Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Hot, Sexy, Angsty, Vulgar Debates--or, What We Did This Summer.

August 31 is, for many of us, the last real day of summer. September 1 rolls around, and poof--we're on contract again.

For your viewing (dis)pleasure, here's what the CM commiserants have most commented upon this summer. It's a list of all posts with 20 or more comments. (12 posts out of 269, or 4.5%, for those who are numerically inclined.)

Enjoy!--or, erm, no, maybe not. We shouldn't end the summer by being agreeable, now, should we?
I hope somebody brings on the snowflake student smackdowns soon. They'll make such great chasers for our main courses of ennui, infighting, and hot (or not), sexy (or not) angst. Rawr.

Professional E-Mails

I shouldn't have opened my email the night before returning to the Dean's office. Okay, it was great to know that I have to be handing out flowers for someone who survived 25 years in this place (seriously: how did they do that?). And I see my schedule for tomorrow. Loads of appointments with people who need my signature RIGHT now. And the emails with notices that apparently not all of the adjuncts actually have signed contracts does worry me a bit. But hey, classes don't start until Tuesday. We have plenty of time.

I get to have some chitchat with the new proffies and was sending out an email letting them know how much I look forward to seeing them tomorrow. Oops. I think they need my sermon on how to have multiple email addresses in order to keep your private life and your professional life separate.

Proffie #5 (out of 8, we did a lot of hiring!) has an email address that refers to the size of his, um, organ. And no, we didn't hire him for Sacred Music. Okay, I'll slap official emails on them tomorrow and insist they use them. Especially when writing to students. I don't want to start the year off with sexual harassment suits.

Dean Suzy

Well, she sure felt smart

When the next round of complaints that a college education didn't quite yield the desired career results roll in and somebody asks, "What can I do with my degree now?", here's an article that suggests a useful career idea. Unfortunately, those of you lamenting time wasted in a PhD program have lost 5-10 of your most attractive (and lucrative) years.

Hey, one out of four isn't bad - better than the graduation rates of about 300 schools.

First Week, First Post, and Nothing to Bitch about - yet.

Not only is this the first week of the semester (happy days), but it's also my first "contribution" to CM. I still miss RYS, but this'll do.

I'm having a rather unremarkable start to the semester. So far, I've had no annoying questions from flakes, no classroom/technology issues, nothing to complain about. Even my most annoying colleague, Batty Bethany, has been low key.

I'm starting to worry that I'm somehow driving to the wrong campus every day, or maybe I've become numb to all of it.

With no misery to report, I'm off to stalk my new students on Facebook - I kid, I kid (maybe).

First week

How did my first week go? Unnervingly well, and I'm waiting for other shoes and swords to drop. I'm not feeling particularly slaughterous right now, and I'm dumbfounded and a bit vacant with this unexpected hundred bucks and a bus ticket in my pocket.

Or, as Clara from Wendy's said in a spot, "Where's the spleen?"

Oh, there was the conventional idiocy. After explaining orally and in writing what was expected in a simple little assignment that the village idiot of a baboon colony couldn't possibly misinterpret, I still got a handful of one-paragraph, disconnected, purposeless, laundry list "essays." And a few cretinous souls submitted nothing. But I didn't get any whining, so I haven't even bothered to unsheath the machete.

And our accrediting body is going to be sending some muscle in the next couple of years to evaluate us; they'll do some kneecapping if we don't get some bigger fig leaves to suggest we're actually doing something in the name of accountability, that unholy offspring of, on the one hand, the rabid right who think we're mowing our lawns every afternoon at 2 and showing music videos to our students on the days we happen to hoist our unwashed carcasses onto campus and college administrations who need to prove we're not all climbing walls and luxury dorms (well, trust me, we're distinctly not here). So, we get a lot of buzz word bluster from people with a PhD in education and lots of busy work that boils down to this: yes, when we give a student a passing grade in a class, we really do mean it. It's kind of a dialog box prompt. "Are you sure you want to delete?" "Did x student show competency in presenting information in writing?"

But we'll perfect our little system of checkboxes and make them short enough so that we can pay off the enforcer with a couple of clicks and we can get on with actually teaching and evaluating students. So, no big worries there either.

So far, the students are affable, the weather is lots better than it has been, the Krishna food on campus has improved, and I no longer have to teach three 75-minute classes in a row. What's not to like?

Tell Yer Friends. (At Least the Ones Who Can Write!)

There are now 25 spots available for new CM Correspondents. If you have someone who you think would enjoy writing and reading on the page, I encourage you to let them know.

I'm looking forward this week to some "first day" reports from proffies. Many schools nationwide start up this week, and that first slap to the mug in the Fall semester is often an essential part of our miserable experiences.

How did your first day go?


Emails in my inbox this morning

- Four requests for overloads into one of my classes

- One request from a student who failed my class last term because he never came, didn't do any assignments and was generally invisible all term asking me to overload him into my class this term because he's "familiar with [my] teaching style" and thinks that will help him do better this term

- One request for a meeting from a students who didn't come to the first day of class and needs to discuss his "situation" with me. Evidently he's having trouble with his financial aid, or something like that. I could barely understand it. I hope that he is a foreign student, otherwise he has bigger problems.

- An email from a student's mother (!!!!) explaining why he missed the first day of class yesterday and asking for any assignments he missed

syllabus template, for the policy police

 My syllabus template, in an ideal world:
Course: (X)
Instructor: Me
Where and When: (some classroom, sometime)
Course Goals: By the end of the course students will know more about (X) than they did when they came in. If you a) show up and b) pay attention. If you don't, I don't see how that's my problem.
Evaluation: (whatever I'm grading them on)
  1. Hand it in on time, or there will be consequences. See flowchart for your chances of talking me round.
  2. Disturb the class and you will be outside the door.
  3. Plagiarize and we will fuck your shit up . I mean it.  Don't even.
About covers it.
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    Monday, August 30, 2010

    The Administrative Contagion

    When I first learned that [useless boss] was taking over the job of overseeing us because the previous prof had decided to shack up with her millionaire boyfriend in a desert state and spend the rest of her time "jetsetting around the world," I thought it was pretty funny.

    When we didn't get the syllabus until two days before school started, I was a little stressed but figured I could make the changes I wanted in plenty of time to get it in and get copies made.

    When [useless boss] said that she had little notice that she was going to be switching which classes she was overseeing, from remedial to the capstone, and that she had spent almost all of the time she'd had getting the other person ready to take over her old job, I silently thought she might be a little bit of a snowflake herself. Helping your fellow prof is commendable, but you still have to get your own work done -- isn't this what we tell our students when they beg us for more time on assignments because they had sorority obligations or had to go on a mission in the middle of the semester?

    When I learned the day before classes started that I couldn't make any changes whatsoever to the syllabus, that I was to tell my students that the entire thing might be changed, that I had to accept late papers and, worse, that I was expected to make exceptions to even that lax policy when there was "good reason," that I could not make tardies count against student grades, that [useless boss] thought all of the policies I had been teaching the intro class with were too harsh for this, the capstone course, and that she wanted to add more detail and "flesh out" the daily reading/outline that was also supposed to go out with the syllabus, I freaked out. After panicking for a few hours and desperately asking my colleagues what they were planning in their own courses, I felt I would have less prep time and could use this semester to work on my own writing (what I'm actually here for).

    When she again told me that every [capstone course number] class should be exactly the same, I gently reminded her that the second years were used to much more autonomy from [less useless boss]. She proceeded to give me a sneer and say severely "Well, I'll have to talk to him about that." This is where I realized we were all going to be treated like incompetent imbeciles for the entire semester, even though all of us have taught before and some have extensive teaching experience.

    When she said that we could legally change anything about the course up until a few weeks of the final and students couldn't do anything about it as long as we gave them some advanced warning, I thought she was an idiot.

    When I read through the syllabus before class and saw all of the mistakes, typos, and obvious errors she left in, I shook my head. How could I expect my students to pay attention to their own papers and proofread them carefully when I gave them this?

