Monday, April 22, 2013

Great Lakes Greta Rants Sans Haiku

This semester at LD3C has been one of the worst in my long, unsung teaching career.  In my Sisyphus world, there are days when I cannot determine whether I'm the laborer or whether I'm the rock.  Often the fate of each feels much the same.

If it were just the snowflakes in the classroom, the semester would be miserable enough.  Alas, we have adminiflakes and quasiadminiflakes dishing misery left and right and up and down and none of it smells like free cupcakes.

Super Duper Adminiflake Overlord has decided that even long-time faculty--as in, those teaching thirty years or so--need to put together teaching portfolios for brand-new evaluations. Schnell!  Yes, these are people with tenure.  Yes, there are contractual issues.  Yes, the faculty will lose this issue. 

Completely Useless Six-Figure Adminiflake has the new hires so cowed that they're afraid--literally afraid--to talk to the senior faculty, especially about how miserable they are.  My probation (may it rest in peace) was miserable enough; new hires now are ridiculously mistreated, often given 48-hour deadlines to prepare elaborate assignments for useless new-hire meetings.  Yes, there are contractual issues.  Yes, we lose.

Hyper Controlling Quasiadminiflake is new to duties that oversee a Very Important Subdiscipline within our discipline.  He is a control freak naturally and (apparently) a combination of masochist and sadist who enjoys a) taking on more than is necessary and 2) redirecting his panic at the faculty who teach in this subdiscipline (me, for example) so that we may be likewise overloaded and panicky and miserable.  Twenty hours of meeting for his committee alone this semester.  Twenty.  That doesn't include the hours pouring over very poorly written email directives that had to be answered right the tea-party now!  Schnell!

The students.  Oh, my goddess, the students.

There's Insufferable Iris, who undermines me in class because she's so much tea-partying smarter than I am, right?  She contradicted me outright in class today, and when I was in front of the class working with material for the class on the overhead (you know, teaching?), she blurted out, "Oh! You were right!"  That she looked it up on her cell phone, a no-no in my classroom, is another story.  She contradicts me every class, attempts to "explain" concepts to students who aren't getting it--making more work for me, because she's never correct--and wants to discuss her grades openly in front of the class.  She is bright, no question.  She is insufferable, too.

Then there's Obnoxious Abe, whose sole purpose seems to be to espouse some sort of sixtiesesque student anger, except that he's upset about things like parking and deadlines instead of war and inequity, and more than once has told me that I, Great Lakes Great, am The Man.  He, too, disagreed with me in class the other day about a concept fundamental to the course.  He tried to argue the point and I looked at him and said, "Abe, success in this class is a personal choice. Likewise, you may choose to fail."  His pal who sits next to him, Fratboy Frank, even admonished him ("Dude! Shut up!  She knows what she's talking about! She's the teacher!) and Obnoxious Abe sank further behind his desk and sulked for the rest of the class.  Sadly, the sulking did not continue for more than one class period.  When he sulks, he's silent.

Persecuted Patty is a delicate flower who shuns work but is very good at getting students to be on her side and see the persecution (which includes the aforementioned deadlines to which Obnoxious Abe objects). She has made noise--small noise, as she is tender--about going to my boss about the unfairness of my class rules.  I have twice written down my boss's phone and office numbers on sheets of paper and handed them directly to Persecuted Patty.  She has yet to consult with my boss.

Yes, these three grace the same, single section of Fundamentals of Hamster Communication.

There are more, many more. I don't even have the energy to deliver a proper smackdown at this point.  I'm just bitching.  I want to surface so that I'm not kicked off the island.  Please don't take away my water-cooler privileges!

Two more weeks before this semester ends.  I am teaching all summer long because I foolishly require money for outstanding medical bills.  (My fault. I never should have fallen ill while an insuranceless adjunct prior to my full-time position at LD3C.)  I have made it quite clear to all adminiflakes, however, that I am not meeting for any committee duties during the summer.  They can't actually force us to do so in the summer and we all balk at it.  It's only Hyper Controlling Quasiadminiflake who wants to and his committee is close to mutiny, so he's not going to push it.

I'm really tired. I've gained weight and lost sleep.  The work I do is utterly meaningless. I am hoping that the week I get off between this semester and the next is enough for me to reset my inner sense of self.  It may be long enough, at least, to write some trashy erotica and go for long walks on the nearby beach ... which may be enough.  Maybe.

And now that I've vented, perhaps I'll be able to haiku again this week.  I'm going to use haiku as a verb as often as I can in casual conversation this week, too.  That may help, too.


  1. I like when you haiku for us. :) But this is fabulous, too! I hope your summer classes are free of flakes, but... we all know better. As you haiku your way through the summer, feel free to riff on some of these miserable flakes.

  2. Greta:

    The admin-flakes you described sounded like the ones at the place I used to teach at.

    I had to deal with my share of idiotic administrators, particularly when it was decided that the curriculum in our department had to be overhauled. This was a process which ran over several years and many of the meetings we had took place during the term. Of course, we would never give up any of our time during the day for that. Nope. That's what our evenings were for. So, not only did I have to keep on top of the courses I was teaching, I had to give up some of my personal free time to work on it, time which I wanted to spend working on my degree.

