Monday, September 20, 2010

An introduction is in order.

Boy, am I glad I found you.

Well, I shouldn't take credit, actually. My husband found this website, and - tired of seeing me shake my fist and gnash my teeth at the air (where students would be, were I were a tenured professor) - suggested I ask for an invite. Voila.

This is brilliant. I didn't realize people talked like me. I thought I was maybe the worst teacher in the history of teaching, because all of the people in my department act like our students are beautiful little snugglebunnies who maybe occasionally need some gentle encouragement. I'm not entirely certain these people are even actually HUMAN. I think things like you guys write, which makes me feel better about myself by a factor of at least a trillion.

I think my college misery comes very nearly equally from the lamesauce administration as it does from the special snowflake students. The kids, at least, have "I'm young and dumb" on their side; theoretically, my chair and the dean and the provost and the president ought to know better. But I teach at a private university, and they're all about keeping their customers happy. I hate the customer service model of teaching. The students are supposed to be the product, not the consumer, right? They're not the boss of me. But they're pretty sure they are, actually, and the rest of the University acts like they are, so I'm kind of assed out, aren't I? The only reason I haven't totally lost it in class and roundhouse kicked my whiny, Lexus-driving, text-messaging, craphead kids in the head all Norris-style is because there are no other jobs in the world out there for me right now and I know it.

Here's a heartwarming tale from my first year (three ago, now) that sums the whole thing up pretty well: I was teaching research methods and statistics to a class that was full to its maximum, with a long waitlist, to boot. On Day One, I took roll, and added as many kids as I thought I could efficiently manage (grading gut-wrenchingly "written" 20-page APA-Style research methods papers and stats exams takes a lot out of a gal). On Day Two, Blondie McPradaBag shows up after class and tells me that she needs to add. I tell her no, sorry, I'm already more than full, I teach the course every single semester, maybe next time. You all know what comes next: she needs this one class to graduate. This is it. She'll just DIE if she doesn't get in (I should be so lucky). There is nothing in the universe more important to her than this class.

"So, where were you on the first day?" I ask her. "And where were you today? I'd have figured you'd be here fifteen minutes early, front and center, considering how important this class apparently is to you."

"Well, it was my friend's birthday and we decided to go to Vegas and I didn't even get back until this morning."

"Ok, so you made your choice then," I said. She pouts. She even cries. I try to explain to her that we advertise ourselves as a small, private college so we can keep our classes reasonably sized. That we don't have TAs to grade papers so that the classes can all be taught by actual professors. That I already added extra students, students who made the choice to show up on the first day, thus demonstrating that the class was important to them. Etcetera. I don't know why I'm so reasonable. It's like reading poetry to a thermos.

"So, you're not adding me, then?" she asked. "I'm sorry, no," I said. At which point, she promptly walked over to the department office, and complained directly to the chair about me. And do you know what my chair said? She said, "yeah, you really have to add her."

I could barely contain myself when Snowflake Jones showed up next class with an add slip, full of triumphant smugness. "Can I get you to sign this for me?" she asked sweetly, holding out her addslip.

"Apparently," I said, without humor. It was not lost on her, and she complained again to her new best friend, my department chair (I imagined them sitting before a fire, sipping wine and smoking cigars) that I didn't like her now and that she was concerned for her grade. I'll make the long story shortesque... she only ended up attending about 60% of the class, and I didn't dare fail her. I gave her a very generous "C," which she complained about to me via e-mail, but couldn't bitch to any higher-ups about this time because I had attendance records and her manifestly crappy work on my side and we both knew it.

Well, so, I have plenty more where that came from, but I suppose that's what the next 100 posts are for, right? My point was - I did have one somewhere - thank you, thank you so very much for being here, and for showing me that in most cases, it's probably not me. It's them.

Really nice to meet you. Seriously. And my husband sends his best, too. =)



  1. Your department chair sounds like the one I had when I was an Accursed Visiting Assistant Professor at a small, private university. I am glad I never have to deal with this yokel again, but if he insists on intruding upon me, I know -exactly- what I'm going to say to him:


    I'm sure I won't be the only one to say to you, Welcome to College Misery!

  2. Welcome to the Misery. Just to make yourself feel better, you might want to check out 5 years of angst and ennui as it appeared at Rate Your Students, a page from which many of us came to this location.

    Click this.

  3. Welcome to the fold, Callie! Looking forward to more stories of boneheaded snowflakes.

  4. You should have asked for more money for the overload.

    I know, I know...stop laughing...

  5. One of my colleagues pointed out that perhaps our Big State U's practice of grade inflation was like selling mortgage defaults. You take the bottom of the pile (the loans most likely to default + papers most likely to fail), you repackage them (as AAA bonds + papers written by special and unique snowflakes), and voila! Everyone is happy...except those of us who keep saying "Wait a sec, where is all of this money/academic ability coming from?"

    As visiting profs, both of us, we are like those poor peons at Moody's. We assign the grade and our higher-ups override it.

  6. Um, I actually am a beautiful little snugglebunny. Just sayin'.

    I have had numerous students added to my classes (despite the fact that the classes have been full) not by my reasonable, sane department chair but by the registrar's office. This is despite the fact that Banner (Murder-Death-Kill!) maintains waiting lists to admit students in the event that spaces become available. Hey, he's the registrar! Why should he care?

  7. Welcome to CM! It's much better to vent here, maybe with a Scotch or a glass of wine in hand, than to repress it all and court apoplexy.

  8. Meanest, we are of the same mind here.

    The Administrators are fine-tuned to respond to money. I know it's hilarious to propose, but seriously there are two things you can pull: the Fire Safety rule (state law says Max, 38 students, so sorry NO DICE but it's not me, it's you safety!) or the money rule.

    And if all else fails, come to CM and drink a shot for every snowflake quote you read.

    (AFTER you've put your university mail away -- you should never be tempted to send drunken emails to admins)


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