    When she agreed with newbie GTAs saying that they weren't comfortable with things that make the class work, like having the students workshop their essays and (especially) not giving them their last papers back in person, I quietly choked on my water and glanced at the other 2nd years, all equally surprised. Had she never taught before? The students need as much instruction as possible to help them write that paper, we need a reasonable amount of time to grade all 50 of them while we are doing our own end-of-semester work, and if we had them turn them in early, what the hell would we fill the rest of the class with? Not to mention the fact that only a handful of them come to pick them up the next semester shows how important it is they read our comments. As for the workshop, yes, some are very shy about having their work read, but as we do not have them read their paper aloud (as we did in intro) and we are to take all identifying marks off said paper before handing it to the rest of the class, it's just something that they should deal with as college students. To not do so means no one will learn from that paper, the author included.

    When I looked at my email this weekend and that she had not only redone the reading assignment/daily outline to make it even more restrictive (basically making us all nothing more than her mouthpiece) but still leaving major issues in the text, that she wanted to see our grading before we gave it back to make sure it was "in line" with what she thought we should be grading like, and that she wanted to tell us about some "alternate plan" for workshopping that she wanted to "share" with us, that our workshop sign-up sheets were now useless, I was just pissed. Totally and absolutely pissed. And I realized that starting Tuesday I am going to figure out who I need to beg to teach another course, ANY other course, to get away from this woman.

    With all of this, you would think the woman had never taught a course in her life. Yet this is not the case -- every semester she teaches some composition courses and [less useless boss] assures us that she's taught [capstone course] before. When introducing her to the newbies, he said she was the Composition Queen and the [capstone course number] Guru. Doesn't seem like it on my end, that's for sure.

    So what the hell happened? Why is it that she doesn't know or can't remember how a college classroom works? Is there some sort of administrative contagion that instructors get when they're put in admin positions (or *gasp* are even around admins too often)? Should we be wearing masks so as not to catch the dreaded stupid bug?


    Today we reached 100 "posters," the limit for our page.
    * * *
    update: 1:29 Pacific time: Oh, and a quick update. It's 99 now, because one eagle-eyed reader suggested I don't need to post under both Fab Sun and College Misery, since everyone knows who I am. (Well, blog-wise at least.) I originally had both posting names so I could do my post my own "personal" misery as well when I wasn't occasionally doing "blog business." But, in light of our limit being reached, offering up another opening for one more voice seems like a more important step...so... We're at 99...who's #100?

    Yes, Reading Comprehension Counts, Too

    My very dear Online Olive,

    I appreciate the diligence that you have shown by calling me not once, but four times in an attempt to resolve your technological problems. Yes, I know it is Sunday and that my assignments are due in the morning, and that the help desk is closed. The course has been online for over a week, and the introduction advises you to take the time WELL BEFORE assignments are due to ensure that your computer has the chops to handle the assignments. It also asks you not to call Dr. Picky Historian for technological aid, because I am not the help desk and I haven't got an effing clue about your system. That, my dearest, is what the Help Desk is *for.* That is, if you had bothered to check out your system early.

    Yes, Online Olive ... I do expect you to have read the syllabus....and to follow it.

    Shocking, I know.


    Picky Historian.

    The First Official CM VidShizzle. The First Day!

    "Best" student comment of the first day

    The scene: First day of school, during my shift directing students to their classrooms.
    Student I've seen around campus before comes up to me with his schedule open and says:

    "I'm not enrolled in this class, but I've bought the book, so I need to be enrolled."

    Okay... well since you've bought the book, allow me (a prof, not an advisor) to put you right in that class. I'm sure it won't matter that all of our classes have been full for weeks!

    Meany gets earnest and climbs up on the College Misery soapbox

    So, Yaro took a swipe at American Studies based on the supposed policy of a colleague who *gasp* shows films in class (zomg!). Yaro and his fans all leapt to the same baseless conclusion that the colleague should be drawn and quartered even though, based on his own post, Yaro never witnessed the class in progress or saw how the films were deployed in class. Since we've had similar baseless conclusions drawn by others on CM (at least with regard to students who were unwed mothers, criminals, and "videogame addicts"), let's consider some more baseless conclusions about proffies in other college majors just to explore the stupidity of leaping to conclusions:

    I have seen lit profs actually READ PASSAGES from novels in class! ZOMG! How could they waste class time by reading to their students? And then they sit in a circle and chat about it! It's college, not kindergarten.

    I've seen art historians SHOW SLIDES to their students. Actually pull out a slide projector or (nowadays) waste precious resources (a "Smartroom") to put digital copies of stuff like paintings and architecture on PowerPoint just to show the images the students have in their textbook! Sacre bleu! So wasteful!

    And Math proffies WASTE SO MUCH TIME going over sample problems in class. They sometimes even lead students through the sample problems IN THE BOOK! And all that homework they give! If that proffie can't teach it in class so the students don't need practice, then that's a bad, bad proffie. ESPECIALLY if that homework is UNGRADED! Good lord, that's shameful.

    And those lazy Bio, Chem, and Physics profs. Some of them actually have their TAs run the lab portions of the course for them! What are they doing in the lecture portion? Mental masturbation as they teach from yellowed notes, right? Each one should be spanked with a paddle for dereliction of duty.

    And those sad sack Psych profs who use their classes to explore some pathetic psychodrama with their students. They're the ones who need therapy! No wonder that major is infamous for drawing some of the worst students on campus. Those kids need therapy too!

    Oh God, those anthropologists! I hear some of them actually show DOCUMENTARIES in class. How could seeing a visual depiction of a culture possibly help an undergraduate understand that culture? How could learning about other human societies and cultures be of ANY use to a future doctor, lawyer, or businessMAN? (Same for sociology and their emphasis on poor people! Who cares about poor people if you're just in school to get a meaningless degree and make LOTS OF MONEY when you graduate!)

    And how did Communications get to be a major? All they do is just sit and watch movies or TV shows in class. They're just like American Studies and English profs who just sit around in a circle with their students for a nice long chat about whatever nonsense the prof just showed the class. TV is dead anyway (and before that, it just rotted your brain), so what use is THAT major?

    These are all rumors and innuendo I have encountered during my 22 years of experience with the academy (from undergrad through grad school, from TA to adjunct faculty). In the end, this sort of nonsense is just too much like the humanities vs. sciences debates on RYS, which did nothing except highlight the general disrespect many faculty have for methods of pedagogy in various disciplines (as well as those disciplines themselves). And too many of YOU out there do not hold the value for academic freedom that you should. You cannot evaluate teaching based on a syllabus. Or some fucking rumor about what someone thinks is going on in another classroom. Evaluate the teaching BY WATCHING THE TEACHING. (Isn't this a validity issue, my quantitative colleagues?)

    And, yeah, I do have a dog in this fight. One fucktard actually told me I was a bad teacher because I assigned reading and assumed students should do it. "You know they won't read it, so why expect them to do it?" was his argument. That prof-flake disagreed with my pedagogy because he seemed to have none of his own. That experience made me quite sensitive to the little undercurrent of warring pedagogies wherein one professor gathers allies to slay some fictional dragon he (and it's usually a he) has created from smoke and shadows.

    Before you pass judgment on someone's teaching methods, I suggest you actually find out what they are first. Same for inappropriately generalizing one instructor's pedagogy to that of an entire discipline. We're supposed to be smarter than that.

    *climbs down off the soapbox*

    Sunday, August 29, 2010

    There Are No Stupid Questions...Or Are There?

    I gave my Survey of CompSci students my usual second-week assignment, a *gasp* WORD PROBLEM *horrors* involving conversion of numbers from one base to another -- a problem intended to not only help reinforce their grasp of what we had just covered in class, but designed to *unbelieveable!* also stretch their problem-solving skills. The math involved is not exactly rigorous -- extremely basic algebra and a reasonable grasp of arithmetic is all that is needed to use a) the formula for converting a number in any non-decimal number system to base 10, and b) the process for converting a number from base 10 to any other number base.

    The only problem is that the latter calculation requires that students do old-fashioned "long division" whereby they end up with a quotient and a remainder -- NOT a fraction, NOT a decimal value, but two whole numbers. Needless to say, calculators do not do this correctly!! Does that stop students from trying to use their calculator? You tell me...

