Sunday, March 31, 2013

An Urgent Job Thirsty...

One of our community members is in a jam and would love some advice:

I'm a finalist for a one-year sabbatical replacement. I know it's a great institution because I went there myself for my master's degree. If I accept the job, how will future search committees look at the fact that I did get a great one-year job at an institution that already knew me? 

Will a job at this institution hurt, help, or not affect how my CV will look in a year when I do this job dance all over again?

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Saturday Grading.

Is there any better poetic justice than discovering that a most annoying grade grubbing snowflake has submitted a paper rife with plagiarism?

The syllabus states that plagiarism results in an automatic F for the course.

- Tina from Timbuktu

The Conference: Types & Observations

Some types:

  • The emeritus in the baggy suit that once fit.
  • The earnest grad students giving their first papers, sitting and reviewing their text one last time while sitting cross-legged on the floor.
  • The aggravated panel chair at the registration desk. One of the presenters is a no show for his panel. Did he check in at the conference?
  • The sleepy grad student dozing in a big over-stuffed chair in a side alcove.
  • The old grad-school buddies laughing together in the bar at dinnertime.
  • The attendee who brought family, kissing their spouse and kids goodbye as they leave to go to the zoo.
  • The young publisher rep at the book desk. She has sad eyes. Is this were she thought she’d end up when she started grad school?
  • The aging hippy with the graying ponytail. They’ll make a snide remark about Nixon or Reagan in their panel that will be met with sad nods by the older audience members, but with slightly confused looks from the 20-something’s.
  • The aggrieved activist. How can you ignore that the government/corporation/society is oppressing Y? They’re probably right about Y’s situation, but most of us are trying to get by day-to-day. We look away and promise ourselves that we'll try to do something when we’re back home.
  • The lost attendee standing in the hotel hallway wondering “Where is Ballroom C?”
  • The hotel staffer picking up the abandoned coffee cups at the back of the conference room. How many different groups do they clean up after? Today it’s academics, next week it’s an industry group. After them comes the medical association. They all leave the same trash behind.

Some observations:

  • The five minute "question" in which you only brag about your own research is not a question.
  • A problem for statistics class. Or maybe philosophy. There are four papers scheduled to be on this panel. All else being equal shouldn't there be only a 25% chance that the panelist I want to hear is the one that cancels at the last minute? So why is it always the speaker I want to hear that is missing?
  • A 5:00 pm panel on the last day of the conference? Either you pissed off someone on the scheduling committee or you have a very unpopular topic.
  • Is there anything at a conference more beautiful than a table full of new books in your area, and there is sign stating "50% off all books"?
  • Math word problem. (As best as I can mimic one at least). The projector in the meeting room is not working. There are five professors are on the panel. X=5. There are seven people in the audience. Y=7. How many people will it take to fix the projector? Show your work.
  • "I haven't gotten that far in my research" is a great way to say "I do not know the answer to your question."
  • There is a new journal called Porn Studies? Seriously? Oh my. Yes, I am sure it's very interesting. I won't ask if it has pictures because I'm sure that joke is very, very old already. I'm just wondering how long it will be before we hear some state legislator having a fit and cutting his state school's spending after he hears that one of their departments bought a subscription.
  • Finally, there is something sad about the last day of a conference. People are checking out so the lobby is busier than the meeting areas.. The book room is closed. The last person at the registration desk is playing a game on his phone. Little chaotic piles of papers lay about, announcing panels already held, receptions already finished, calls for papers for the future that there is no one left to pick up. The recycle bin awaits. A mixture of emotion is in the air--fulfillment, disappointment, exhaustion, and a sense that opportunities have been both met and missed. Tonight the books will go on the shelf. The spouse will get the book that you thought they’d like which you picked up from the book display and the kids will be given the little toys you bought in the airport gift shop. The conference program will be tossed or put on a shelf, the latter only if your name is in it. Receipts will be filed, and the attendees will go back to their routine. Next year’s conference will be in that city with the good restaurants and great museum. That should be fun.

Can you guess the punchline?

Prof. Hyde: Welcome to "Can you guess the punchline?".  My esteemed colleague will set the scene.

