Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Hey, What Ever Happened to Dr. Jimmy?

I have a colleague I'll call Jimmy. He's a ham. He's a card. He's a guy you want to spend 4 minutes with at a party, because he's such a pleaser.

But no more than 4 minutes.

He's that way in his classes. Handslaps, fistbumps, lots of songs blasting before class. Students call him Dr. Jimmy. They're such great pals all of them.

His students end up in my upper level courses. They can't believe their fucking luck. We don't have any movies or funny YouTube videos. I have deadlines that don't float.

I get "shit I'm unhappy" looks from the students for about 4 weeks. Things turn around. I'm not a lousy teacher. We get on target eventually. It's rigorous. They work hard and they get better.

But every semester I have to undo the bullshit expectations Dr. Jimmy builds up in them.

I had a conversation with Jimmy a few days ago about this. Not tangentially, I'm on his tenure review committee. After I laid out some of what I see as challenges for me as someone who takes on his freshmen and sophomores, he said, "I don't get it. They have such a blast in my class."

If I thought I could get away with it, I'd stab Dr. Jimmy in the fucking throat.




21 comments:

  1. Indeed, a worthy entry in the POW echelon.

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  2. I have had the desire to stab the provost in the fucking throat, because he has abused the power he has over me. However, when I have the power over a student or a colleague (e.g., to fail a student or to deny tenure to Dr. Jimmy), then I never feel the desire to stab the person in the throat.

    I get where you're coming from, TP, but do your best to earnestly show Dr. Jimmy the true picture and what you need from him. One serious little conversation (in the context of good times at various parties) isn't enough. Have the intervention. Have the come-to-jesus discussion. Look him in the eye. Tell him what the consequences will be. Be polite and honest. Then, if he doesn't get it, deny him tenure. Denying him tenure is better than stabbing him in the throat.

    But if you're assuming that Dr. Jimmy potentially could have a positive effect on his students, then you have to believe you can have a positive effect on Dr. Jimmy.

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    1. Throat-stabbing can be fun, though. Maybe Cal could conjure up a crazzzy, bloody graphic for that?

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    2. ... a bloody, bloody, bloody, crazzzzy graphic. Maybe change the whole CM background so that it looks like a scene from the movie, "Carrie"?
      :-)

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  3. If you need a wingman, Terry, I'm available. But then we'll have to come back to Austin to take care of Dr. Carol. Win-win.

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    1. If Walt's going, I want to go too.

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    2. I know I'd regret it, but I would come along if I didn't have to ride with you boys.

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    1. Geez, Monica, read the post. Dr. Jimmy is not teaching the material properly, and giving inflated grades.

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    2. Don't forget to bring the cookies, Monica.

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    3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    4. Monica, your comment was deliberately provocative; it was accusatory and insulting, and couldn't have been based on a reasonable reading of Terry's post.

      I'm guessing that's why you removed it.

      If you want to accuse others of bullying, you're going to need to take ownership of the content of your own participation here.

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    5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  5. Can you deny him tenure based on his teaching or is the decision mostly based on research?

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    1. Teaching is only 20% here, but I've seen it swing committees in the past.

      He's a bit of a lightweight in all things, actually, and it's his sky high teaching evals that are the thing he has in his favor. I was able to see his grade reports this month for the first time. The average score is A-, and these are mostly 20-50 student classes. A LOT of our undergrads go through his courses.

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    2. I guess I'm less charitable than Bubba (or maybe just bitter about being untenured myself), but I'd say do what you can to deny him tenure. There are plenty of other Ph.D.s out there. This assumes, of course, that you can get rid of him and still preserve the line.

      Alternatively, or perhaps in preparation, yes, have the come-to-Jesus talk (or write a strongly-worded letter, depending on what works better given your processes) and make it very, very clear that he needs to be tougher with his students (the over-awarding of As is, of course, the real problem; if he can assign rigorous work, award the full range of grades in response, and still keep the students happy/entertained, well, more power to him).

      Among other things, this will test his capacity for true learning, and his ability to work with others long-term. Either he can absorb the message and respond appropriately, or he's so full of himself that he just can't absorb the message (in which case he probably doesn't see his students very clearly, either; they're just sources of narcissistic supply. That, of course, is not good.)

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  6. The dude in the picture doesn't look like someone that would stab Dr. Jimmy in the fucking throat. He looks like someone that would stab Dr. Seuss in the fucking throat.

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    1. That made me laugh out loud!

      Terry's own avatar is an edit of an old Joe Strummer photo so I took that as my lead when I made the graphic this afternoon.

      True enough, he looks like a bad dude, but let's just say that image represents his mood today, and is not representative of his otherwise generous and loving nature. (He was the dear mod Gordon Presto, afer all.)

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  7. Been there. AM there.

    I would suggest agitating to have Dr. Jimmy teach some of the upper-level follow-on courses that require his current courses as pre-requisites, but I know all too well what would happen:

    He would be just as (ir)responsible about making sure they met the course objectives, and then it would be the students' future employers who have to deal with their lack of prep.

    (But if they had the demanding profs earlier, they would at least have SOME rigorous background)

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  8. I'm a meanie. I might just keep a record of which students I had who had had him, exactly how unprepared they were for my class versus what grade they got in his class, and then sit down with the hard evidence and say, "I presume my colleagues are experiencing the same thing. if this doesn't change, I doubt that they will feel good about keeping you on. Now would you like some advice on making your courses and grading more rigorous while still getting good evaluations, or would you like to fix the problems on your own?"

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