    I'm used to that, and I am normally perfectly happy to give those students a whole lot of rope with which to hang themselves. But last week produced a shocker:

    Ditzy Dana (up to my desk for the third time, the first being only two minutes after the problem was handed out to say "I'm so CONFUSED!!"): Is this right?

    Professor SnarkyGeekChick: No, it's not. How did you get that answer?

    Ditzy Dana: I did what you told me!

    Professor SnarkyGeekChick: It doesn't look like it. Check your arithmetic. You should have both a quotient and a remainder here.

    Ditzy Dana: But that's the answer the calculator gave me, see? *shows calculation on fancy graphing calculator*

    Professor SnarkyGeekChick: Um, you can't use a calculator for this; it doesn't give you a remainder for division. Your answer shouldn't have the .5 in it, it should be a whole number *still incredulous that she has to use the term "whole number" instead of "integer" for college students*

    Ditzy Dana: But that IS the remainder!!

    Professor SnarkyGeekChick: Nooooo, it isn't. *looks sideways at Visiting Evil Minions to see if they are hearing the same words she is*

    Ditzy Dana: You mean POINT FIVE isn't the SAME THING as a remainder of FIVE?

    Visiting Evil Minion #1: *insufficiently smothered explosive snicker*

    Visiting Evil Minion #2: Not unless you're dividing by 10, which you aren't!

    Professor SnarkyGeekChick: *rendered speechless, thinks to herself "fifth grade, damn it, fifth grade" *

    Visiting Evil Minion #1: *muttered aside* I knew I saw her not paying attention...

    Ditzy Dana: *flounces away in a ditzy huff*

    And my math colleagues wonder why I think the pervasive use of calculators in the teaching of mathematics is an Abomination From Hell...

    VidShizzle: Are tests biased against students who don't give a shit?

    In The Know: Are Tests Biased Against Students Who Don't Give A Shit?

    I admit my failure. I need to be doing more to reach out to the Couldn't-Give-A-Rat's-Ass community.

    I have signed myself up for a 16-hour Diversity Training workshop. I expect to emerge from it a New Man.

    Saturday, August 28, 2010

    first week = epic fail

    Somehow we at Large Urban Community College have made it through the first week of classes. This time of
    year is always more stressful for us than at most unis because we must take all comers and do so until the last possible minute (even though we know late registrants very frequently end up dropping or failing, our administration loves to take their money). But this term was particularly fucktastic because of the man-made registration disaster. You see, for years we've all been promised we were going to get this fabulous new system. It would do everything we ever wanted and accomplish some things so great we couldn't even conceive of them. It would even slice, dice, and make julienne fries if we asked it to.

    Except it didn't.

    The powers that be rushed the system through. The training we received was atrocious, and much of it took place during the summer when most faculty and advisors are either gone or teaching loads up to the gills trying to make up for the fact that there will be no raises again this year and our insurance is going up. No backup system was planned. Things we used to be able to do with ease on the spot now have to be done by some nameless, faceless person in central administration, often hours or days later.

    Monday morning looked like a war zone. Students were in line at every department, both student services and academic, by the hundreds. The system had dropped them even though they'd paid. Their test scores said they could register for Course X, but when they tried, Course Z was the only one they could register for because they'd been locked out of Course X. They were now registered for two different math courses and supposedly owed money because even though they dropped one, the system was billing them for two. Financial aid didn't get registered for some students even though they had award letters, so they were dropped. People who needed a course to graduate were kicked out without explanation, and all sections of that course were now full. Students were literally sobbing in the halls as they watched the schedules they'd carefully crafted around work schedules and prereqs collapse into one class at 6:30 a.m. and another at 7:00 p.m.

    And then the system crashed. Courses that were supposed to be capped at 30 turned up the next day with 45 because no one could see how many people were really enrolled, so they kept sending manual overrides to central administration. Courses that were canceled because of low enrollment had to be reopened to accommodate all the extra students. Some faculty had their schedules change five times over the past five days. Sometimes two instructors would show up in the same room thinking a class was theirs. Other times a class full of students waited for an instructor who never showed because no one knew who was supposed to be teaching it. Students wandered the halls aimlessly as their new classes were listed as in TBA room with TBA instructor.

    And who is responsible for this? At first, it was mostly the students, of course. They just didn't pay attention to what they were supposed to be registering for or when they were supposed to pay. Then after faculty and staff pointed out all the things that went wrong that couldn't possibly have been students' fault, we got the official answer: No one. These things "are to be expected with a new system." We have "a learning curve." One person made "a tiny programming mistake." We'll do better next time. I'm sure we will because experience is the harshest teacher of all.
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    'tis the season...

    Brian McFadden's Big Fat Whale for 27 August

    Following Calico's Lead..

    I took an interdisciplinary Honors class my last year of college, and oh my god, how I wish everyone could have an experience like that. Fuck a Capstone, this was practically beatnik! 12 senior Enlish Lit majors. Minial reading requirements. LOTS of discussion. And a required group project. Topic of the class? "Witches" - from Salem and the burning times to modern Wicca to Elphaba's green nose - abnd the marginlization of intelligent women through their demonization. Seriously heady, geeky shite.

    My group decided to go with a project on the "socialized schizophrenia" of the 1950's housewife - you know, Berry Crocker in the kitchen, total sexpot in the bedroom, and June Cleaver when dealing with the kids. My group was 3 girls and 1 (gay) guy. So, the girls donned the pearls and aprons and serves a tradtional meat-and-three meal to the whole class, while talking about the disparate expectations of women at tis time. Our "husband," "the man of the house," fake-smoked a pipe in a red smocking jacket. He also would inerrupt our presentation of what was expected of a housewife and good mother with TV snippets showing the true misogyny of the time period. By the end of the presentation, EVERYONE was lost - and that was our point - how can you find out who you are if you never are allowed to figure it out for yourself?

    Can you imagine doing that in a classroom today??? Hells to the no!!
    (And yeah, it was 1996)

    Friday, August 27, 2010

    Plurals and Possessives

    I see their misuse everywhere. Everyone wants to either eschew apostrophes completely or make it so that apostrophes mark plurals.

    Fuck it. I'm going to stop fighting it. Go nuts everyone. English as a written language survived before the use of apostrophes. English will survive the whims of the troglodytes.

    I need a drink.

    Enjoy some Toothpaste for Dinner

    Spectacular Snowflake Meltdown - Project Runway Style (Spoiler Alert)

    I'm a little bit surprised nobody else has posted about this. But hey, maybe I'm the only one who watches.

    Did anybody else watch Project Runway last night and have flashbacks to the very worst student snowflake behavior when [REDACTED FOR SPOILERS] melted down on the runway at judging? The highlights:
    • But we really tried so hard, so you should keep that in mind (with obligatory tears).
    • We're all really good, so you should keep that in mind.
    • "I/We" really liked what we did, even though you (the judges) didn't, so you should keep that in mind.
    • Later. . . it was all HIS fault because he's not as good as we are, so you should keep that in mind (or forget the rules and kick him off so none of the rest of us has to face the consequences of our bad decisions.)
    Spectacular. Snowflake. Fail.

    [Edited to mitigate the spoilage, and with sincere apologies to everyone.]

    The Welcome Back Function

    I am not quite sure how it works for you chaps in the lower parts of this continent, but here in the Armpit of the Empire, we are winding up for the start of semester in a couple of weeks. No one is happy about this fact, so our Dean, in his wisdom, hosts Faculty Drinks, in order to create the illusion that we are a jolly team of happy minions.

    I am sure you are familiar with these events: there's a bit of food, a lot of low-quality alcohol (the wine is always swill, so stick to the BEER, which is at least name brand), and you skulk around the room trying (but not quite succeeding) to avoid the people you can't stand, while you exchange vacuous "how was your summer" pleasantries with the colleagues whose faces you don't want to push in.

    The key to enjoying your BEER is to drink fast enough and be close enough to the door that you can duck out before the Dean's remarks. We all know this. I know this. Unfortunately, I didn't manage to make it out this year before the speeches started. I did manage to get another BEER and move nonchalantly closer to the couches, which, my god, ended up being necessary.