Dr. Jeykyll:  An assignment was recently due at noon.  To make sure the students did not have to learn the difference between 12:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m., this time was listed as "noon" on the syllabus.  It was announced as "noon" in class.  Our beloved LMS, BlackHoleBoard, even displays "noon" rather than 12:00 p.m.

Prof. Hyde:  At 1:30 p.m. on the day the assignment was due, we received an e-mail from a student in the class.  CAN YOU GUESS THE PUNCHLINE?  We'll leave a few blank lines for you to consider your answer.

***Whistle "Jeopardy" theme music to yourself***

Prof. Hyde:  Well of course all of you answered correctly.  Here is the message.

Dr. Jekyll and Prof. Hyde:  I thought noon meant midnight, so I didn't do my homework for today, I thought I had all afternoon to do it.  What can I do? 

Prof. Hyde:  No, a better question is "what can I do?"  As for that, I think I shall retire to my lab for a special draught.

Dr. Jekyll:  And I shall retire to my sitting room for my own special draught, recently sent to me by Bubba.

Today's VidShizzle. Listen, People Hate VidShizzles. They Really Hate Xtranormal. I Guess I Make them For Myself. Maybe I Should Get a Little Diary. With a Lock. But Then How Would I Know if I Exist?

Честно говоря странной.

Франк-мы разделили должности в течение года. Вы игнорировали меня и шести других вспомогательных веществ, не означает подвиг, так как мы были довольно вокальным за дерьмовый LMS администрации в бюджете. Мы также пытались выяснить, как президент получил рейз при регистрации упал.

Вначале, мы его получили. Фрэнк особенный. Вы захватили премьер недвижимости в офисе, полный с блокировкой файлов ящик. Вы несете десять флэш-накопители и стойку с кучей книг, как вы владеете мире. Вы заняты, заняты. Слишком заняты для нас. Вот почему мы не приглашаем вас вне кампуса партии.

Но так как вы узнали, что я собираюсь уехать на Ph.D. школу, вы будете действовать, как будто мы лучшие почки.Прозвищ --- на самом деле? То, как вы искать меня и поговорить со мной перед всеми другими добавками является странным. И когда я четко есть проекты в процессе. Все, что вы говорите только о себе --- вашего соединения Лиги плюща, и как это время вы получаете в доктора Программа тоже. Разве это не здорово? Что я думаю?

Я думаю, что, откровенно говоря, Фрэнк, это подделка это противно. Пошел прочь. У меня есть исследования. Я классификации. Я должен созерцать свой ​​пупок. Я должен сделать что-то (anything!), кроме доли воздуха с вами.

Самое холодное время советского студента в истории

Andrei Kharlamov
Kazan State Technological University
Mechanics & Mathematics, Bsc

Friday, March 29, 2013

Roter Putsch geht in Ordnung. Aber wann kommen die richtig Bösen?

Мне очен нравится новое советское лицо нашего блога. Да здравствует великий Стрелников! Das ist allerdings nicht das erste Mal, dass die Bolschewiki den Blog erobern. Fragt sich nur, wann die Nazis endlich daran sein werden. Ich vermute jedoch, dass die Sowjetunion zwar noch als Witz herausgeholt werden kann, aber der Nationalsozialismus jenseits der Grenze des Humors liegt. Ich empfinde es auch so und kann auch über Stalin- und GULagwitze lachen, aber bei Licht betrachtet ist das das nicht schlüssig, denn die Geschichte des Kommunismus war natürlich auch kein Witz.

SNAFU: A Friday Thirsty from Proffie Galore

This week I experienced a SNAFU when the CMS deleted my COR, on which the EDC had demanded niggling changes to my SLOs and MOEs for better alignment with content. Further details would blow my cover.

Here's the Thirsty:

Q: Do you know what all those letters stand for, and can you offer alternative meanings that will keep me sane the next time my schedule gets blown apart by alphabet soup?

Frankly Fake

Frank—we shared an office for a year.  You ignored me and six other adjuncts, no mean feat since we were pretty vocal over the crappy LMS the administration budgeted for.  We have also been trying to figure out how the president got a raise when enrollment dropped. 

