Thursday, September 30, 2010

Physical Fitness

Dear Sporty Sorority Susie,

Yes, it IS a coincidence that we belong to the same gym. It is ESPECIALLY a coincidence because I joined this gym so that I could avoid running into Sporty Sorority Susies like yourself at our University Fitness & Eating Disorder Enabling Center. And it is a SUPER DUPER DUPER coincidence that we are both taking this deranged mockery of Latin dance that now passes for exercise in our modern world.

But even with all of these coincidences, there is no reason for you to ask me about your paper grade. No reason. At all. Now shut up and start doing that mambo turn for Calle Ocho, bitch.


"This shit is NOT poetry!"

After a week shortened
by illness--mine--and reading
that students were
shocked/saddened/confused/pissed off
by my singular

and after having to define
pungent, urgent, discern,
rectitude, rectify, stupefy,
fortified, fixated, elixir,
elliptical, circumstantial, radiate,
lethargy, diligence, chronic,
indifferent, austere, and--for good measure,
and by no invention of my own--
sloppy, as in, "You mean, like
she's got sloppy shit?"

and after explaining
that retarded is verboten
(but, of course,
without using verboten),
and why,

and after defending
poor Robert Hayden
whose shit can NOT be poetry
because it don't even rhyme,

I find myself
on my deck
in my backyard
nursing straight orange juice,
my naked face phototropically
following the late afternoon sun, dreaming
of faraway cabana boys, bottomless
buckets of beer,
and thinking,
Man, he was right:
This shit is not poetry.
There is nothing
here that suggests rhyme, not
now, not

Building Academic Air Castles: A Thirsty

Darla invited us to dream. The AAUP is urging us to consider "multiple ways to [tenured] salvation." And the Coalition on the Academic Workforce is surveying contingent faculty in an attempt "to develop institution- and discipline-specific information as the basis for a more textured, differentiated, and realistic picture of contingent faculty members’ working lives and working conditions."

Current attempts to reform the university may well come to naught, as similar efforts have in the past. But, if you had your druthers, what would the majority of academic jobs look like? Would all of them offer at least the possibility of tenure? Would all of them include -- and reward -- teaching, research and service? Would some faculty members specialize in just one or two of the three? Would such specialization last for a whole career, or would there be an opportunity to switch focus from time to time? Is it possible to offer such an option without making teaching the "booby prize" for those whose attempts at research and/or department-level administrative posts don't cut it?

If you ran the university, what would our jobs look like? Please answer below.

And the Award Goes To . . .

First, I’d like to thank the Academy for allowing me to host such a prestigious event. It’s been the highlight of my year, so far. But, all good things must come to an end. It’s time for the big one, the “Brass Balls” Award. And the nominees are:

Attitude Aaron for “Do you actually think that you’re going to change our habits by being so strict with how we submit our homework?”

Missed-the-Entire-Week-After-the-Test Mark for “Can I have my test back? Well, why don’t you have it with you?”

Delusional Denise for “I can’t believe you don’t accept late work. All of my other professors do.”

Airhead Anna for “What’s this syllabus thing you keep talking about? Oh, you mean that paper we got on the first day.”

Foolish Freddie the Football Player for “Dude, you must be deaf.” (See “
Post-Exam Smackdown”)

And the winner is . . .

No one. You’re all fucking losers.

(Based on a true story. In the past 10 days, students actually said these things to my face.)

Chirp chirp chirp

Here I am, enjoying another round of office hours. Thankfully the cheerful chirping of the crickets echoing from the windowless, cinderblock-walled cavern that is my office keep me company, or is that just the delirium from the crushing boredom? No, no, there cannot be boredom, because we all know what office hours are good for: getting work done. I can sit here and grade papers, I can read journal articles, I can type up nifty abstracts to submit to this year’s Giant Haughty Academic Conference. I think I’ll write about… biochemistry and… poststructuralism (see, I have a “conference paper topic” dartboard!). You know what I won’t do, though? See any students walk through that door, unless one condition is met: it is the day before a major assignment or test, and Sam Snowflake needs to have everything, absolutely everything, explained to him. But Sam, I say, how did you possibly understand anything in the last three weeks of class without understanding Basic Concept Q, which we went over so many times in class that even the dust mites in our cheap carpeting learned it? Oh, you were confused about it? Well, that’s ok, when I ask in class if everyone understands, and I offer to answer questions after class, and I repeat time and again to feel free to send me emails, of course I prefer the delightful chorus of crickets to, you know, students actually asking questions about concepts they don’t understand. Of course, the snowflakes only appear in my office about two or three times a semester. All those other hours when I’m stuck in the office when I’d rather be at home with the kids, or in the library, or in a bar with a pint of beer, well, not a soul drifts by. Office hours feel like an archaic, vestigial practice of academia the need for which was soundly obliterated by email. I’d be happy with “by appointment only” office hours, which of course requires a commitment from the snowflakes that never ever materializes, but of course the department has to cater to the wonderful little tuition-payers, our customers. So here I am, feeling like I should be scrawling hieroglyphs on some fresh sheets of papyrus, or pressing little triangular rods into a clay tablet, but instead I shake off my daydreams and realize that, yes, this is the 21st century, and yes, here I am stuck in my office hours for no reason.

I Am the Snowflake, Coo-Coo Kachoo...

So for all of my snowflake bashing...I have a horrible confession.

Today - I - was the snowflake.

Today is the first exam in my Intro to Everything class...the one with 160 kids in one section and mysteriously, 40-odd in the other. The menacing horde meets at 930. Last night I faithfully slogged through the task of making the exam (which takes more work than the average snowflake seems to realize, especially when one is using a new textbook), along with the other tasks of reading and commenting on the draft job letters of my Dazzling Golden Boy colleagues, editing a volume introduction manuscript ('it's such a great honor'), and grading some writing assignments...for people who also apparently have a hard time deploying their first language.

Then I went to sleep, setting my alarm for my usual 545.

Now, had I actually arisen at 545, the process normally aided by Dog + Alarm and sometimes by Atom Smasher and often by screaming nightmares about accidentally sending a draft chapter of an erotic novel to the search committee at the University of Maryland, things would have been fine. I could have copied my exam in plenty of time for my class.

However...nothing doing. Lo, my sleeping peepers snapped open at SEVEN THIRTY. And I beheld a shitstorm.

It is pouring here on the Eastern Seaboard. I work about 70 minutes from my house on Tuesdays and Thursdays...on the other side of a mountain on an interstate with a lot of truck traffic.

I managed to restrain myself to only five or six words of profanity, hurried through a shower (which I actually really, really needed because I would have struck dead any student within a 6 foot radius without it), fed the dog, hurried her outside, emailed my exam to my department secretary and begged her to please overlook my utter and profound snowflakeness and kindly make me 160 copies of this...and got in the car... discover Atom Smasher's trip yesterday left the gas tank on E. Not E for enough, but E for Evidently You Are Screwed.