    What the Dean is supposed to do is introduce the new hires, so we can recognize them in the hallway, and then let us get on with drinking the last of the booze. Instead, he opened with a 10 minute ramble about how, although he is thinking about retiring, he can't really do it yet (he says he wants to see students in our new degree program graduate, but I suspect it's because he needs to pay off his villa in Italy). This is a meandering speech with little point, and it reminds me of the time my father-in-law talked about the Great Space Turtle at my wedding reception.

    Then we get to the introduction parts, and the speech goes from merely dull to the kind where you cringe and think about throwing yourself out a window.

    • He introduced a new specialist in Native Literatures with a long digression into his boyhood enjoyment of playing "Cowboys and Indians". NO, I am not joking. Then he made a point of misidentifying the specialist's ethnic background, and had to be loudly corrected by the horrified onlookers.
    • He introduced a new hire as "Julie" and when corrected that the person's name was "Norman" said "Julie is what's written here, so I am going to go with that."
    • When he got to discussing the Philosophy hire, he did meander off into the Great Space Turtle, as far as I and the BEER could tell.
    As a team-building exercise, it could be described as a qualified success. I had a little bonding moment with my Chair as we were sitting on the couch together, trying to suppress our guffaws of horrified laughter.

    Fucktard II: The Saga Continues

    Fucktard II: The Saga Continues

    Yesterday in class you took a preannounced quiz on the syllabus. One of those questions was a request for you to cite the consequences for plagiarizing in my class. The actual consequences are a zero on the plagiarized assignment, and a letter in your file. It was pretty simple.

    Despite this, you managed to completely fuck up that answer, along with most of the others. It’s only the second week of school, but it looks like you’re going to be a victim of yet another professor that has refused to recognize your intrinsic greatness. Nevertheless, let me take this little opportunity to correct you on the error of your ways.

    Plagiarizing in my class will not result in you having to “go against the Board of Education”. This is college. For most of us. (Though if you do ever have to go against the Board of Education for some reason, I suggest you bring nun chucks. Them’s some wily fuckers.)

    In tandem with this, the Board of Education has not, cannot, and will not ever be able to prosecute you and send you to jail. That’s what our legal system does. Not our educational system.

    I have to tell you that the mind-boggling shitstorm of no in your short answer to an uncomplicated question left me speechless, and capable of only a single thought: God, you’re a fucktard.

    And oh, you got a 40% on the quiz. That’s failing, by the way. Though sadly the Board of Education will not be showing up at your house to arrest you.

    Thursday, August 26, 2010

    Damn y'all, sockpuppets!

    I'm outing everybody.

    I know, for example, that Floyd is not really from Farmville. He's not even named "Floyd"!

    And Compound is neither a cat nor a fish nor a relative of Johnny. ((( BTW, I HEART U, Johnny, OMFG!!! )))

    Fab Sun is from the moon.

    The Meanest Prof Ever is really only the second meanest. What a poser.

    And Marcia Brady, please. You are the envious Cindy. We know! Deal with it! Marcia will always be older and more sophisticated than you.

    I will expose the rest of y'all when the time is right. Until then, be afraid. Be vewy, vewy afwaid.

    Sockpuppitude is delicious. The only thing I know for sure is that y'all aren't my students. How do I know? Because you can write sentences that aren't filled with errors. Thanks for that. Is this heaven?

    Wednesday, August 25, 2010

    It Is I, Yaro, With My Own "Stream."

    • My paternal grandfather was a coal miner.
    • My maternal grandfather was a farmer.
    • My own father was a watchmaker.
    • My height is 1.83m.
    • I find great pleasure in knowing that I share a birthday with Vincent Van Gogh, MC Hammer, and Secretariat.
    • My students today will find me wearing a cowl turtleneck, so cold is our seminar room.
    • My office door is always wide open. For I have nothing to hide.
    • I teach in a place, a location, really, where there is tremendous weather.
    • I have never understood the term "hump day," and would never utter it.
    • I have published four books and they have sold poorly. I have told my closer friends this, but as for my colleagues, I am mute.
    • I send Myra a chaste and well-intentioned kiss across the blog.

    Hey, adjuncts--GTFO!

    To all you adjuncts lamenting your mistreatment, Dean Dad offers a polemic:
    First, if you're adjuncting and you feel like you're being exploited, stop adjuncting. Just stop. Walk away. You are an adult, responsible for your own choices. If your college didn't specifically promise you a full-time job after x semesters of adjuncting, then it does not owe you one, no matter how badly you want it. Colleges don't exist to provide jobs for academics. It's not about you.
    And hey, you know what? He's got a point there, at least for those folks who've been adjuncting for-freaking-ever.

    So what gives? If you're miserable being exploited in your role as a long-term adjunct--and, no doubt, you are being exploited--why don't all y'all GTFO already? Adjunct positions almost never turn into FT faculty positions anymore.

    Sure, adjunct posts are perfect while you're a grad student or for a year or two afterwards, while you're on the job market. But for anyone wishing to earn a living wage without being exploited by the academic system beyond that time frame, you've got to relinquish your false hopes. Think, men--think! Once the economy recovers--or even before then--isn't there anything you can go do in industry?

    Welcome to College Misery and the Fall of 2K10.

    I don't know how you found us, but welcome.

    College Misery is a group blog, with no real moderators, quite a few nuts, and a healthy dose of snark - even when it's just as easy to be kind (as my mother used to say).

    To gain posting rights, email us and ask. At this point there are about 15 spots available, and we're always looking to add spleen-venting proffies who want to share delightful, brutal, and fiery stories of their academic lives.

    This page was born shortly after the demise of Rate Your Students. A group of former readers of that site took it upon themselves to start a new site where the smackdown could continue, but we are NOT RYS, because those elitist fuckers (or so say some CM readers) had too much control during their glory days. Damn them for spending 5 years MODERATING. What a quaint, old fashioned term that really means "QUASHING."

    But seriously, welcome. We've been running for nearly two months; visitors seem to like it. We've been taking on students, colleagues, administrators, whoever or whatever gets in our way.

    Let the Fallpocalypse begin.

    Do you *really* want to take another class of mine?!?

    So, I had this student last term who SWORE she was graduating in August, so she just HAD to have the lab to the second part of the Intro Bio for non-majors sequence. She through such a hissy fit, that her Dean called my Dean - and voila!! - she got credit for a 300-level majors class called "Independant Readings." Grrrrrr. I tried to make it as hellish as possible. And, although she swore she was an English major, her paper was written in, to the best of my knowledge, Swahili - but it sure wasn't APA-formatted English!!

    So, due to intense pressure from admin, I gave her a C -she deserved an F (if for no other reason than using medical, biological, and anatomical texts from 1975) - she didn't do the assignment: 1. she didn't format properly; 2. her grammar and syntax were atrocious by 3rd-grade standards; 3. she didn't address the main topic of the assigned paper; 4. and, if doctors used her anatomical descriptions of the brain, we'd be doing lobotomies by simply shaking excess water out of our inner ear canals. BUT, admin wanted her gone. So, with a long note from me about her TOTAL FAIL for the assignment, she got passed so she could graduate.

    So why in the good name of Jesus' pet cow is she taking the other intro lab I teach this term? You know, the one you're supposed to have taken before the one she couldn't get into over the summer so she got her shpeshull attention and a 300-level grade for. You know, you take 101 and its lab, 102 - then next term you take 111 and its lab, 112. She did the paper to replace 112. Now she's taknig 102. WTF?!?! Can I fail her now, just on principle??? Purty please.

    Mantra time: I LOVE my students. I LOVE my students. I LOVE my students. I LOVE my students. I LOVE my students.

    It isn't working. I need to buy stock in Cabo Wabo...

    PS - I'm now seriously considering pursuing a PhD in a really obscure branch of biology. Would somone please quit passing me the KoolAid? One of you PhD-Jim-Jones mofos is messin' wit my mojo....I think it's Snarky, or maybe even Meanie...Sadists...

