Friday, December 21, 2012

Last Day (warning: contains profanity)

I finished grading my finals today. This class did as poorly as my summer session, so I'm not sure if I set my standards too high, or if the population of this college does not draw strong learners. Gratefully, this institution wants me to have high standards, and even if my entire class does not have a single A student, I am free to evaluate based on my standards. It is a relief.

I had one student, Indignant Irene, who had an outright confrontation with me yesterday. We had a final group project, where I graded each member individually. I can tell who did what work rather easily, and each person is graded on the merit of his/her contribution.

The confrontation began when Indignant Irene earned an A- on the project. She had been working very, very hard all quarter, but there were still some fundamental gaps in her knowledge base. Her presentation showed a lot of improvement, but it was not perfect. It was B+/A- work, and having seen how hard she worked in class, and her working with me during office hours, I decided to push it to the A-. She felt she should have earned 100% on the assignment. She did this in front of the class. I pointed out her errors, also in front of the class, since Indignant Irene refused to wait until my office hours. Fine. I'll tell everyone what was wrong with your presentation, since you insist on hijacking my class.

Then, after all the presentations, I quickly calculated my students' current grades, so they would know where they stood, and what they needed to score on the final exam. Indignant Irene was outraged that her current grade was a B, and that there was no mathematical way she could earn an A in the course.

"But Professor Maybelle, I've worked so hard!"

I don't remember what I said, but her tone and attitude started taking over the class. This class has not been doing very well. One quiz, the entire class started laughing about "how hard it was" and how they "all were going to fail it." It was a complete joke to them. My quizzes are pulled word for word from their homework, and this is the homework that was graded in class the day before.

"I use a scale of weighted grades. You did well in the homework section, but the exam and quiz scores are pulling your grade down."

What I was screaming inside my head, "You can't fucking fail every goddam quiz and expect to pass. You thought it was so funny when you found the quiz after Thanksgiving sooooo hard. If you fail every fucking quiz, you won't earn an A in the class. It doesn't matter if you do every single, solitary homework assignment. Homework counts for 10%. I consider it idiot points. Free points. Good job. You got all the points for 10% of the grade. Maybe you should have given a fuck about the quizzes and the exams,which are 65% of the grade."

There was still time for students to fill out the course evaluations. I'm pretty sure Indignant Irene took her indignation to my evaluation. At least I already knew that my contract wasn't being renewed .... the evaluation means nothing for me at this institution. Perhaps it will help/hurt at another institution, but I don't care at this point. I've already got a gap in the C.V., and I can't seem to find another position.

After grading the abysmal final exams, I found myself in the adjunct office. It's too cold and too small. With only one common desk for every single adjunct in our department, I never brought anything personal into the space. I returned my teaching materials and the office key. I was never given a building key, which meant on several occasions this term, I stood outside shivering in the cold while waiting for the office workers to arrive and let me in so that I could make copies before my class.

Adjuncting is abusive hell. I'm not willingly going back.

Sadly, I got three rejection letters yesterday. Thank you Search Committeees! It's a very Merry Christmas with this news. Can you just wrap up the rejections with a bow and say "YOU SUCK"?


  1. No. That sucks. Screw em. You can do better.

    "warning: contains profanity"
    Seriously? No shit. That's the only way I know I'm reading CM.

    1. Yeah, seriously. We need a warning when there IS no profanity.

      Maybelle, we love you!

    2. *swoon* Beaker Ben responded to my post. I do declare, it's a holiday miracle!

  2. I've had moments like that (which always seem to erupt at the end of the semester, just as we also need to do evals.) If there's a way to stop them, I don't know what it is.

    One piece of good news on the evals: *if* you ever get them back (and you may well not), you're free to share them with potential employers or not. If anybody asks about them, you can always say that you weren't renewed because of enrollment (and being lowest on the totem pole), and never got them back. I suppose you might need to take them into account if you ask anyone who might have seen them for a recc letter (perhaps a reason to do that now, if you haven't already?)

    And I'm sure you know this, but you don't suck. The current employment situation in academia sucks; the fact that you can't continue at an institution that actually seems to have standards sucks; students who do the homework (or don't) and promptly forget it. . .well, let's just say they're frustrating; the treatment of adjuncts does, indeed, suck -- but you don't. In return for far too little money, under bad working conditions, you provided students with a carefully-designed course and plenty of one-on-one attention, and some of them -- including, apparently, Irene -- learned something. That's success.

