich out of a styrofoam container. During an oral exam. A ten minute oral exam. Like he couldn't wait?
  • Two students had their phones go off during the exam. Neither of them answered it, at least, and both apologized.
  • About fifteen students did fine, however, and ended up with very high and admittedly gentle grades. But it's the ones that horrify who stick with you.
Q: Oral exams. Do you give them? How do you endure the face-to-face feckless stupidity?

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Timothy T. Explains the Final Exam Party. [Text Redacted.]

Hi everyone, Cal sends this note:

"As the person on record who has paid for the domain name for the last few years, I was contacted by someone who's asked that the blog remove the text from this posting because the writer was 'not aware it had been appropriated.'
I'm also going to ask Crystal if she could redact the comment below that names a professor who did not offer up his/her own name for the discussion."

Also, to avoid any more possible conflicts with this, I'm going to close the comments. I'm sorry. Cal's the legal owner of the domain name, and in the end I wouldn't want him to have even a minor problem over this post and these comments which he had nothing to do with.

Thanks everyone,
Compound Crystal

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Get Your Final Exam Party Planning In Gear. Another Requested Flashback. 5 Years Ago.

As I headed to my office with a briefcase in one hand, and a large box I pushed with my feet along the hallway, I started hearing Frankie Avalon - no, really - music coming from an open classroom door. It got louder as I went, and when I got there and looked in, I saw my colleague, a pleasant and lovely woman of 50, dancing in the middle of her classroom with about 15 students.

The rest from "Out of Touch Olivia."

By Request...A RYS Flashback on End of the Semester Nuttiness. From 2007.

Some Last Day Suggestions From the Center For Touchy-Feelyness.

Like many campuses, ours has a Center whose purpose is to promote teaching and learning. I won't even get into the irony of a college that has to have a special center to promote *teaching and learning*!

But this center does have some events and resources that have been somewhat useful to me in the past. One of the services they provide is sending teaching suggestions periodically through a listserv. Very occasionally these have proved useful to me; most often I read them and delete, as the suggestions are things I already know, or that are not appropriate to my field or my classes. Most of the time, the submissions are not particularly memorable, for good or bad. The most recent one, though, stopped me in my tracks:

The last day of class can be hectic for students as well as instructors. This is a stressful time for all of us, and students may lose their focus just trying to make it to the end of the semester. Many instructors feel compelled to squeeze in those extra gems of knowledge on the last day. There are, however, more productive ways you can spend your time. One suggestion is a last day of class party. Have fun and plan some closing activities.

WTF? A "last day of class party" is a "more productive way you can spend your time"?!? A way to keep students from "los[ing] their focus"? The message goes on to list other variously educational and touchy-feely things we can do to wrap up the semester.

Maybe I'm hopelessly old-fashioned, naive, or pedantic (or maybe all three!) but I just can't believe that the last day of class--at least in a course with some actual content--isn't best spent maybe reviewing that content, or reinforcing concepts, or making connections with the earlier material, or, I don't know, helping students prepare for the final exam. Then again, it seems a lot of classes here (though not those in my department) don't bother to have final exams either.

A lot of my students seem to think that: (1) nothing really happens (should happen) during the first week of classes, (2) nothing really happens (should happen) during the last week of classes, (3) they shouldn't have required assignments or exams during the week before or the week after a holiday or break, (4) final exams are optional, and (5) they shouldn't be tested on anything that wasn't said out loud in class.

In short, a lot of them appear to think themselves entitled to at least a B for showing up in class at least half the time and breathing in and out. They take it as an affront when we actually start presenting material on the first day of classes ("What? You're not going to just pass out the syllabus and let us go?") and meet on the last day ("None of my other classes are meeting that Monday.") I can only assume their other profs are the ones saving the last day for cupcakes, letters to next semester's students, and a big group hug.

Teacher Misery: Helicopter Parents, Special Snowflakes and Other Bullshit
Published May 2016 by Truth Be Told Publishing

Dear Editors and Writers at College Misery,

I am writing to ask if you would be interested in reviewing my book Teacher Misery: Helicopter Parents, Special Snowflakes and Other Bullshit for your blog. Many years ago I attempted to start a sister blog to College Misery called Teacher Misery (with the moderator's permission). The site sought to tackle the same issues, only in the high school setting. While the blog never went anywhere, my instagram did. @TeacherMisery has over 56,000 followers, which motivated me to finish my book which is due out on May 27th.

Teacher Misery perfectly encapsulates the comical misery that has become the teaching profession. My strange, funny, and sometimes unbelievable teaching experiences are told through a collection of short stories, essays and artifacts including real emails from parents, students and administrators. From the parents who blame their son’s act of arson on ME for causing him low self-esteem, to the student who offers to teach me how to sell drugs so I can pay my bills, to the administrator whose best advice is to “treat kids like sacks of shit,” one story is more shocking than the next. A book that most readers of College Misery will relate to--Teacher Misery paints an amusing and thoroughly entertaining picture of what has become of our education system, without detracting from the overall point that what teachers have to put up with today is complete, utter, unacceptable insanity.

There are several established and NYT bestselling authors who have written blurbs for my book. They have described my work as, "Original, hilarious, compelling, twisted, scary, funny, freakish, insightful, eye-opening, shocking and intriguing." Laurie Notaro, New York Times bestselling author of The Idiot Girls' Action-Adventure Club, even described it as a masterpiece!

If you have read this far, know that I appreciate your time. If you read my book, I promise to entertain you, make you laugh out loud, and feel a sense of relief that others are telling your story! Let me know if I can send you and/or your contributors a free ebook or paperback.

Jane Morris

Monday, May 2, 2016

Annie From Abelard With an Early Thirsty.