Long story short, I made it over the mountain, the parking gods smiled upon me and I did not have to utilize East Jesus Nowhere Parking Garage, AND Glorious Secretarial Angel made my copies. She was even NICE about it and told me that she usually did stuff like this for faculty and that as long as I didn't need it five minutes ago, it was no problem.

Holy crap! Really? My years of adjunctness have indeed convinced me that your copies are your problem, period.

I arrived in my exam room at precisely 927 to discover far more students than I have ever seen in that 930 lecture. Surprise!

We are now awaiting the completion by the Bitter Enders.

But yeah. I was the girl who almost overslept and almost came to class unprepared for the exam so...yeah. Today, I am the snowflake. Coo coo kachoo....

and there's still a day and a half of this week to go...

This is the first week of semester. Students are registering and doing all sorts of fun and cutesy 'meet the gang' activities. For example, one day academics have to stand at set locations in the local town being a 'resource point' whilst the students amble around in small groups following a trail to learn 'cool science facts about the modern urban environment' as well as where all the good pubs and coffee shops are. At the very least, the 'staff member as resource point' should be inside Starbucks, in my opinion - standing in the rain on the main shopping street with a special lurid coloured clipboard to make you spottable is no fun. There is a 'television style quiz' with prizes, lunches and all sorts of useful stuff. The tour of the library, however, happens next week...

The building is full of lost students. A legacy of working in an 80 year old building is that the presence of females is largely acknowledge via post-hoc amendments, which means that the women's toilets are in odd places half-way up stairwells etc., whereas the men's toilets are on the main corridors on each floor, and as a female member of staff I get very used to being approached by embarrassed girls looking for facilities. And of course rude, aggressive ones demanding to know why I haven't improved the signage/why they have to go upstairs to pee, and not saying please or thankyou. Then there are the ones who 'can't get out' - six inch high green and white fire exit signs abound, and they lead you inexorably to the two main doors. They are on walls, on chains hanging from the ceiling, on doors... but Susie and Stevie Snowflake aren't used to reading signs.

The timetable still has that well-known and hard-working colleague TBA* listed as giving various classes. And there is an entire first year practical class unscheduled - no time, no room. Can I just fit another 30 into each of the existing labs? It doesn't matter that the room is already full to bursting, after all, some of them will leave early...

And please can I incorporate all these last minute rule changes into my syllabi? And whilst I'm at it, how about we modify the curriculum for this team-taught module to help Dr I-Can't-Teach-Anything-Other-Than-My-Research-Topic out?


*to be arranged, not tertiary butyl alcohol.

CM VidShizzle #5 - Books.

Thirsty on a Touchy Subject.

I have to ask: what the fuck is up with students who insist on shaking my hand? I haven't had this before, but now, every single snowflake who shows up to tell me she hasn't done the work yet, or he is going to miss class, or is sorry for being late 6 times in a row, sticks out a grubby paw before getting to the gist of the interaction.

I've already had one cold already this semester, and I bet it was from one of these creepy hand-touchers.

What gives?

Sick puppies

Hello, fellow Miserians,

A former reader of RYS, this is my first post on CM. My thanks to Those in Charge for the opportunity. Herewith, I immure myself in the misery.

Here's the question: Are students today feebler and sicker than past generations of human specimens? Has the general level of immune system robustness in our species suffered a dire change of which I'm unaware? In the past, a student here and there would miss an exam due to illness. Naturally. But missing was the exception, not the rule. Nowadays, missing is the rule, not the exception, and I almost faint from disbelief when all my students show up for an exam as they're supposed to. Last year I had a student who shattered all records by missing all three exams in the course. Since he provided what appeared to be proper medical notes, I had to offer re-writes. And my institution recommends (with good reason) creating altered make-up exams to thwart the passing of exam details between students -- extra work for me.

I wouldn't be able to make this observation except for my long years of teaching experience. I've been around enough to know that such things didn't always happen with the same frequency. That's a stone-cold fact. Is the explanation simply that contemporary students are less dutiful and persevering, that students of the past would have soldiered on despite catching unpleasant but ordinary bugs and so on? Are they more frequently scamming doctors into writing technically passable but thin notes (and if so, why are the doctors playing along)? Is it a harbinger of 2012?

Are you getting shafted this way, too?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Flickr, CC-BY-NC-ND, Some rights reserved by Steve RhodeProf. Curtains dropped by the dean's office to thank me for finally getting curtains installed in his office.

His neighbor, Prof. Sunshine, dropped by to complain that the curtains are too thick and keep so much sunlight out that he has to keep the lights on when the curtains are closed.

Prof. High'n'Mighty complained bitterly about the exam rooms not being available online. He included the flake in CC who had asked him where the exam to be. I pointed out to the flake that the instructions for finding the rooms is ON THE HOME PAGE of the damn system. You just have to read them. I requested Prof. H'n'M to restrict bitches to my box, not to students. He replied, all self-important, that if both he and the student can't find the room, it must be our fault. I haven't answered "reading is a precondition to success at university" yet, I don't quite dare that one yet.

The Gallo Zinfandel is much needed tonight.

Photo credits: Flickr, CC-BY-NC-ND, Some rights reserved by Steve Rhode

World's Haughtiest Email

"Janette Turner Hospital is the author of Orpheus Lost and other books, and a professor at Columbia. She sent MFA students at her old school, the University of South Carolina, the following note about their inferiority. It is amazing."


Doesn't sound so bad to me, but what do I know?

The RMW!

Consider the comments below a place to unload your random misery of the day. It's open to all. Let the misery pour down. (Consider it as an interim step toward that bottle of bourbon.)

I just wanted to eat dinner

Yesterday was one of those days where my job prevented me from doing basic things like eat food. That makes me want to scream, or maybe it just makes me cranky, I don't know.

I was getting ready to go and have dinner on campus before attending choir rehearsal when an instructor showed up with a giant stack of papers and student projects. Our Writing Center allows instructors to bring those to us for students to pick up when the term is done (so really, I would have expected them four weeks ago, but whatever) because a couple terms ago we had reason to believe that one of our full time faculty hadn't read the final papers at all. Actually, we know she didn't. Proof, however, was harder to find. My solution, since she couldn't be otherwise disciplined, was to start a system where those papers had to be graded and read and dropped off here to be handed back. It's not perfect, but everybody is at least reading the darn things again now.

Shortly after the teacher dropped off the papers I get a call from one of her students. She was about ten minutes from campus and wanted to pick it up. I told her I'd either be here or eating soup, and that either way find me and I'd card her and hand back her work. She is not the suck.