    Tuesday, August 24, 2010

    "But I deserve an A!"

    The following is a conversation I had with a student from one of my summer classes (identifying information removed, of course)

    Me: What questions do you have about your grade?

    Student: I was just surprised when I saw my final grade. Could you explain why I got this grade on assignment 2?

    (I explain why she got a C).

    Student: Oh, okay. Well, I was just really surprised by my grade. I thought I was going to get an A.

    Me (trying not to look at her like she has three heads): Out of the five grades in the class, one was an A, three were B's and one was a C. How did you expect to get an A?

    Student: Well, looking at the grading scale I thought I would. I really think I deserve an A!! I tried really hard!!

    Me: I appreciate that you tried hard, but as stated in our syllabus, "trying hard" is not a legitimate excuse to raise a grade. Besides, you didn't (insert a critical component of several assignment that student did not do). (I actually have a whole paragraph on how grades are earned, not given, etc.)

    Student (getting indignant): Well, I work with the athletes in our class and they ALL got A's, they told me so. I think you were showing favoritism to them!

    Me (Trying not to jump over my desk and strangle student): I don't show favoritism to anyone. I grade on the content of your work, not on who you or any other student is. You got the grade you did because of (listed errors in assignments that we had just discussed).

    Student: Well, I still don't think it's fair. I deserve an A.

    Me: Whether you think its fair or not, this is the grade that you earned, its the grade that has been submitted for you and its the grade that stands. I haven't heard anything in our conversation to convince me that it needs to be changed. Any questions?

    Student: No. (Stuffs graded assignments into bag, walks off in a huff, slams my office door).

    I didn't know what to be more pissed about, the fact that she used the "I tried really hard" card or that she accused me of giving preferential treatment to athletes. I make sure that I assess all of my students equally (well, as much as humanly possible) because I refuse to be one of those profs who lets athletes slide. Several football players (and other athletes) have failed my classes because they didn't show up and/or didn't do the work (or did it poorly). I didn't cut them any slack and I stood behind those grades when pestered by their coaches. The fact that she would baselessly accuse me of favoritism nearly made blood shoot out of my eyes. Never mind that half the athletes in the class got Cs or below (which I didn't tell her, for privacy reasons of course) so someone wasn't telling the truth. And the fall term hasn't even started yet (Although I did get an email from a student asking if using an older version of one of the texts is "exceptable")

    A Message for Sneaky Stu

    Dear Sneaky Stu:

    Yes, I did get the message from the Evening College office asking me about adding you as an overload into my class. You told them you were dropped for non payment, and only just now got the money together to register, and my class is full now! And you told them how that was not fair! How you need this class because it is the ONLY time you can possibly drag your ass into the building. How you really need them to just add you to my class list right now, because you are a busy guy with lots of important places to go and anyway you need an answer RIGHT AWAY. Someone must have told you that people in that office sometimes add students in without asking the prof first. Yeah, they used to do that a lot.

    But they don't anymore, pal! HAH! Now they call us and try to guilt trip us into taking you poor, pathetic little souls. So they told you (I was there you know, when they told you, on the other end of the phone) how I have a waiting list for that class. And how people who contacted me (via phone or email----it's not that time consuming) and ASKED will be given priority IF I end up taking overloads (which I won't do while there are other sections of the class available). But in the meantime, you wanted to stop by (found my office after all! And I'm here too! Surprise!) to say how it's just not FAIR that someone ELSE is on the waiting list ahead of little old YOU? Those money problems, they weren't your FAULT! And so you should be FIRST on that waiting list.

    Have fun waiting for the Academic Dean to see you about this one! And I absolutely guarantee you I WON'T be seeing you this class this semester!

    Top Ten Best Things About Being On Sabbatical

    With apologies to The Beaker.

    10. Get to sit at the computer in my underpants every day, not just Fridays. And without the harassment suits too.

    9. Get to set my autoreply to “I’ll get back to you when I get back to you.”

    8. Lots of pencils, lots of books, without the students’ dirty looks.

    7. Get to say “not just no, but fuck no” to unsolicited requests for my time.

    6. Research!!! Did I mention I get to write up the results in my underpants?

    5. And with a beer in my hand.

    4. Extra time to plot the destruction of my institution and everyone in it.

    3. My calendar for this semester includes a plenary lecture at a Mediterranean resort, a research trip to one of the best wine regions in the world, and not much else.

    2. You say that my letter of rec didn’t get there in time? Please see #9.

    1. I haven’t interacted with an undergrad since May 2nd and my next interaction with one is still slightly more than a year away.

    Helicopters and Velcro

    So according to this article in the New York Times, parents are having a hard time leaving campus after delivering their snowflakes. I understand that. I've always found it difficult when I had to leave my dogs at the kennel. But these people are freakin' whack-jobs!

    Schools are scheduling in "leave your little snowflake behind" sessions during orientation. After that, the flakes do things like "floor bonding" exercises with dorm mates. WTH? When did college become summer camp? I had no idea that these cult rituals were occurring on campuses. No wonder the flakes are so flakey.

    When I left for college, my parents didn't spend the weekend in town just in case I needed anything or to take me the breakfast the next day. (Good thing, too, since I had a wicked hangover after my first night of freedom!) They slowed down the car, kicked my ass out, threw a $20 to me, and said "I guess you'll find you way back home at Thanksgiving." And you know what? I grew up to be a successful, independent, professional woman.

    Maybe it's best that these parents can't let go. Because in four to six years when their knuckleheads graduate and can't find a job better than flipping burgers, the flakes will find their way back home. Then they can all sleep in the same bed together again.

    BPB was Knee-Walking Drunk Last Night (Part 2)

    Here's the rest of the missive I knocked out in a tequila-induced haze last night. I was gonna save it for a few days from now, but today has SU-UCKED, so here ya go. I needs ta vent! Thus, my students, my classmates, and even some of my profs are gonna feel their ears burn as I get some shit off my chest.

    Scholar Schuyler: The administration may refer to you as a "scholar athlete," but you won't excel at either if you spread yourself thin in both. Seriously, pick a career already. Either you go pro (...in women's softball....*snort!*....Wait, did I just laugh out loud? My bad!) or you buckle down and use the scholarship to continue to grow your brain and find a way to support yourself. I mean, wahoo for you! You can hit a ball! Figure out that that's NOT a life skill and move the fuck on! BTW - you are one of my few A students. You don't need to grow a brain, you just need to (a) avoid hard balls (1 concussion and you're working at Denny's) and (b) use your fooking brain! It's a good one, obviously. You have the smarts to figure out that a hobby is just that, a hobby. Oh, and they've invented a new personal grooming product - deodorant. I'll get you some, since you can't seem to find it at the store....

    Premie Prissy: Yeah, those of us "not smart enough to get into med school" derisively call you a premie - since your whole world revolves around being PRE-med - as in, it's totally obvious you could give a rat's shit about learning anything, as long as you make enough A's to snag an interview. People like you piss those of us in *real* grad school off. No, we aren't jealous. We're just tired of having to regrade every fucking pre-lab because those 2 points we docked you for not knowing that bony fish have effing vertebrae (!?!) might mean you can't go be an "important" doctor. Blow me! If I ever go to a clinic and you walk in the room, I will sue them on principle for hiring your pretentious, bombastic, dumb ass in the first place! I am now ethically obligated to prevent you from ever matriculating at a licensed Medical Shool outside of Guam. And my hatred of you in particular (sweetheart, I heard you call me a "bitch" when I passed back the first pre-lab - and honey, I didn't screw that grade up, YOU did) will make your fall term with me in part 2 of this bio sequence a living hell. You wanna play in the academic big leagues? How about I give you a taste of the legit shit before you waste more money on another application. This is gonna be fun!!! For me, at least...

    Music Major Marty
    : Yeah, yeah, yeah - you want to be a professional singer. You and about 3 million other people! And I kinda doubt that many of them are Mormon like you...so they don't have a problem doing things like feeling up the female lead 'cause their character's a total sleeze. It's an opera, for crissake! You have to *act* and *sing* - and you can't do either well enough to get paid to do it. I'm begging you, go find a career with a steady paycheck! Your 19 year old fiancee will appreaciate not having to work at the mall while she carries your fourteen LDS children...