    Best wishes on finding something better, in or outside of academia. You deserve it.

  3. (Q) What did the surgeon say to the patient?

    (A) That's enough out of you.

    I'm sorry you had to take this nonsense, Maybelle. I hope you get a better job soon!

  4. Well, my summer evaluations were pretty glowing of my work at this university. I told my students from day one that I'm tough, but fair.

    I designed the course so that no one exam or assignment would be the cause of automatic failure in the course. In fact, almost 30 percent of the grade is determined in the last week of the course.

    I hate extra credit, so I adopted what I had in one of my STEM classes as an undergraduate: drop the lowest X scores. The problem with drop the lowest is that the points do not accumulate (aka a student cannot take all 15 quizzes and add up the points from all of them; they can only use their 12 best).

    I felt this approach was fair and balanced, but the idea of weighted grade categories was a bit beyond this class. Two students were genuinely surprised they were still passing. I mean, it's points out of points possible. Basic math is their nemesis and the LMS grade book does not correctly calculate grades like this.

    Most jobs I apply to do not reply, so I guess I should be happy that someone is saying something back. Still. The week before Christmas? Pass me the bottle.

    1. Having been in and out of the dole queue over the past 30 years, I can safely say that most applications will not receive a response. If an employer wants to contact an applicant, they'll find a way. In other words, silence means rejection.

      The worst thing about being unemployed for me wasn't that I was out of work. It was that I didn't know if it was ever going to end.

      Being out of work can be frustrating and stressful, do something to deal with it. Start a regular exercise routine if you don't already have one, and stick to it. Trust me, it helps. It's also useful to have a hobby as it can make a very trying experience bearable.

      Keep a regular schedule, as if you still have a job, because it's quite tempting to sleep in or push things off till later. Also, don't drink to excess. It didn't help me as I was just as unemployed after the hangover wore off.

    2. @No Longer,

      Oil painting and pastel art are personal favorites of mine.

  5. Aw Maybelle. I'm so sorry. I hope you end up with an amazing employment offer and end up working somewhere so glorious that all of this crap will have been worth going through.

  6. Maybelle, I am so sorry all this is getting you down. How could it not----it completely sucks.

    The job market is horrible. Anyone anyone anyone who has a job is very lucky. I very much hope you get a great job soon.

    And I would have used a LOT more profanity.

  7. A variation on the dropping lowest scores is to not drop them if doing so lowers the grades. I view dropping a grade a little boost (or forgiveness, if you will), and in the uncommon instance where dropping a grade hurts them, it makes sense to not do so.

    1. I understand what you're saying Alan. The reason I do dropped scores is so I don't have to needle/wheedle with missed quizzes. I don't care why they miss class, but at this (now former) institution, students tend to miss a lot of class. If I let them add up an extra ten, fifteen, twenty points from the quizzes that ultimately get dropped, then yes, it would help the students who always attend class.

      However, my main issue is that multiple failing scores should not boost a student's grade, hence using the best twelve out of fifteen quizzes to make the quiz grade. If they average Fs across the board, well, then they should have Fs in the quiz grade, not a D or C- because they happened to be sucking up oxygen in the same room as the quiz was given on a certain day.

      My level of mercy drops significantly because they are told which sections of the homework will appear on the quiz, given publisher website quiz examples (and I always pull one or two of those questions to reward the students who study), and given the correct answers at least one day prior to the quiz.

      At first, I changed names, like in the homework it says "Suzy has one orange, but Betsy has two ..... [oranges]" and on the quiz I put "Jackie has one orange, but Marie has two ..." and they still got it wrong. I gave up halfway through the class and just put the homework questions in word for word. They still failed. I'm not giving them candy points for showing up and taking multiple quizzes.

      Attendance alone helps, but at my old institution, I had plenty of students show up every day and not learn a damn thing.

  8. Maybelle, here's to better days! Keep the faith, baby!

  9. I just received an email with the "I worked so hard" line, also protesting that a B simply isn't sufficient reward for the efforts and sacrifices the student made this semester (she stopped working for pay to concentrate on her classes -- a good idea, if you ask me, and sometimes, I realize, a real hardship, but no guarantee of an A). Other evidence adduced: she has always gotten As in English before. I didn't have my vacation message up yet, so I guess I'll have to deal with that one tomorrow. At least I have a university email account on which to set an away message, and a job to return to, so I really shouldn't complain.