In fact, the student that then showed up a few minutes after we close seeking help with his personal narrative draft isn't the suck either. He was courteous and polite and probably would have let me leave to eat. But paper pick up girl hadn't shown up, so I told him I'd help him brainstorm in the meantime.

The suck is the instructor who told this guy to go to the Writing Center at all. We have bookmarks that every instructor is supposed to give the students with our hours and website to schedule appointments on (yay WCOnline!) displayed prominently. This instructor not only didn't give the students those, she also told them that if they showed up after hours that somebody would probably still help them. I wondered why the Learning Center staff was still covering so much overflow from us (they have more funding and are open later) and now I know--and I'm pretty angry about it. Comparing records, nearly all our after hours overflow comes from her class.

As I was finishing up with him, still in time to slurp down soup and get to the shuttle to go back to my car to get to choir rehearsal, another older gentleman shows up. This one needs APA format. We recently switched to using 6th edition in all our classes. His teacher doesn't know how to do the header for it (since it includes a section break) because she didn't show up for the mandatory training. Fabulous. I know this, he doesn't. He barely knows how to use a computer and yet he has to turn in his response tomorrow with perfect APA formatting including this nasty header.

Look, it's my rule--we're not supposed to do it for them. But I told him I was in a hurry. I helped him do his cover page and double space what he had already typed. Then you know what I did? I grabbed the mouse and did that damned header for him and told him he needed to set up an appointment during normal hours to come back and learn how to do it the right way.

And then I sent an e-mail to his teacher suggesting that she do the same. It's the first week of class, expecting sterling perfect pretty APA from your students isn't fair anyway. However, if you don't know it yourself, expect me to come after you with the manual and offer a beatdown. With the manual. It's pretty light compared to the 5th edition though, so I might just have to bring both for good measure.

Neither of these students were snowflakes, I can't emphasize this enough. They were apologetic for taking my time and sort of surprised that their instructors had suggested they do something that so obviously wouldn't have worked if I hadn't been staying late anyway.

It's a long sad day when the students respect and value my time more than instructors do. Yes, I'm an admin. However, I still teach, I still tutor, and I still try to remain as connected to both the teachers and students as I possibly can. I may make jokes about living here, but at the very least if I live here I should be allowed to eat here too!

BPB Returns, With Many Thanks

Hi CM bitches! I'm back :)

I was released yesterday and didn't even look at email or blogs or anything until today...and there I found 30-something messages of (mostly) support, camaraderie, and confessions of similar diagnoses. What a pleasant and heart-warming surprise!

My meds have been completely reworked and I'm feeling more balanced than I have in years. I'm still having highs and lows, but they'll be manageable with periodic med tweaks - so no more total medication revamps. And I've learned that if I ever need to do a total overhaul again, I'll do it inpatient to be a safe and watched over as much as possible.

My stay taught me many things - not the least of which is that I was too snobby at first - I felt a graduate student with bipolar disorder couldn't have *anything* in common with alcoholics and drug addicts and schizophrenics and anorexics, many of whom didn't even have a high-school level education. Boy howdy, was I wrong! We didn't have the same life experiences, but we had similar fears and phobias and concerns for how to live better, more functional lives. It is amazing to stop feeling alone in your pain - and the posts from many of my CM buds here helped in that department, too.

I also learned I need to seek balance in my life and that if I'm gung-ho on one thing, then I'm mediocre at best on everything else in my life that makes me human. I don't have huge ambitions when it comes to my career because of my disease and the limitations it imposes on me, so I'm having to work through the idea that I can either (1) keep my 4.0 in grad school and lose my boyfriend (who I so wish were my husband) and my financial security and my friends and my sense of humor and my ability to have a normal conversation (you know, the kind that doesn't center on dissection of a cadaver?) or (2) start accepting a few B's, slow down, enjoy my good days, work through my bad days, and have the life I desire: being a biology teacher with a loving family and circle of close friends. I now choose path # 2. :) (But don't think that means I won't bring the snowflake smackdown here when I need to vent!!!)

As for Jim's comment: "...would you want to take this person on for a thesis project?...I'll bet they suddenly find their labs full when time to consider this individual joining their teams and using up grant funding?" First, thanks to those who jumped on Jim and had my back. Second, this is exactly the kind of ignorant comment I'd expect from someone who obviously hasn't had to deal with the ADA and who doesn't know how many people in his own lab have a mental disorder. Just going by the most recent stats, if there are 10 people in Jim's lab, 3 of them are on a psychtropic drug for something or other. So, because it's simple ignorance rather than hostility, I want to say to Jim: Would you feel this way if I came to your lab and I were diabetic or hypertensive or an amputee? If so, you are one sick puppy. If not, then you simply need to learn about mental illnesses. Oh, and understand that if you tried to keep me out of your lab based on the original post I'd made, I'd have your ass in court and would win a HUGE lawsuit against your university. So, who would be losing the grant funding then??

Furthermore, of the few people at my uni who know of my disorder: one is my thesis advisor; one is a lab director/instructor who I've taught 3 labs under; one is a lab coordinator I've taught 4 labs under (and who calls me her most responsible TA); one is head of the anatomy labs and has let me teach 2 labs under her and do 2 independant projects; and one brings in the single largest grant the biology department gets (and who has promised to give me a section or two of his lab next term if my hospitalization slows me down in my Master's pursuit). So, I would have to say, most people are highly understanding and willing to work with me (not that I felt that way when I posted 2 weeks ago). The only person I'm reluctant to discuss it with is the Program Director, simple because I'm not sure yet if I want the whole department to know or if I want to hold my proverbial cards to my chest.

As for Angry Archie, April, BlackDog, Clara from Cleveland, Dr. Cranky, EnglishDoc, Great Lakes Greta, JaneB, Meany, Midwest May, Online Ophelia, PickyHistorian, Professor Snugglebunny, SnarkyGeekChick, SocioConvert, V, and Wombat of the Copier - wow. I didn't mean to start a confessional, but knowing we're not alone, even in our tiny corner of the blogosphere, is therapeutic in and of itself, isn't it? *HUGS*

In the Ivory Basement - You aren't alone (see above) :)

Academic Monkey - One of my best friends is epileptic, so I understand your pain, too. And I know the fear of lost memories - although mine are due to rare dissociative states. At least you don't have to worry that you went on a shopping spree while having a grand mal... *HUGE HUGS*

April - Start the blog and I'll co-admin with you. I love the idea!! And I'm sure CM would let us post links and we can get a lot of CM peeps to blog over there - but in a more serious fashion and only about their diseases and how it affects them in the Academy - a kind of online support group. Although I agree that it should be anonymous like CM. Our students already have too much ammunition to use against us in our evals. I'd hate to see some of them displace their hatred of me as a teacher onto ALL people with mental disorders. I'd rather they just think I'm the bitch I am. :)

Oh, and Wombat of the Copier? (1) I now wanna be called Wombat of the Anatomy Labs for some reason... and (2) alcoholism is frighteningly like bipolar disorder - I learned that from my hospital stay - consider people with mental illnesses your friends and equals in your fight for normalcy. There's a HIGH incidence of substance abuse in people with psychiatric disorders, so we definitely feel your pain. *HUGS*

And now, can we return to the fucking snark?!? Puhlease?????
BPB out (of the loony bin) and outtie

I have seen the enemy, and it is us.

