Wednesday, September 17, 2008


I don't know. It was a long day; my temper is high. Walking home just now someone almost ran into me as I was crossing a street (I totally had the right of way, but it was dark and they whipped around the corner quickly), and instead of being startled or relieved or whatever I just fumed the rest of the way home, which wasn't particularly helpful.

Classes were/are fine. Work in general is fine. That's not the problem.

We had a two+-hour faculty meeting today; obviously I can't blog about it, but there are just so many things wrong. There was some bizarre and incomprehensible presentation that made no sense and we were told--over and over--that we couldn't ask questions or respond to it. (I did voice a response, to something that was patently offensive, but I don't think that the presenter understood.) So that was one thing. And there's other stuff. It's hard to even say where the problem is, except that more and more is being laid on us with no intention of additional compensation or acknowledgment. I sometimes get the feeling that, no matter what's wrong on campus, it's the faculty's fault. And we get scolded for it.

Well, okay, that's a bit of an overstatement. But when there was a terrible storm last year and a senior faculty member's office was flooded, ruining all of his equipment and files going back over his whole career, the email that went out notifying us about it and offering condolences to him also managed to indicate that he was really responsible for not making sure that all the windows in the area were closed before the storm came in.

That might be true. But if it was, did it need to be said? Right then? What did that serve?

So yeah. There was that meeting.

Second thing (non-chronologically): Earlier in the day I received a pamphlet from the Secretary of State about an electoral issue, addressed to "Residential Customer, [STATE]." This pissed me off. Customer? Of whom, exactly? I've drafted a letter to send back. I may post it here. It is Strongly Worded.

So then I get home tonight from what turned out to be a refreshingly funny lecture/presentation, and find that of the 9 students who were supposed to submit discussion questions for tomorrow's class, I've heard from two. {OK, I just got the third, more than an hour and a half late.} What the hell? It's still early in the semester; are they all slacking off already? These suckers are graded. These are English majors in the class. And now, I'll need to do extra prep because we won't have the discussion questions to structure our session. Maybe I just won't do the work and will let them go early, in scorn, for not having done it. But I always question the punitive value of an early release.

Better yet--I'll make them come up with questions in class, for no credit. Ha! My wickedness knows no bounds.

Anyway, feh. I feel all wound up and tired. I'm concerned that my registering my complaint during the meeting today was inappropriate and awkward (I was sort of shaking as I said it). But really, the presenter said something (race-related) that made me want to walk out of the room. I know that other faculty supported my sentiment, but I worry that I'm getting too big for my pre-tenure britches or something. But then, oh well; it's years to tenure and I may well be somewhere else by then.

On the other hand, I just got some new shoes in the mail, and I haven't even opened the box! Maybe that will help.


Sisyphus said...

Well, at least you have shoes. And chocolate? That will help.

And I am a firm believer in _never_ letting unprepared students out early; I'm all about the operant conditioning and that will only train them to do it more often and thus escape into a beautiful afternoon to goof off. Bah!

I feel like now I should shake my fist and grumble, "hey, you kids! Get off my lawn!" Heh.

And hey, the up side is that we could hang out at MLA while you get some fancy-pants new professor interviews! Not that you necessarily want to hang out with someone who's 80 years old on the inside, but oh well...

Dr. Crazy said...

Ah, you guys totally underestimate shame as a motivating force. You're right: there isn't much (if any) punitive value in letting a class go early. When I do it (and it's rare, but I will say I do it every semester that I have a class of predominantly first-years), I'd say the value is the following:

1. I get to give my, "I'm not your high school teacher, and I'm not your mother; I cannot teach people who are not willing or prepared to learn" speech. This is a big wake-up call to freshmen, esp., who before this point often don't realize that they must take responsibility for their education.

2. Without fail, they never believe that I'm going to dismiss them and charge them with an absence for lack of preparedness. If I do this one time in the semester to a bunch of people, it keeps them on track for the rest of the semester. (Nothing like that pause when I say, "Leave" and they look around confused, and then I say, "No, seriously, I'm not teaching you today because you aren't prepared; as it says on the syllabus, this will count as an absence."

3. At least at my university, where most students are working paying for their own educations, the ones who did their work and came prepared are ANGRY at their classmates when they don't meet their end of the bargain. Dismissing the class for lack of preparedness can help with directing that anger toward their peers and not toward the instructor ("I did my work so why am I stuck making up for the work that Joe Schmoe didn't do last night with this lame group activity?")

But at the end of the day, part of the reason I have at times used this strategy is because the classroom isn't my dog and pony show, or at least I really don't want it to be. If I pick up the pieces and make the show go on without any disruption, then we're not really colleagues or partners in the enterprise of the class. And also, it's extra work for me - or at the very least extra time spent thinking about the class - and I'm not sure that spending my time picking up the pieces for the slackers is the best use of my teaching time.

Anyway, I had to pop over and defend the letting them go strategy. I do only think that it works if one times it well in the course of the semester and if one is good at producing guilt, shame, and fear with the speech that accompanies it. Really, the speech is everything wit this technique :)

Fretful Porpentine said...

I don't think I should post about it in any detail, but I hear you about the really confusing and offensive speakers at meetings. Oh yes. Who invites these people?

medieval woman said...

Ewww - bad day indeed! I'm sorry - that sucks. Definitely have a glass of wine...

heu mihi said...

Thanks, all. Cookies and milk, followed by some comfortable reading and an early bedtime, helped.

Crazy--Thanks for the advice re. ending early! I don't at all reject the practice in principle. I'm just...well, not so good at being stern, and I didn't feel like I could pull it off. Also, I don't want the message to be, "Don't come to class if you don't submit your question!", which, with this group (some of whom have attendance issues), could be counterproductive.