The original
"Early Thirsty"
blurry graphic.
As the Spring semester wraps up, some teachers and students are just beginning classes at my college. That's because they have this weird summer program for older, incoming Freshmen that begins a week and a half or so before the end of the Spring Semester in order to help them catch up. I am teaching an Intro to Algebra course for which I've been told that, with my bachelors' in AM, I am "overqualified, if anything". The pay for these kinds of courses is highest per credit hour. My Applied Mathematics degree sure did come in handy figuring that out.

No complaints about my students so far. It's a pretty theoretical course that spends as much time just learning the "concept" as applying it. Rather introductory, as the name might suggest.

Last class, I was explaining the concepts behind Certainty/Uncertainty. One student was simply not understanding the concept. I tried working my way around and explaining it a different way. I tried googling it and reading that. Nothing worked. In the lull as I was trying to think of/find a way to explain it to her, another student said "Look, it's like this." He put his hand under the desk and said "My hand is definitely somewhere under this desk. If you're asked whether or not my hand is under this desk, you are 100% confident that it is, right? But if someone asks how confident you are that it's under the *left* half of the desk, you're only 50% confident."

And she immediately understood it. As happy as I am that I explained the concept well enough for one of my students to elaborate upon it for his peer (and as impressed I was with an excellent illustration of it), I couldn't help feeling a bit jealous that his explanation had worked and mine had not. Honestly, part of me is tempted to use his analogy if I teach future classes because I think it's more effective than graphs (though I'll obviously still have to use those).

Q: Has a situation like this ever happened to you? Where either a tutor / another professor / student gets one of your pupils to understand something after you failed? Are these feelings natural / will they go away? 

Age of Ignorance. By Charles Simic. From New York Review of Books. (2012)

It took years of indifference and stupidity to make us as ignorant as we are today. Anyone who has taught college over the last forty years, as I have, can tell you how much less students coming out of high school know every year. At first it was shocking, but it no longer surprises any college instructor that the nice and eager young people enrolled in your classes have no ability to grasp most of the material being taught. Teaching American literature, as I have been doing, has become harder and harder in recent years, since the students read little literature before coming to college and often lack the most basic historical information about the period in which the novel or the poem was written, including what important ideas and issues occupied thinking people at the time.

The misery.

I don't know where this has appeared lately, but two different readers sent the link to us in the past week.

Draw Your Professor.

This site is new to me, though it looks like it's been around for a while (there aren't any dates, so I'm not sure how long). A few observations:

These two, except for the different names, could easily be of the same professor, seen from the perspective of different students. It certainly feels, some days/weeks, like female professors inevitably end up at one pole or the other of this dichotomy. But here's a more balanced one (given a choice, I'd rather be seen as "chill" than "nice"). And this one at least contains a classical allusion.

Of course male professors (the same male professor, in fact) are sometimes seen from equally divergent perspectives. And sometimes (rather often, in my brief survey) male professors are reduced to a single part of their anatomy. That happens to women, too, though perhaps a bit less often.

The F- seems to be another common motif. And of course there's the ever-popular professor as devil (or vampire). Sometimes the devil gives Fs (and calls you stupid).

But quite a few portraits seem goofily fond, or even quite artistic.

All in all, it's horrifying and edifying in somewhat the same way that retweets from the CM account were.

--Cassandra (who admits to sometimes feeling like this, or this).

An Open Letter to Dean Sprocket

Dear Dean Sprocket,

According to a certain theorem, as the numbers of monkeys, typewriters, and/or hours approach infinity, the probability approaches 1 that such a system will recreate the works of William Shakespeare. Given the available monkeys at the average zoo, some crayons, and a few hours, we'd have recorded for posterity the intellectual equivalent of your blog post of the other day.

Quite certain that you and my dean are one in the same, I detoured through your building to tell you off in person, only to find you already gone for the day. By your own "office occupancy analysis" we could therefore confirm that at any given time, you are at most 0% useful to our school. Now you see why we faculty are perfectly justified in thinking that you should pull in at least 100% of your salary from handouts dropped into a styrofoam cup next to your body splayed inertly in front of the methadone clinic, and that you should receive all other provisions from the dumpster behind the Popeyes at Pulaski and Highland.

Pissy Primrose Gets What She Wants.

What special preparation do 19 year old students get that allows them to think some aggressive and antagonistic emails to their professor would be a good plan - the weekend before the final.

I ask my students to turn in their last presentation in a certain format. I have 200 sophomores, roughly, and when their work comes in in a certain way my job is easier. I've been doing this particular assignment with these criteria for about 10 years.

Because I don't have the pricier PDF software at home that would allow me to get into a student's PDF and fix it for a couple of TAs who do some of the grading, I asked Pissy Primrose to please resubmit some portion of the assignment. It wasn't time sensitive. In fact I said, "No rush; just before the exam if possible."

While I was with friends this afternoon THREE emails have come in from here, each one a bit more pissy, each one a bit more infuriating.

"I did the format they way you told me."

"If you wanted it formatted differently you should have told me. Now I have to take time out of my exam preparations."

"I don't have time to do this. I have several exams in my major and they are obviously my priority. I believe I formatted your assignment the correct way and you should grade it as is."

I wrote back, "Sounds good to me."

- Eating Low Salt

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Dr. Amelia wants you to keep your chin up

An Ivy League proffie has published a CV that details everything he didn't get along with the things he did. Nice reminder that even for those at the top of the profession (aka not me!), it's a journey.

End of semester snark

Facing that huge stack of essays, I wonder if I shouldn't rethink how I begin my comments to counter what most of my students apparently have been told their entire lives.

I might begin with "Although the essay clearly shows your amazing talent and fierceness and along the way shows sparkle-standing that can only come from daring to dream big, to improve your writing you need to address. . . .

- TubaPlayingProf