(Want it bigger? Click it!) Excuse

I've been an user for a long time and I know that, during most of the year, their shipping is pretty quick and delightful... except in December and the beginning of semesters. During those periods, the ship dates CANNOT be trusted and my Spidey Sense starts to tingle (admittedly, this is a mixed metaphor of a sort, given my avatar).

So... I warn the students. Grad students. No no. Uh uh.

For the Fall Semester, since I was using a new textbook for one of my classes (a fine new book that was half the price of a comparable book AND from one of the larger academic publishers), I publicized it to all of my registered students during the summer. I let them know that the book was available, that it was cheap (EVEN AT THE UNIVERSITY BOOKSTORE PRICES) and to WATCH OUT if they got it from alternative sources.

You can guess what happened.

The Silver Banshee - Decided to go the route. By the Week #2, it still hadn't shown up. AND... she had purchased it from an Amazon third party for about twice the price.

Lex Luthor - Also went to Still hadn't arrived by Week #3.

Of course, I told both to see a classmate, whatever. They undoubtedly did that because they turned in their homework.

So... I thought this was over. However, it was a little irksome, particularly since I had these two before.

THAT WAS UNTIL... a student in my OTHER class (a totally different class) informed me of a problem. This week was Week #5 and Brainiac told me that her book had not arrived yet. And we are almost done with the book. And most of the mid-term will cover material from that text. I was gasping for air, just as if green kryptonite had been placed at my feet.

Certainly, the book problem is theirs, but they laid the problem on my lap after I told them all this summer about the textbook.

My options are:

1. As the defender of Truth and Justice, just let it be. After all, Student = Snowflake. The tests and papers will  undoubtedly reflect this slackness.

2. Get out the Phantom Zone projector and send them away.

3. Conjure Billy Mumy from the old Twilight Zone episode and wish them into the corn field.

4. Turn them over to Rorschach from The Watchmen.

5. Do 2, 3, and 4, and use them as examples next semester.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

On treating adult students like adults

So, as an permadjunct ( I have a "real job" in my industry on a career / full time basis) teaching a service statistics course, I have two distinct categories of students. The first category is the one that I have long taught - non-traditional age, taking classes at night adult student, and the emerging second category is the traditional age student.

As my college evolved into a nascent university, it has adopted a growth pattern towards that of a traditional university - snowflakes, football, greeks, yada yada yada.

My long-term style has been streamlined, treat them like adults pedagogy - minimum coddling, heavy reliance on active, student-driven learning, with heavy emphasis on instructor-led student responsibility for their own damned learning.

In short, I'm one of those Anatoli Boukreev-style mountain guide types, not the kind who will strap you on and carry you to the top. I will guide, I will demonstrate, I will advise - but I will not coddle, spoonfeed or otherwise enable snowflake behaviour.

My better students appreciate the approach, the others whinge about the obsolete stuff that they need to outgrow before hitting their major/upper division work. It helps to actually explain to them the approaches and the rationale behind them.

I'm lucky that my Powers That Be give me the freedom to not act like a babysitter.

Future flakes exercise their big collegey protest skills while still precious little HS students

And they have the support of their parents.

In case you're too lazy to click, some snots are protesting a PARTIAL ban on iPods in school.  They are protesting a ban on iPod use DURING CLASS.  And the new policy never revoked their right to listen in the cafeteria.  There are also provisions for certain classes with the teacher's permission.

They are very proudly speaking at a podium about how music helps them study.  Jackasses.  My kid might want his iPod in class.  And I will probably let him watch way too much tv in his future years.  And some day he might have some dreamy eyed kid's half cocked idea about something to protest or otherwise discuss in public and I might drive him down to town hall to do it.  A hockey park where the library used to be, for instance.  But there is no way I'll let him stand up and cry that his teachers are making him do school at school.  What the hell is wrong with people?  But the teachers shouldn't get tenure unless they can get these spoiled little douchebags to progress while their parents help them fight the fight over the right for distractions during school. 

Isn't there something more important they could do with all of their protesty hormones? 

Why Do They Hate Us?

Article in the Chronicle: Why Do They Hate Us?

It's about the rising tide of anti-intellectual, anti-humanities (in particular) hatred of universities and university faculty.

Interesting, but I thought there was too much faculty-bashing at the end.  Apparently we've been insensitive and elitist and thought more of our research than our students, so everything is our fault. Where I'd say that we've done what we've been encouraged and motivated and, frankly, compelled to do.   Nobody gets a job or gets tenure or gets promoted or gets a merit raise because of their teaching or their administration work; all those rewards come strictly from publication (sure, the other categories appear in the tenure dossier, but barest competence is sufficient for everything but research).  So we do what we're told matters, what we must do to keep our jobs.  It seems unreasonable for universities to give priority to publication over everything else and then blame faculty for doing what we're told.
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Post-Exam Smackdown

Foolish Freddie the Football Player: Don’t yell at me to get my attention from almost 300 feet away when my back is turned to you and I am walking away. Don’t do it 6 times. This is the reason I was abrupt with you when you finally ran up to me to talk to me about class. Don't run up behind me. I'm paranoid and a black belt. No, class doesn’t begin at noon. It starts at 12:30 like it has for the first 4 weeks of the semester. If it did start at noon, we’d both be late. Can we talk about the test? Sure, what would you like to know. You don’t think you did well. I would be surprised if you did do well, considering the fact that you showed up 55 minutes late for an 80 minute class. What’s that? You were just made aware that you assignment portfolio was due with your exam? Bullshit. I ended each class for the past 2 weeks by telling everyone that the assignment portfolio was due prior to the test. Oh, you mean you weren’t in class. I wonder if you coach knows that. Do me a favor. Go away.

Amazingly Arrogant Autumn: Yes, you’re right. Your class performed very poorly on the exam as a whole. What do I think might be the cause? Oh c’mon. You’re not going to try the old “Blame the Crappy Teacher” trick, are you. I’ve given this exact test every time I’ve taught this class over the past 5 years. This class, "led" by you, has had by far the worst performance on this test. My other two sections did rather well. Maybe if you bought the textbook, or even went to the library now and then to check out the book that is on reserve, you’d have a case, no matter how small. Hell, if you’d put a little effort into it, you could have found the exam prior to taking it since in previous terms I posted it with the answers to my personal website (fuck that Blackboard crap), much like I showed you today. I’m sure you’ve heard the words “It’s not you, it’s me,” from many exes. You’re not going to hear it from me because it’s clearly you. Go away.