    Ginger-haired Ginny: Did you read the protocol we're following today? Cuz it's quite simple - we're dehydrating some tissue so we can make slides. Key word = dehydrating. But I'm pretty sure that pouring water over the tissue to "rinse it off" before the last step of a 10-hour-long 14-step process is an awesome, albeit untraditional, change in the protocol. I'd stop you but (a) you aren't in my lab group, so *my* tissues are fine, so I don't give a shite and (b) this is gonna be fun...once your labmates figure out who totally screwed the histology pooch, and subsequently their whole term project, you'll be lucky if they don't try to harvest tissue from you. I'm bringing popcorn and a soda to class tomorrow for the show :)

    Encyclopedic-brain Embry
    : I am in awe of the fact that you can pull obscure facts, terms, and topics out of your gigungo brain. But I also know there ain't no way in hell these students are going to (a) learn all of this themselves, or (b) not have a colletive aneurysm comes midterm. As one of your fleet of BioGeek TA's, I feel complicit in the destruction of the souls of 32 students (many of whom are other grad students, as well as the "good" premies). But you write the final grade, so have fun. I am SO chucking my guilt over to you. Ahhhhhh, that's better.

    But, you know - and maybe this is the tequila talking - I've had a few epiphanies about people in the same 3 categories. *I* have actually learned from both my charges and my colleagues in the past couple of terms. I can literally feel a monkey flying out of my ass right now, and it's kinda fun, cause it's all furry and cute and it's making squeaky-toy noises, plus it's a freak of nature.... And the tequila's made me digress yet again. *setting up another shot*

    Ok, I'm good. WOOT! And now to blow some minds with the pedagogy of life....

    Sorority Sarah
    : I'd pegged you from the beginning as a total flake, but you have proven me wrong too many times in class for it to have been an accident that you knew your shit. Brava, bella! But, your grade concerns me - a solid C - it's a passing grade, but you have bitch-slapped me into realizing that you are capable of so much more. So I pull you in for a chat - tell you my concerns - and then hear you say, "Really? A C? I'm actually gonna pass a science course?!? That is awesome!" After I pick my jaw up off the floor (since I'm used to Bio-major super-keeners who stroke out over anything less than a super-high A), I tell you I think you can do better - your comments in class are insightful, informed from the readings, and you can deductively reason your way into the right answer with minimal guidance by me. Then the shoe drops. "But, I'm dyslexic - so I totally suck at test-taking! I'm super happy that I'm passing!" Without another word, I hand you the brochure for Disability Support Services and tell you to read it, and come see me again tomorrow. Next day: you come in, sit down and say, "Should I do this...this DSS...thing? Because I'm not really disabled." I tell you, "If you do this, you will become that student who's supper happy with a B or even an A. And if you don't like it after one term, just withdraw from the program. No harm, no foul." Next term, you took the 2nd-in-sequence course - and I could have used your first test as the key for grading all the tests. I ask you what's happened, since now you are rockin' a literal 100%. "No one ever really evaluated me for dyslexia - they just told me I was and that was it. I took a whole bunch of classes over the break in how to manage dyslexia in college - and it working! No one's ever helped me in school like this before. Thank you." And my heart grew 3 sizes that day...

    Spiritual Sally
    : Generally, I'm a leftist commie pinko with a strong aversion for all things religious. But I've now known you for 2 years - and you've yet to ever cuss worse than to say "Oh my stars!" (which I think is totally cute - like I-wanna-pinch-your-cheeks cuteness level) I honestly thought you were on something - or a total poser. But then we talked - you know - that day we were studying at Coffee-I.V. and ended up chatting for 3 hours. You grew up in Africa, the child of Christian missionaries (egads, I cringed at that!) - but then, you shocked the hell out of me. Your folks don't say a word about their faith to anyone they meet - they educate the poor about HIV and malaria and prenatal nutrition, and they distribute medical and humanitarian supplies. Then you tell me you're a premie - pre-med - great, now I have to hate you on principle! But...what the hell??? You want a medical degree so you can go back to Senegal and provide medical care for the village you grew up near... And those assholes at the Med School have denied you entrance 3 times?!? Yes, your scores and GPA are minimal, but you....you volunteer night and day and really want to help people, and could care less about the money. Who the hell are your parents? Mother Theresa, Gandhi, and an effing unicorn?? And I just found out someone in my Advanced Anatomy course, who literally can't find a triceps to save his life, got accepted for next year....and you're still wait-listed. I have a taser - I could taze Triceps til he drools for you...This is so effing unfair. You want to be a healer and he wants to make 300K a year... I will pull every string I can reach this term to assure you become a physician.

    Disorganized Delia
    : I admit it - I did NOT like you when we first met. You're too skinny, you're too perky, you're THE most disorganized teacher I've ever had, and you're a walking physiology textbook - it's like you're God's Biology Cheerleader or something! But, I've had issues this term (I mean, duh, I don't call myself Bipolar Beth for shits and grins), and you have been more understanding and accomodating and encouraging than anyone I know, short of my therapist, my boyfriend, and my BFF. In all seriousness - thank you. (But, I gotta know - is it lithium or prozac? Cause your perma-grin can't be natural...)

    Monday, August 23, 2010

    Does my methods section have to match what I did?

    Just fielded an emergency Skype from one of my thesis students. Normally he should have handed in in July, but there was a cock-up at the registrars and the lawyers decided everyone needed to be officially given more time.

    So Joe is working on a bizarre, cutting-edge aspect of basket weaving, and had been slogging along. I would get a few pages to read that were full of incomplete sentences and misspelled words. I felt like an English teacher mumbling about agreement of subject and verb and the difference between "like" and "such as" as I marked up his pages in red, hoping that he'd at least use a spelling checker next time. Nope.

    Anyway, the deadline is looming, and he's panicked. It seems he pre-wove the basket before he started just to make sure that this kind of basket was do-able. He's spent weeks laboring on the methods section on how to go about making this kind of basket using a particular methodology. He's just realized that he doesn't actually have time to make another basket using this methodology he's described, so can he just hand in the prototype basket with the methods section as it is?

    I gently explained that there were two options:
    1. Re-weave to match the methods section
    2. Re-write to match the basket handed in
    "But you won't really look at the basket, will you?" Honey, if I've been cleaning up your English these past weeks, you bet I'm going to be going over that basket with a magnifying glass.

    Improve your course evals in one easy step!

    The value of tattoos in higher education:
    "the presence of tattoos [on college instructors] was associated with some positive changes in [students'] ratings: students’ motivation, being imaginative about assignments, and how likely students were to recommend her as an instructor."
    (You're welcome.)

    Too Good Not To Post - A Question from Pamela the Parent.

    As I've noted a couple of times, about the only mail I get is from folks asking about posting privileges. But this dandy note came in Sunday afternoon, and I couldn't stop myself from sharing it. Let's all pretend it's real and just enjoy it.


    HI,  I am a parent of a college sophomore.   She is not the smartest kid in the world.  I know that.  I have read this theead and have emphasized.   Do you own work.   Get stuff in on time.  etc etc.

     I have also talked to my friends, in the affluent town we live in, to demand fair treatment of adjuncts etc.  

    Now here is my question.  I am really hot for one of her instructors.  Divorced adjunct.  I am a couple of years younger than he is (but I realize he spends all day with snowflakes.  sigh.), but I am relatively well of (by affluent standards, which means great house paid for, many investments and Wall Street Job).  

    Any ideas as to how I can aproach him, on no committment basis.   Many thanks. 

    Paddling one's own canoe

    Merely Academic said:

    > I cannot get over the feeling that all of
    > the students know more than I do and they
    > know it and are just being polite.

    What?!?!?!?!?!?!?!? Are you kidding? What field are you in?

    I genuinely envy you. I'd have thought this would feel -great-. My students never seem to understand much of my field, astrophysics, at all. I'm pretty sure this isn't all my fault, either.

