Thursday, October 14, 2010

I Don't Want To Be An Alarmist, But This Is the Kind of Shit That Is Ruining Everything.

My crappy community college is having full timers do classroom observations this year. We're supposed to pair up with a colleague and take turns visiting each other.

I don't have a problem with that at all, and in fact have often done this informally with younger faculty over the years.

That's not the problem. Here's the problem.

#1 on the observation "checklist," the item that gets scored by my observer and sent to the Dean's office to go on my permanent record says this:

"Instructor used humor and a lively presentation method to elicit student attention."

Listen, I'll use humor if and when I want. I'll be lively when it's appropriate. And I don't give a shit if students pay attention or not. They pay their tuition and they occasionally arrive in class. I'm not going to dance and yuk it up for them, and I don't want to be EVALUATED on whether I can make like Dane Cook or not.

Fucking fucking fucking place.


  1. This would totally piss me off, too, and for all the same reasons. I vindicate your righteous fury! ; )

  2. When my students aren't paying attention, I tell intentionally bad jokes until they give in and start taking notes again. Some are related to the topic at hand. Others are as bad as the classic, "A horse walked into a bar. He said 'Ouch.'"
    I will say however, that I've never been evaluated based on that tactic. At least not by a peer.

  3. I wish I could do a pie chart like they do on Regretsy. It would go like this. Things wrong with this:

    "humor": 10%
    "lively presentation method": WTF is that: 15%
    "elicit student attention" (like, coax it out of their sweet snowflakey specialness?): 25%
    permanent record: 50%

  4. Holy crap. That's absurd.

    Is it a course where you have the opportunity to hand out random reading and work up an in-class writing assignment? I'd hand out something on the Holocaust and tell Polish jokes while it was being passed around. I'd give two topics and let them "free write". A) write about what you just read B) write about whether or not your learning experience was enhanced by the teacher's efforts to be cool and hip. Then I'd staple the essays to the score card.

    They won't remember shit about the reading, but the administrator who concocted that criterion will get an earful about his priorities.

  5. There was a time when *students* were graded on their behavior in class. Now, at all levels, there seems to be a trend toward evaluating *teachers* on their students' behavior in class. Something is wrong with this picture.

    Maybe it's just a pendulum swinging too far in the opposite direction before coming to rest at a reasonable point, but I'm not so sure (and, if it goes much farther, there's going to be a hell of a backlash. There are days when I'd like to be around to see that; maybe I'll seem like a softy by comparison to whatever new style of strictness and high expectations for students emerges. I could live with that better than the present situation).

  6. Ugh, even more academics who can't tell the difference between education and entertainment.

  7. The customers must be entertained! Screw the society if they can't perform anything when the graduate. Goddamnit.

    Darla, my love, your avatar makes me feel inappropriate things for your shorts. It's confusing me and my boyfriend doesn't know what to make of it.

  8. Just engage in collusion with your partner: "You'll write down that I was hilarious and I'll write down that you were hilarious, OK?"

    Or wear a clown costume. That's just about what it's come down to.

  9. clown costume. clown car. juggling fire. and darla's shorts.

  10. My large lecture at Second String State is preceded by a lecture from a geographer. He wears clothes in a style favored by Starvistan's neighbors, and he asks me why I don't wear MY clothes from Starvistan.

    Well, I'd prefer not to mock the folks I work with by waving garments in front of students like a red cape before a bull. Look at me! Look at me! Look at me so I can stab you with this lance-thing!

    Perhaps I should start carrying my replica AK-47 to class, because plenty of folks had those bad boys in Starvistan!

    The evaluation, as know, is bullshit. I loathe the idea that I must entertain them. Verily, I believe THEY should entertain ME.

  11. Hmm...I'm liking this replica AK idea way too much.

  12. Darla, Dane Cook sucks ass as a comic, steals jokes like Ned "Carlos Mencia" Holness, and is generally a fraud. If you want real comedians, think Bill Hicks, Patton Oswalt, or Dennis Perrin.

  13. Dane Cook is who my students like. I'm guessing that's the reference in Darla's note. Like, who'd want to be like Dane Cook, even though it might get you some good evaluations.

    Hicks was great, for sure. But of course Darla's students wouldn't have any idea who he was.

  14. Now that we're naming inspirations, it comes to mind that my lectures are half Bob Newhart bits. But I don't think my students get it. And I think my hypothetical observer probably would, but since the well crafted rubric specifies that the intent of the humor should be to engage students rather than diffuse disgust with them, it probably wouldn't help.

  15. Your students have no taste, Tex. The little spuds should at least know who Oswalt is; his bit on the KFC Famous Bowls ("a sadness pile in a failure bowl") is real big on Screw'dTube. The great thing with Bill Hicks' material is that a lot of it doesn't date badly (except for his JFK obsession, that is.)

  16. I don't think expecting a little entertainment is such a bad thing. It is hard to pay attention when the prof rumbles on monotonously. Just once I'd like to see an instructor be enthusiastic and lively...maybe say a few well placed jokes, tell us an interesting story, make some balloon animals, eat just one Lay's potato chip, do the Hokey-Pokey and turn himself around, or simply bring in a wild tiger and attempt to tame it during class whilst simultaneously juggling 16 knives, a baby, and a 52 inch plasma TV turned to the Discovery Channel.

    Small stuff like this can make a big difference.


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