Junkie Jimmy: No, you may not submit the take-home portion of your exam late. I don’t care how much you had to drink on Sunday night, it’s not an excuse to miss your 9:30AM class, not submit your exam as required, and email me three hours after the fact to request an exception. The exam clearly states that “NO LATE SUBMISSIONS WILL BE ACCEPTED. NO EXCEPTIONS.” Hell, I can almost guarantee that I had more to drink on Sunday night than you did. Unlike you and the one exam you encountered, I had to deal with 100 exams, each crappier than the last. Is it any wonder that I went through a 12-pack of cheap beer before I even started drinking liquor. Large quantities of liquor. I had so much to drink, everyone’s score tripled. Yet, I was still able to drag my hung-over ass out of bed to get to my 8AM class on time, tests in hand. Go the fuck away. I have an appointment with my therapist, Johnnie Walker, and I can't be late.

Racist? No. Blonde? You betcha.

Dear Mitzie:

No, you are not racist for thinking that white puppies are cuter than brown puppies.

Yes, I'm sure.

Definitely sure,
Dr. Snarky

And now, a beam of sucking doom...

like the Dementors from Harry Potter.

Remember my ray of light? Here is its antithesis, re: the same exam:


I have been studying since Saturday and i'm still feeling really stressed out about the test! I have re-read all of the chapters, made flashcards for all the terms and taken all of the practice exams online! I still feel like I don't know anything. I'm worried because I felt like a lot of small details were on the online quizzes and i'm having a rough time trying to remember all the little details that I read in all of the chapters. I was just wondering if you had any tips on what I should focus my attention on when studying because right now i'm stressing out way too much. I'm completely terrified of not doing well on this test and then having my whole grade ruined and I am just not really sure of what to do since I have already been studying for three days and will continue to study up until Thursday! Let me know if you have any recommendations for me please; That would be very helpful!

-OMG Imadie

I have not yet responded per a colleague's recommendation that I address these concerns in class rather than over email because they like to...oh...SUE and stuff. I have actually never encountered an email with quite this level of obsessive craziness, possibly because I generally assign papers instead of tests.

It is worth noting that this test is 25% of her grade, so she's hardly going to "ruin" her "whole grade."

Another Thirsty: How DO you spend your time?

FreudianQuip (I'm Not Callie!)'s post on her actual day prompts me to wonder how others spend their days.  Here was my day:

8 am children to dentist
9 am children to school; self to campus
9-10 "I'll just look at my email before I start work".  Dig self out an hour later.
10-11:30 preparing for class
11:30-12:50 teaching class
12:50-1:10 fire drill; stand outside in the rain, eating un-reheated pasta from last night's dinner, missing department microwave
1:10-2:10 meeting re: community outreach.  General agreement among those present that the institution claims it wants us to be outreaching all over the place, but until it matches the rhetoric by giving people tenure or merit increments for outreach-like behaviour, not a whole lot of outreach is going to get done.  Discussion of how to mimic outreaching while getting the community to do all the actual work ("in-reaching", perhaps).  Agreed that this would be good, if we could think how to pull it off.
2:10-2:30 hasty class prep for tomorrow.
2:30-4:00 pick kids up from school, take to music store, rent instruments for their band practices this year (HOW much?!), come home.
4:00-5:00 Open Omnifocus todo list.   Holy Crow.  Close Omnifocus todo list.  Answer more email.  Add a few items to todo list.
5:00-9:00.  Make and eat dinner.  Supervise children's homework,  bed preparation, etc.  Decant children into bed.
9:00-11:00.  Look at Omnifocus todo list.  Holy Crow.  Write a reference. I'll have to courier it, damn.  Contemplate working on overdue report for professional organization, overdue response to book referees, dull overdue article, or encyclopedia articles that aren't overdue yet.  Or start on a really attractive new project, which - no.  NO.  Must finish old stuff first.  Sigh.  Work on professional organization report.  Do more prep for next class.  Order textbooks for next term.  Check off a couple of todo list items.
11:00-12:00 am.  Read an article relevant to dull overdue article.  Feel virtuous.
12:00-12:30 a.m. Ready for bed.  Damn, forgot to make children's lunches.  Make lunches.  Bed.

Total time spent on university work - 8.5 hr.  Total time spent constantly on the run - 14.5 hr (7 to 9 pm was pretty relaxing on the whole.) 
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Monday, September 27, 2010

Student Smackdowns

Allergic Al:
Okay, I'll accept that you had an extensive allergic reaction on the morning your paper was due. It's a bit of a stretch but whatever, I don't really fucking care. I'm glad you had the foresight to email me the paper when you told me why you couldn't make it to class. What I don't appreciate is that you then decided, even though you could read and respond to my emails, to a) wait forever to respond, and b) to disregard everything I said. Yes, you still have to upload your paper to the plagiarism device. Yes, you still have to give me a goddamn hard copy. Just because you emailed it to me doesn't mean you turned the fucking thing in! And sorry, but "My eyes were so swelled up I couldn't drive" doesn't cut it. First, you were able to read the damn emails just fine and second, that's not an excuse. Find someone else to drop off your fucking paper, moron. I thought you might have been going a little snowflake on me when you emailed me to tell me you couldn't get into the account workshop papers were sent to from said email address, but I chalked it up to a bought of laziness. Obviously shouldn't have given you the benefit of the doubt.

Rude Rita:
First you jump down my throat when I do you the service of telling you I'm feeling nice and not going to count you absent for being 20 minutes late to a 75 minute class, then you scream at me that it's my job to track down your workshop paper because it wasn't in the stack but by god, you did it and you want your ten points. Fuck you, woman. I don't care how old you are, you should know better than to treat someone who is essentially your boss like that, no matter how old I am or how shitty of a day you've had. Be happy I was tired because if I had just been angry, I would have chewed you a new one rather than just standing my ground. To then turn around and call me multiple times because you forgot to put your paper up on the plagiarism device, saved your paper on the library computer's desktop, and then couldn't figure out how to get it up is just stupid. Just because you somehow figured out that I'm on campus until 10 for my own classes doesn't mean that I'm available to you, idiot. And it certainly doesn't mean that I have to email you, call you, or have any interaction with you about your paper, which you still haven't put up five days later. By the way, I read through it yesterday. You didn't follow directions for shit and you'll probably fail the paper. Looks like you'll be losing a lot more than ten points.

Extra! Extra! Read All About It! Teachers at the Heart of Everything Wrong with America!

I'm so fucking tired of this. I've been fucking tired of this for years. Little did I know that the money-grubbing fuckers had spent the last decade just winding up for their first real pitch.