    Maybe this is because I am at a Masters-granting, mid-size state university, and not an R1. Every semester, 2-5 physics majors come to me and ask to be involved in research. (We don't have an astronomy major at my university.) I usually agree. I've learned to weed out the ones that can't even name the planets in the Solar System in order, or are unwilling to stay up past midnight while observing.

    I always tell my research students to read a particular book about my sub-field that was written for amateur astronomers. They never seem to understand or even to remember even the basics from it. Whenever I ask them to tell me honestly whether they read the book, every last one of them swears they did. This is the only such book at this relatively easy level on this topic that's ever been published. I can't give them an easier one, and I think it's a huge improvement over the papers I copied from the refereed journals that I read when I got started in research, in 1986. I might try writing one myself, but that would be a good year of work, at minimum.

    Amazingly too, they keep coming back. It can't be because I'm an easy grader, because research is pass/fail, and I'm very stingy with As in all of my classes.

    They keep telling me they want to be involved in research, but astrophysics is competitive. If I were to start spoon-feeding them, the way they clearly want, it wouldn't be astrophysics or research anymore. Fortunately, the large astronomy lecture class for non-majors pays the bills.

    I always take research students for academic credit. I never use my NASA funding to pay them. There just isn't anything they can do to help with this. To be fair, we don't have a Ph.D. program here, but even with Masters students, I give them data from our own observatory to analyze. Over the years, I've developed step-by-step instructions for them to follow, and they can be helpful with processing and plotting these data, if they follow my checklists. Still, rarely do they understand the significance of what they're doing, even when I point them to the pages and figures to look at in that book for amateur astronomers I've told them to read.

    Tellingly, none of my students can program a computer in any language, even though nearly all of them have passed a course in C programming taught by the computer science department. My students complain that the course is badly taught, but somehow those CSCI instructors learned to program, and so did I. It may or may not have helped that I never had a lesson, I just picked up a copy of the manual by Kernighan and Ritchie and started programming. (All right, so I'd previously had a course in Fortran programming at the local community college when I was in high school in 1975, because I thought it was so cool I could barely stand it.)

    Remember the old saw, "A poor workman blames his tools"? Ultimately, aren't we all ultimately responsible for paddling our own canoes?

    Bipolar Joni

    'Tis the season...where there isn't enough liquor on the planet to make academic bullshit seem logical. Seriously, where the hell is Margaritaville? I need the effing zipcode for my Garmin.... Anyhoo, as I sit here in a tequila-induced trace (when I ought to be working on a presentation I have next week and I ought to be writing yet another letter to the graduate program director begging for teaching gigs this term and I ought to be revising my oh-so-corny teaching philosophy and I ought to be prepping for 2 classes I'm subbing for next week and I ought to be proofing the first draft of my thesis and I ought to be steeling myself for dealing with another term's worth of troglodytes and I ought to be filling out my degree application and I ought to be....well, I've run out of "oughts" at the moment...but I'm sure I'll think of another ten-thousand or so more before dawn breaks) ...anyways, back to the tequila...as I sit here drunk off my ass, I'm thinking of a couple semi-random things. Oh, and yes, I am up at 12:30 am on a Sunday night writing on an academic blog. Seriously, the "Bipolar" bit isn't a joke...I haven't slept well in a week.

    I've been thinking about school - from both sides: teaching and studenting (it is a word if I say it's a word, bitches!). And as tequila has been involved with this evening's festivities...er...studies, I thought I'd have a go at rewriting Joni Mitchell. There are 5 billion things I ought to be concentrating on right now, not the least of which is this pile of "Please let me into your lab even though it's been full for 2 weeks!!!" emails. Two words, dear students: FFFFF UUUUUU! :) But instead of all that academic shtuff, I'd thought I'd kill some time and entertain myself. *pause* And, scene....

    To the tune of Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now"
    Facts and fun from Science Fair, and breathing ultra-filtered air,
    And Bunsen-burning off my hair, I've enjoyed school that way.
    But now I've lost my "research awe," and all my data's filled with flaws,
    My stats are wrong & way too raw. But school got in the way.

    I've looked at school from both sides now,
    From frosh and grad, and still somehow
    It's a grade's illusion I recall.
    I really don't know school at all.

    Seeking knowledge, working hard, thinking my peers are retards,
    Kicking ass and taking names, I've gone to class that way.
    Pride in ignorance, lack of shame, finding someone else to blame,
    Skating through, face covered with drool, I taught that class today.

    I've looked at class from both sides now,
    From teach and learn, and still somehow
    It's your delusions I recall.
    I really don't know flakes at all.

    Tears and fears and feeling proud to say "Unionize!" right out loud,
    Dreams and schemes, they're all shot down. I've looked at jobs that way.
    But my portfolio's thin, my CV's no-go. I need a gig and money, so
    I sell my brain like it's a ho. I've gotten jobs that way.

    I've looked at jobs from both sides now,
    From T-T and TA. Somehow
    It's grad school's illusions I recall.
    I really don't get school at all.

    I really need a hobby....other than bitching and gossiping about my students, that is. But I'm 3-sheets to the wind (really, what the hell does that mean???), and I needed to let off some steam. I have a REAM of burns to post, but as this is already way too long, I'll wait for another drunken haze during which to post them...

    And out.

    Sunday, August 22, 2010

    Tell me a story...

    Hello, possums! I am still cleaning out my sent mail folder and found a request for posts from last year I sent to RYS ...that they denied! Bastards! ;) I've updated it because, well, I think it might be a fun moment of sharing. --meany

    I am turning 40 this week, and I am horribly depressed. I have now fully realized that I was under the mistaken impression I was being trained to be a professional in grad school, not just an underpaid (yet glorified) babysitter. (Ok, I knew before now, but it's rather sharply highlighted this month as my middle-aged ennui overwhelms me.)

    I'd like to hear (read?) some stories from my peeps about the daring-do of some SUCCESSFUL battles with students. I wanna hear about stories of REVENGE. Stories about how the biggest ass-flake got his or her comeuppance! I want stories about VENDETTAS! About how proffies have felt gleeful schadenfreude at turning down a pest's request for a letter of recommendation. Or, even better, about how a proffie wrote an entirely truthful BAD letter. I wanna hear about some EPIC FAIL scenarios. Like plagiarists you've gotten EXPELLED! I want some deeply satisfying dirt.

    Critics always harp on how mean we are to students, how we don't care, blah-blah-blah. We all know that's bullshit for 95+% of our students. Well, fine, let's show them our mean sides. Served up with a side of JUSTICE as punishment for snowflakery. I don't want just stories about proffies being assholes, but stories about how we, as the instructors, got to teach some little life lessons about consequences.

    Please help brighten my week with a little touch of Nemesis.

    Love and bright blessings,

    The Meanest Professor Ever
    (according to a snowflake's anonymous student evaluation)

    What an Introduction, Idiot...

    The first day of classes I always do a little introduction exercise. Not because I particularly want to know anything about these people -- I probably won't see them after two or three weeks anyway and most of those that I will I won't want to. So why? To fill time and make it look like I give a flying fuck about them as people, of course.

    Going down the roster, I get mostly what I expect.

    "I'm ____ and I have two brothers. Does that count as two things about myself?"

    Well, no, not really. I just said your name so that doesn't count, dummy. Nor does saying you have two brothers. There may be two of them but that's only one factoid. Try again.

    There are some mildly interesting things (a 1/2 Jamaican who doesn't like Jamaican food or anything "not American," a Nigerian, people that want to be called random names that aren't anything like their actual names, etc) but nothing way out of the ordinary. Then I read off the last name on the roster.

    A blonde boy in his mid twenties leans back, head against the wall and blurts out rather proudly, "I'm Rob and you will probably hate me in three weeks" True... "because I'm a troublemaker." ...Ugh. Fuck. Before I can stop him, he mentions the fact that he's taken this class three times and a few other things. Stoner girl yells out, "Oooooh, this'll be great to watch all semester. Some entertainment!" Of course, the most coherent and well put together thought she's managed all class period but not helpful.

    I get them all back in line and go ahead with the rest of the day (going through the syllabus and emphasizing what I know will be issues later on, etc. The usual). After I let them out, they scatter into the wind like dandelion heads with one exception -- Rob comes up to me and starts trying to explain himself.