    Unfortunately, most of those meetings were a complete waste of time as well as being boring. A lot of hours were frittered away haggling over semantics and where on some organizational chart to put a particular sticky which had a key point written on it. (I knew where some of them could have been placed, but discretion prevented me from saying so out loud.) As a result, I took a lot of breaks to go to the washroom or get a drink of water, making sure that my destinations were far away just to kill time.

    Worse yet, I couldn't duck out of those meetings as they were run by the department head. He only undertook that project largely to demonstrate his "leadership" ability and make himself look important, thereby getting the institution's senior administration notice and promote him.

    I don't think that project was ever finished. While it was still in progress, I took 2 years leave for my Ph. D. residency. When I got back, the main focus of our efforts, aside from teaching, was to overhaul every course outline to comply with and accommodate the institution's officially recognized learning styles. (Rumour had it that it was someone's Ph. D. thesis topic and we were her lab rats.)

    Trying to fix what worked, spending a lot of time and money on it, tying up staff to work on it, and then abandon it before it was finished was typical for that establishment.

    1. Yeah, when faced with the latest breathless/useless "initiative" dictated from above, a reasonable stance for a mere faculty member is ignore it, and it will go away . (It often does.) Or mañana , or "operation standards": do it strictly by the book, so it takes ten years. If I don't like it, I don't move a finger unless somebody gives me a specific task. Somebody else's problem. They can always find a busybody, and there are certainly enough assistant-this-or-thats to do these things.

  3. Oh, Greta, it must be SOOO hard to face that class with the threesome every day. I know exactly what you mean about students undermining you. Been there, fortunately not this semester.

    Do you need Strelnikov to parachute in and whip them into shape?

    As for getting kicked off the island for not posting, no no no no no. Not that I'm one of the mods (they're too busy being everybody else). But I'll storm the compound if they kick you out.

    Hang in there. I hope your importunate illness is a distant memory except for the bills.

  4. Oh, my. Once again, your professional life makes mine look positively idyllic (and believe me, it's not really idyllic).

    Forget Strelnikov; I think we need some sort of adminiflake-seeking missile (maybe one which will give them one chance to accept a permanent job transfer to the janitorial squad -- with no supervisory duties whatsoever -- before obliterating them). Or maybe we do need Strelnikov and his gulag (or maybe somebody needs help cleaning up after that pipeline rupture in Arkansas). In any case, you clearly need them gone. With that accomplished, somehow I suspect you and your colleagues could get the students under control. They're annoying (and depressing), but I think there's a reason you listed the adminiflakes (of various degrees; love the degrees) first.

    I do hope the week off does some good. It doesn't sound like nearly enough. I'm glad that there's enough solidarity among colleagues to fend off the committee meetings for the summer. You definitely need at least that.

    1. Yes, I don't know how I failed to comment on the adminflakes. Portfolios? New-hire hazings? Short deadlines for meaningless paperwork?

      New favorite phrase: Hyper Controlling Quasiadminiflake.

  5. Where the heck IS Strelly? Strelly! This is a job for YOU dude!

    Greta, those students! Augh! I have been there too. What a nightmare. It sounds like you are handling them as well as you can.

    This too shall be over soon.


  6. In my Sisyphus world, there are days when I cannot determine whether I'm the laborer or whether I'm the rock.

    Awesome - I've never thought of this myth from the point of view of the rock before (yes I know rocks are insentient and therefore don't have points of view - it's a myth though, so just go with it).

    It's a great metaphor for intrusive adminflakes, pointlessly shoving us up whatever stupid hill represents the Important Initiative du jour. Then they withdraw support at the last minute, leaving us to bounce painfully back to the bottom again.

  7. It's early days, but I vote POW for this one. This is just some EPIC crap here.

    Hang in there, Greta. We love you.

  8. The students are just pawns in this epic struggle for our souls.

    But the which alien pod do they hatch? Every once in a while, one of us decides he/she is bored with research (never their strong suit), or hits a wall. Yet it's too early to retire, and they haven't saved enough anyway. Solution? Ta-dah! An adminiflake is born.

    Really, when I look at my dept chair, dean, provost (and "executive" vice-deans and assistant provosts) I always wonder: WTF do they do that's not completely trivial? They don't teach, don't do research, and the job requires no skills beyond the ability to kiss up and piss down. I can do that, too! And my dog is particularly talented at these tasks. So from where do the ridiculous salaries derive? It's not as if there are "stars" in any sense of the word competing for these jobs. It's a mystery.

    Lacking anything meaningful to do, they pester us with redundant curricular reform and reviews of this, that, and the other thing, swoon over the latest moock-fad and try to drag us along, and exchange shiny PowerPoints among themselves (copied to the faculty, of course), documenting their pitiful progress towards unreachable goals. Or, bored out of their wits, decide to micromanage our syllabi (true story.)

    So good for you, Greta: let's hear more adminiflake stories, a much more rewarding target for our sarcasm than the helpless flailing of clueless students.