It's no news to those of us who teach that teachers are considered the heart of every single problem in the U.S. of A. It's the teachers and their damned unions, dammit, that have spoiled the formerly perfect education system of the U.S. of A. If we could only get those failed teachers out of the classroom, we'd return to a perfect education system in the U.S. of A.

Waiting for Superman opens this week, a "documentary" that touts charter schools over public in the U.S. of A. while "proving" that teachers' unions are the culprit behind all that ails us.

The corporate machine that already has its grubby little hooks in every aspect of public education (thank you, George W. Bush) has now made a movie that panders to the Tea Partiers and the low-income urban dwellers alike. Waiting for Superman gives everyone a hall pass except for teachers and their unions.

A decade or more of blaming teachers capped by a glossy charter school/corporate machine PR piece is bad enough; having the President of the U.S. of A., the guy the teachers' unions endorsed in the last election, calling us out on The Today Show, is badder.

I heard it on NPR, our good President talking about sending what NPR called a "tough love message" to educators in the U.S. of A. NPR's paraphrase of President Obama's message on Today: "Their year in the classroom should be longer, and poorly performing teachers should get out."

Because, of course, the only variable that matters, the only contributing factor to the Downfall of Civilization as We Know It in the U.S. of A. is teachers.

Forget student motivation. Just mention student responsibility in the education equation, and prepare for massive backlash.

Forget poverty. No one wants to talk about the link between poverty and student success in this country. Hell, no one wants to talk about poverty at all in this country.

Forget parental involvement. Forget the fact that parental involvement is a major factor in student achievement. (Because it isn't the parents in the U.S. of A., by golly, who have protested against longer school years in the past.)

And absolutely forget the teachers--that is, forget asking those who actually teach what needs to be done about, you know, education. In his interview on The Today Show, Obama said nothing about talking to teachers about what's going on in education in the U.S. of A. today.

Obama did talk a lot about managing teachers--and how else can one categorize the continuing rhetoric about getting rid of "bad" teachers?--and about a lot of other things:

• Pitting individual states against each other to compete for federal education bonus money. (What could possibly go wrong with that?)

• Blaming unions for being "resistant to change when things aren't working." (Things not charter schools, which have been shown to increase segregation while showing little difference from public school performances?)

• So-called "dropout factories" with abysmal retention and graduation rates. (Where there's a chicken in every pot, an involved parent in every household, and a pony given for every birthday?)

Obama did talk about raising teacher pay, talked about valuing teachers, talked about wanting to provide teachers with what they need to succeed...but never once did he suggest talking to or with teachers about what's going on in public schools.

No one ever suggests talking to teachers about what's going on in public schools. Everyone does have a knack, however, for talking about teachers.

Think this has nothing to do with you, O Mighty R1 Researcher/Educator? Think again. Not only does all this bullshit about education reform affect you because you get many students who represent the end result of the public K-12 process (driving you to this very blog), but you are not at all immune to what dwells behind this talk.

If those among us who teach at four-year colleges and graduate degree-granting institutions think for one moment that the people behind education reform don't want to get their hooks into you--to dictate your curriculum, weed out the "bad" teachers from your department, make even more money off of your back--then you are not nearly as smart as your advanced degrees would indicate.

It's already happening at the CC level. Melinda Gates is just one of many corporatist-cum-philanthropists who's never taught but who knows just how to reform secondary education. The corporate machine wants a piece of the education pie, and that includes higher education. If the corporations--the ones who write the standardized tests, administer the standardized tests, dictate assessment, design curricula, and profit from all of that--have their way, they'll soon get their hooks into CCs, influencing legislation governing CCs to line their own pockets, in the name of reform.

And if there's money to be made from that--and we know there is boatloads of money to be made from that--you'd better pray that your faculty union is strong enough, my four-year-and-beyond friends, because the education industry will be coming after you next.

They'll do this, apparently, with the blessing of the President of the U.S. of A. He's endorsing charter schools, perhaps widespread use of charter schools, further diverting funds from real public institutions into the pockets of people who profit, personally, from education. You won't be able to count on Obama at all. (And, yes, I voted for him, too.)

And you already know what legislators in the other party think of education, especially higher education. It's all long as it's all right.

Politicians and bureaucrats, philanthropists and corporatists.

It's a hell of a conversation. What a shame we weren't invited.

Why I Don't Get Anything Done: A Demonstration.

How I plan to spend my day:

40% - Grading papers
30% - Work on research
20% - Work on job applications
10% - Prep for tomorrow's class

How I actually spend my day:

30% - Office hours
20% - Division Meeting with Dean
10% - Department Meeting
10% - Committee Meeting
10% - Answering e-mails
10% - Forced collegial interaction with other professors I don't actually like
10% - grading papers, working on research, working on job apps, and prepping for tomorrow's classes.

I wish I were kidding. Talk about being nickel-and-dimed to death.

Am I the only person who fricking hates meetings? At least 90% of the meetings I go to are seriously meetings for the point of having meetings (or discussing what was talked about at the last meeting). It's always the same. At first, I try to pay attention in case there's something useful to glean out of what's being discussed. Slowly but inevitably, the words start to fade and blur until all I hear is "blah blah blah, shit I don't care about, blah." I could summarize every single meeting I've been to in about 30 seconds. Do administrators actually LIKE meetings, or they hate them as much as I do? If they do, who on Earth likes them so much that they're constantly scheduling new ones for us to go to?

Aaaaaaarrgghhh! I wanted to punch the Dean this afternoon because she just. would. not. stop. talking. about. NOTHING.

Ok. I feel a little better now. Not much, mind you, especially since I didn't get anything done that I wanted to do today. But I daren't talk about it any more, otherwise I'll have to add another % to my table labelled, "complaining on CM." So peace out.


They're Advertising!!

Sorry to post and run, but I was too amazed to let this go yet too busy to recreate my experience with a fancy photoshop image.

Waiting for the bus. Saw a young woman walking down the street. Noticed she was taking up the whole sidewalk and forcing everyone to part for her to pass. (Internal eye-roll) Took note of her flamboyant tie-dyed tshirt. My eyes grew large as I read the script on said tshirt:

"Snowflake. Class of 2009"


Aw, shucks. I miss you guys, too.

(You know the drill. To enlarge, do le clique-clique.)

Early Thirsty: Tardiness

This semester, I instituted a new policy: Once class has started, I close (and lock) the door. Once the door is closed, the door is closed. NO ONE comes in late. I typically will give them a few minutes of leeway (most days around 5 minutes). I had a few reasons.