    "Y'see, the first class was almost all art majors and I'm horrible at art. The teacher turned it into art class and I got a D. And the last guy, he didn't agree with my argument so he failed me. You know he actually wrote 'This paper is crap. If I didn't have to I wouldn't have finished this.' on my paper!?" I probably would have wanted to do that too but I know that didn't happen.

    He wanted to go on (and it would have been mildly interesting to how exactly he was going to continue to blame others for his obvious deficiencies) but I stopped him and had a little talk about learning from his mistakes and how I expected him to act now that he was in my class.

    Once I got back to my department, I asked my completely useless boss to look him up for me.

    "It sounds like you did the right thing in that situation"
    I know...
    "Sometimes we get some severely disturbed students in our classes"
    ...WTF? He's not "disturbed," he's just immature and doesn't want to take responsibility for his own shit...
    and though he hasn't done anything that we can pull him for yet, I'll see what [less useless boss] says."
    ...Okay. Whatever.

    I guess they put their heads together, looked him up, and realized he's taken the class three times before (which I told them...). As our department has a three strikes and you're out policy, he'll be pulled from the class on those grounds. Just maybe not in time for Tuesday's class.

    This semester just keeps getting worse and worse. What the hell else can go wrong at this point?

    Playing the Education Game

    Step right up to the Education Game. Here are the rules:

    1. If you pay your tuition, you can expect a place at our school, even after you have failed more than the number of classes that should get you kicked out of our school.

    2. You can copy others' works as much as you want with no consequences because we won't back up TAs, or even Full Professors. Copying others' works is wrong and we have rules against it, but... See also: Rule 1

    3. We like money. We think that teaching you Arabic and German are wastes of it. We used to think that Sports Management was a waste of our money, but we were told that we would lose more money if we cut it out, so we just moved it to make it look like we're cutting it.

    4. That new building you are sitting in cost us more money than you will see in ten lifetimes, so, don't be surprised when we shut down half of it this winter because we can't afford to pay somebody to shovel snow and we can't afford the heating bill.

    5. Don't worry if you don't like the grades your teachers gave you, you get to give them grades at the end of the semester via student evaluations. [I once got in trouble because my evaluation score was below average...by the MATH DEPARTMENT!!! They should know that, by definition, not everybody can be above average!]

    Well, these are the rules. Be sure to make your checks payable to...

    Mathsquatch out.

    The previous post is awesome. Thanks, Stella.

    I wanted to comment on Stella's post, but it's not possible to include an image in the comments. As far as I can tell. So go read the previous post and then come back here. I just had to include this photo of Marty Feldman.

    Occasionally, I get a student like Stella's McFucktard: All too often a crystal meth addict. Speaks in incoherent blips and blops. Is irrationally optimistic. Has zero attention span. Sleep-deprived. Really, really, really eager one day, and then disappears for the next two weeks, then reappears, disappears, etc.... And those Feldman eyes. That's the giveaway.

    I see the Marty Feldman sleep-deprived junkie eyes on the first day, and I know the student will get a D or F.

    And I start praying, "Dear Jesus, please help Feldman realize that he has too many issues and shouldn't be here. Dear Jesus, please be kind when you darwinate this poor Feldman. Please, Jesus, don't let this Feldman suffer too much. Protect him, Jesus, because you and I both know Feldman doesn't have a clue or a chance. Be merciful, Jesus."

    P.s. If you are related to Marty Feldman, please forgive me. I loved Young Frankenstein.

    Saturday, August 21, 2010

    Hey yourself, fucktard.

    Hey there, student in my freshman comp class. I appreciate you writing to me about your situation, which is, upon perusal of your transcript, that you are a senior trying to pass freshman comp for the seventh fucking time. You didn’t want to tell me how many times you’ve taken it before, but I can check on such things.

    It was quite a chatty letter you sent, and I should tell you first off that I’m a little taken aback by your words of praise. You write that you admire me because you are a single mom. I find this odd because I am not a single mom, and we’ve never even met. I had my kid when I was married and nearly forty years old. Thus I’m assuming this professed admiration is a pathetic attempt at sucking up based on the fact that we both have vaginas. Unfortunately for you, however, I don’t subscribe to your particular brand of the vajayjay sisterhood, which mandates that all professors with vaginas must give students with vaginas passing grades, especially if they’ve both pushed babies through them. In fact, specifically to avoid membership in this sisterhood I flunk students with vaginas all the time. I’ve been flunking students with vaginas since the Reagan administration, and Lord knows I don’t intend to stop now.

    And good for you that you donated your used books to students who could not afford them. I don’t understand, however, why you are pointing this out, unless you are trying to secure a better grade by advertising what a generous person you think you are. Sadly, I don’t account for student altruism when I assign final grades. You could be the Dalai Lama himself. If you don’t earn a passing grade, you won’t pass. So long, Your Holiness! Better luck next time!

    What really concerns me, however, is your statement that your previous professors failed you “knowing that (you) I would become a great writer in the future.” I don’t know what bothers me more, your belief that students should be given grades based on their imagined potential, your belief that you are going to become a great writer, or your belief that merely professing your impending greatness is going to have any persuasive effect on me whatsoever. Who on earth believes in their own innate capacity for greatness after such a spectacular series of failures? You’ve taken freshman comp at three schools. Three. And been flunked by six different teachers. At this point, believing in your own mediocrity would be a stretch.

    You say you failed freshman comp twice at our local shitstain of a community college, despite the “great work that (you) felt like (you) performed.” The teachers there don’t even assign essays. Just in-class exercises and busywork. They only get paid $1500 a pop so I don’t blame them, but the idea that you could fail there twice, let alone think that you failed in spite of your own excellence, makes me want to hide under my desk until you are dead, or at least until I’ve gotten proof that you have received the electroshock therapy you so desperately require.

    Lastly, I’m glad you’re “willing once again to perform at (your) best.” Good for you. But maybe you should think seriously at this point about performing at someone else’s best. Perhaps a circus monkey, or a member of the Tea Party.

    Anyone, anyone but yourself.

    It Is I, Yaro, Looking At My New Text Book.

    I work at a place where they are always fussing with the textbooks in our general education series of courses. I, Yaro, must occasionally tread the boards of such a class, and it has come to me this autumn as well.

    But, they have changed the book once again. Now, let me prescribe to you that this is a field that does not have a great amount of yearly growth, yet there seems to be a new text every time it comes around, and because I'm such a jovial fellow I simply take the new book and teach from it.

    But this new book is one I hardly recognize, so full of graphs and charts and photos it is.

    I have already spent the better part of two mornings working through it, laughing roughly at some of the inanities within. But I suppose I can find enough pieces of it to fit together with my own knowledge of the field to put on the necessary show.

    But is anyone else old enough to remember using texts for years at a time? Were we always catching up with the newest edition, even when they were written by buffoons and monkeys, simply to offer the pretty book salespeople something new to carry in their satchels?

    I have old books that would do the job. I could show them to you.

    I take my leave,

    Friday, August 20, 2010

    Hello class. Welcome to 1952.

    The only electronic equipment you are allowed to use in here is a hearing aid. No cell phones. No laptops. No personal electronic organizers. And no, you can’t record this class.

    Don’t leave your seat, please. No, I don’t care who’s calling you, or how badly you need a smoke. Keep your ass in your fucking seat. And take your leak before you sit down. If you get up and leave the classroom, you’ll be marked absent.

    Now, if you’re pregnant or you have one of those bladder conditions like those poor women have on television, show me your doctor’s note and sit by the door. Otherwise, hold it.

    Are you sleepy? Go ahead. Put your head on your desk. Or fall asleep entirely. Another absence for you. Having a nice time chatting with your little friend? Shut the fuck up. And here’s another absence.

    If all you learn from this class is that you can sit still for 75 minutes without napping, facebooking, internet messaging, talking to your bff, or having to go potty, I will have done my job.

    Now, who wants to talk about Beowulf? No one?

    Too fucking bad.

    Promote CM To Your Favorite Blogrolls!

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