1. I feel more secure knowing that any random person in the hallway (especially someone with bad intentions) can't just walk right in (Ok, this might be a false sense of security, but it makes me feel better anyway)

2. The constant interruption of students coming in late bothered me to the point where I could no longer stand it.

Number 2 felt especially important in my public speaking classes, when students would stroll in right in the middle of their classmates' speeches, sit down, rifle through their bags, greet their friends and generally be complete @$$holes. I also got sick of people coming in during lecture, and then bugging me after class to know what they missed. I even had one student who walked in late, sat down, then raised his hand and asked me to "quickly review" what he'd missed, right in the middle of the lecture. I declined, resisting the urge to go strangle him at his desk.

Five weeks in, the new policy seems to be working fine. A couple people don't like it, but there haven't been any major complaints. Until today. During my 3 o'clock class, a student knocked on my door 20 minutes into a 50 minute class, right in the middle of another student's presentation. I didn't open the door.

Once class was over, Ms. Tardy came in and read me the riot act. She demanded to know why she had been made to stand outside for the last 30 minutes. I explained the policy to her, noting that I had explained it in class three times and that it was clearly written in her syllabus. Her retort? "Well, I have worked 40 out of the last 48 hours, so what if I slept in and was a few minutes late to class?" This brought to mind several questions: What kind of job does she have? Which might answer: Why does she sleep so late into the afternoon? And finally: In what universe does 20 minutes (out of a 50 minute class) qualify as "a few minutes?" Holy hell, woman, you missed almost half the class! I explained the policy to her again, emphasizing how late she was, and she left in a huff (no doubt to craft a "poor me" email to my department chair or the dean or something).

So, after all this rambling, I come to my question:

Q: What is your policy on tardiness? Are you a hard ass (their label, not mine) like me, or are you more relaxed? And why?

Mesto Attempts "Smackdown"

Well, here it is, my first official attempt at some smackdown (I can't promise the eloquence of other posters, just the raw annoyance that I feel). I have two varieties today. The first is the oh-so-common snowflake smackdown. The other is the less common colleague variety.

Deborah Dumbroad
Yes, I know you think I'm just "the best teacher ever," and that the professors who taught you this exact same class twice before are just "bumbling morons," but I assure you that your constant flattery will not get you a passing grade from me, either. Did you try brown-nosing them, too? Or have you determined that the only way you will ever pass this class is by finding a prof who is naive or lacks self-esteem so you can butter her up by telling her how "wonderful" her "methods" are? Guess what: You're barking up the wrong tree. I really don't care if you like my "methods" or not. I really don't care if you think I'm just the best teacher you've "ever ever had." What I care about is whether or not you demonstrate competency in your work, so you might find it behooves you to spend less time telling me how much you "love my class," and more time actually learning.

Migraine Mark
Thank you for providing an accommodations slip for you explaining that you suffer from migraines and may need to "miss class on occasion." I, too, suffer from migraines (usually triggered by the stress of dealing with students), and understand how disrupting they can be. However, you really should have provided this to me before you missed 5 classes (out of the 6 permitted), failed to email, call, stop by my office, and hand in any of your assignments. What does "on occasion" mean, anyway? Did you have a migraine for almost two weeks? Missing class, as stated in the syllabus, is never an excuse for failing to submit work, or for submitting work late, all at once, in a pile, with a note under my door that said, "You were never here when I stopped by." Well, if you read the syllabus, or the notice posted on the board right outside my door, you would have known when my office hours were. I was there. You were not. At least you'll have some sort of excuse for your parents when they ask why you failed my class. You can blame it on your migraines and that bitch of a professor who failed to accommodate you.

Narcissistic Nancy
It's true. You are utterly important to not just this department, but the entire college. This place would absolutely fall apart if it weren't for you. The rest of us just don't understand how difficult it is to be you, and how much you've done. You are the sun, the moon, and the stars. And not only that, but how could the rest of us even consider mentioning our students, workload, classes, committees, and research when you've clearly got much more important things to discuss, like your hangnail, the committee you haphazardly co-chair, your cat, the tenured faculty member who had the nerve to ignore you, your eczema, your...

Busy Byron
You are just so busy that you can't keep track of any obligations. You barely manage to get to all of your classes. Between writing your book, pursuing your research, and..? What else, exactly? See, you really don't have anything more going on in your life than the rest of us, yet we, or at least I, manage to keep track of faculty and committee meetings, midterm, and the final exam schedule. I know I'm a woman, but I'm really not your secretary. I do the same job you do. In fact, I do it better. So don't call me anymore asking when this or that meeting is, or when your final exams are scheduled, or if I could possibly explain to the Dean why you were unable to attend a particular class or meeting, because I can't. You've got an iPhone, just like me, and an outlook email account with a calendar, just like me, and even a desk calendar (unlike me), so use them and keep track of your own damn schedule!

CM Readers Need a Dose of Folkchurch!

Where are you, darlin'? Everyone misses you.

PS to all: use "labels" when you post if you want your posts to be more easily found. Not only can folks instantly find all the "Dr Snarky" or "Beaker Ben" posts, but some of the more common labels help us when we need a serving of "arrogant students," "stupidity," or "smackdown." (Or, shudder, a taste of "Yaro!")

MidState Mandy With Some Old School Smackdown!

Lawyered-Up Lance: I don’t care about your legal issues. Really. You don’t need to tell me that you’re missing class because you’ll be in court. What you do need to do is be aware of the attendance policy (you have a certain number of absences for which I don’t give a fuck why you’re not in class) and get your work in on time. E-mailing me your paper two days after it’s due and not in a file format I can open does not help you, bub.

Invisible Ida: Please, for the love of all that’s cute and fuzzy, do NOT send me a blank e-mail with your paper attached. There’s no surer way to make my inner Hulk come out and want to smash your grade into oblivion. I am a human being, not a robot. A smidge of respect would not go amiss, especially since I assign your grade.

Chronically-Ill Caty: You’ve missed too much class already. I tried to be nice and give you the benefit of the doubt, offering to ignore the fact that you’ve failed due to non-attendance IF you could provide a doctor’s note and keep up with the rest of the class for the rest of the semester. Showing up to class sans doctor’s note and paper but with a “flunk me, I dare you” look on your face does not make me want to help you.  Neither does missing yet another two days of class. You’re in for a rude shock when midterm grades are due, young lady.

Please-Explain Patty: Thank you for being polite when asking about your grade. Thank you for replying promptly to my e-mail explaining your grade, and for continuing to be polite and thanking me for explaining. I dreaded writing that e-mail and I dreaded hearing from you because as you can see above, your classmates can be rude idiots. Your assurance that you’ll work hard to get the next paper in better shape and “thank  you” for my explanation and feedbackwent a long way toward making my day just a little bit better.

Behold! A Ray of Light (Weak Though It May Be)

This email:

Hello Ms. XXXX,

Could it be possible to take the test before thursday? I would be willing to take it before or after class on tuesday or during any of your office hours. Thank you!


Eager Erin

Let's ignore "Could" for "Would" and the capitalization problems and focus instead on the use of a proper greeting AND proposals for alternate exam times. I am also, frankly, pleased by a lack of explanation about why the exam needs to be rescheduled for her because I honestly don't give a shit about what the reason is.

It's not perfect, but it beats the heck out of an email related to this same test that read:

"I am going to be out of town for [a sport] from Wednesday night until Thursday at 11pm. What am I supposed to do about the test?"

Um, well, I suppose you could take the test and shove it...I mean...well. Hmm.

New Semester, Old Patterns

To introduce myself: I am an academic in the UK, in a middling sort of university (where the Deans and authorities constantly encourage us to produce internationally significant research and achieve excellence in student learning, whilst cutting the funding for any activity that actually contributes to those things), with a middling sort of academic job, and middling sort of teaching load and research success. We have many kinds of snowflakes in the UK, both on the faculty and in the student seats, and some of them try really hard to wear out my good intentions before I even get to a classroom.

I have just returned from study leave, and I am Grumpy.

Today is the first day of the semester. The building is full of new students, looking for their welcome talks and their registration packs and the toilets and the vending machines, and generally milling around and asking questions. How many academics are here to greet them? I've seen five so far... one of whom is currently on study leave and hanging around the staff common room with a mug of coffee in tatty, comfortable jeans and a sweater enjoying the study leave priviledge of being Smug*. No, we are not a small department. Some of my colleagues seem to have had a conscience-ectomy (i.e. feel no obligation to do their share), others have carefully booked urgent research travel for these few days, or booked themselves into a conference in a warm place.

Because today, you understand, is not about the academic part of the programme. Clearly registration is secretarial. And the Head of Department isn't looking, because he's travelling too. Which is why I'm now off to advise little first-years about module choices for a programme I don't teach on, since I'm
a) in the building and
b) a bit too prone to help out a frantic-looking secretary

*There are very few priviledges, I don't begrude this colleague making the most of one of them. Heaven knows I did last semester during my leave...

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sunday Afternoon Email Bombardment

So tomorrow morning at 9 a.m., there is a multiple-choice exam in the class that I TA for that is worth 50% of students' grades. Last week, the prof conducted a very nice review for students, in which all of their questions were answered and the test format was explained. The prof does not want us to post his review on the class website, as he believes that students should attend the review in order to get the review information (I agree).

Of course, this means I get a flood of emails today from precious little snowflakes who: 1.) Put off studying until the last minute, 2.) Did not bother to attend the review, and 3.) Assume that I would be just thrilled to take time out of my nice Sunday afternoon with my husband to respond to their frantic correspondence. A few of my favorites:

  • An email from a male student (I have no idea who he is) sent to both myself and my fellow female TA. I haven't even read it yet. I had to stop when I saw that he had titled his email to us, "Hey Girlies!"
  • The student who urgently needed to know whether several assigned readings posted online were "necessary to know for the test." No, of course not, precious. The prof just assigns them for the hell of it.
  • The Incredibly Broad Please-Tell-Me-Everything Email, in which the student simply asks what he needs to know for the test (This one I may actually respond to, because at least he had the common courtesy to use an appropriate salutation--he even gave me a "Thanks" at the end).
  • Email from a student whining about how "there's a lot of stuff in some of the lectures" and she needs to know if she really has to study all of it.
  • My personal favorite: The student who emails to ask me what the format of the test is (e.g. essay? true/false? multiple choice?) Like he just couldn't be bothered to attend the first day of class, read the syllabus, look at the class website, or be in class last week when the format was, once again, reiterated.
Do you guys respond to emails from flakes the Sunday before a test who obviously didn't attend the review and have put everything off until the last minute ? Or do you let them stew until regular business hours?

Peace out,

A Request Of All Inactive CM Correspondents.

If you are not posting to the page but have a full access login, I'd ask that you consider giving it up. I've started to collect names of folks who'd like to join up and post regularly, and I'd like to make the inactive accounts available to them. There are more than 20 folks who have never posted a single item to the page over the first 13 weeks of the blog's existence.

I really never wanted to simply delete unused accounts, but perhaps that's not so unreasonable.

Anyone with a Blogger, TypePad, WordPress, or LiveJournal login can comment, but we're limited to 100 "correspondents" who can actually post their own material.

Feel free to email me or comment below if you have any questions or suggestions on the issue.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Thirsty??? Students Bearing Gifts (and baring gifts)

I humbly and modestly admit that students sometimes bring me gifts. Homemade apple pie. Interesting newspaper articles. Artifacts from vacations. And so on. Sometimes I accept the gifts for myself. Sometimes I accept and share with everyone in the class. Sometimes I decline altogether. The three best gifts ever offered to me: marijuana, an exotic alcoholic beverage, and sex. I accepted two of the three. No regrets.

Q. What's the best gift you've been offered by a student?

A. And did you accept the gift (or have any regrets)?

Be honest, dammit.

On Torture

(May contain triggers--discussion of violence)

So...I am in a contemplative mood, precipitated by some extra Valium this morning related to my recent hospital visit. And I've been looking at the "political systems" chapter of my Kumquatson textbook.

Through a series of mysterious circumstances, I happen to work in a Third World Shit-Hole that has experienced a recent and quite severe civil war. In an attempt to rebuild the country, TWSH created mechanisms for both victims and perpetrators of violence during that war to come forward and tell their stories. Violence is suffused in the culture of TWSH, both because of this war and an ongoing lively belief in the power and danger of witchcraft. During one of my stays in TWSH, my neighbors locked a woman in her home and set it on fire. She burned to death. I remember standing there gaping and numbly dialing emergency services (which do, oddly enough, exist in TWSH) only to be told that "no one would come" and to watch several young men point at the stupid foreigner who didn't understand "how things were done" in the area. I also travel to an adjacent TWSH sometimes, and there I've spent time with amputees...ATWSH was drawn into the armed conflict in TWSH and its population victimized.

I have a series of photographs of torture perpetrators (I find these, actually, the most unsettling) and victims. One of the strangest images (in my own head) is a picture of the tortured and torturer together, several years out. There is also the woman with the man who killed her son by pushing him out a 9th floor window.

I can teach this chapter of the textbook without talking about any of this stuff. In fact, Kumquatson makes it possible for me to teach without...actually...ever saying or doing anything in my classroom that isn't scripted by them.

But a nasty part of me wants to show some of these photos because I want to shock them out of being, for just a moment, Beautiful and Unique Snowflakes and to consider that, indeed, life sucks pretty hard in other parts of the world. Of course, in the BAUS mind, evidence of torture in other political regimes can just become one more piece of evidence about why the American way is the best way and why, indeed, the Third World IS a shit-hole.

Do I show them the photos to instruct (I have a good patter about the linkages of state violence to individual bodies) or do I just let it go?