Early on, we got it.  Frank’s special.  You commandeered prime real estate in the office, complete with locking file drawer.  You carry ten flash drives and strut with a pile of books like you own the world.  You’re busy-busy.  Too busy for us.  That's why we didn't invite you to the off-campus party. 

But since you found out I’m about to leave for Ph.D. school, you act like we’re best buds.  The nicknames---really?  The way you seek me out and talk to me in front of all the other adjuncts is bizarre.  And when I clearly have projects in process.  All you talk about is yourself---your Ivy League connections, and how it's time you get into a Ph.D. program too.  Wouldn’t that be great?  What do I think?

I think that frankly, Frank, this fakery is nauseating.  Go away.  I have research.  I have grading.  I have to contemplate my navel.  I have to do something (anything!) other than share air with you. 

Okay, enough already.

An Update From Santa Fe Sid.

Since the blowup over the newspaper thing at my huge community college in New Mexico, the online discussion among faculty members has been white hot. All kinds of madness has taken place; conspiracy charges have been rampant. Each quarter has its own theory about what was "really" behind the closing down of the newspaper.

(I have to admit that my own guess is that featuring a 15 year old in the sex issue certainly sent someone into a panic.)

Anyway, the discussion online is of course quite public, as most of these have gone to some commonly used listserv addresses. Here are some of my favorite comments:

  • All of us should also understand that every comment made on this discussion board over the past few days is being scrutinized and compiled for later possible use as “evidence” against us—should the “opportunity” arise for any future disciplinary or termination actions, this “evidence” will be used to “validate” and “confirm” patterns of behavior like “defiance,” “incivility” or “lack of collegiality.” And for those of you who think I’m crazy, I and several other faculty members that I know of, unfortunately have first-hand experience with such “quality-based” management practices at CNM.
  • If a faculty member was responsible for such an egregious violation of rights and principles, he/she would be fired immediately.
  • The last episode of Saturday Night Live was far raunchier than the current edition of the CNM Chronicle and far less educational.
  • CNM has given me the direct message, “We don’t want to hear from you. We don’t want your truthful versions of events and we certainly don’t want you to express your opinion on any matter set forth by Administration. You are our subservient underlings and you should be grateful we allow you to work here or attend school here.”
  • One question I have for the CNM Administration now is if we're "allowed" to discuss this issue with our students? If so, what if a student brings a copy of the paper to class for "show and tell?" Are we obligated to confiscate it or should we call Security or [he police]? 
  • I guess we should all be anxiously awaiting guidance from The Party, so we don't violate The Party Line.
  • In March 2013, CNM administration discovers that 'its' students are having SEX.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Today's VidShizzle: Welcoming the New Visiting Assistant Professor.

Maybelle, she thirsty!

I've been thinking about the last few years of teaching. Having dealt with a plethora of student hostility, verbal abuse, and outright rudeness, I thought I'd pose a Big Thirsty for you all:

Q: What's the worst name that you've been called by a student to your face or what name has been said (intentionally) loud enough for you to overhear it?
What did you do?

I'll start us off: 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

PCA Anyone?

Will anyone be at the PCA in DC this week?  If so, any interest in a CM gathering?
ce n'est pas un canard

Hope, Anxiety, Dashed Dreams, Moving Boxes, and Renting Your Furniture By the Month.

Q: How often do people hired for one-year replacement positions end up being hired into the TT position? Is there any reason to be optimistic? Or should one-year appointees plan on moving somewhere else after that year?

Chronivorous Weasels*

Let's go see
what ol'
Grumpy is up to!
Dear Students,

It is Easter Vacation.  We have two weeks (with a long holiday weekend in the middle) of no classes, and you are all supposed to GO HOME or go on a binge or go away or just... go.  SHOO!!!  I am NOT impressed by your virtue if you stay on to work and make a point of dropping by my office..  I am not going to want to talk about any of your classes, or your project, especially if you have never been to any of my term time office hours.  It is YOUR vacation, and MY work time.  I need to write!  I need to think! I need to do some benchwork and reorganise my office.  I need to catch up on my grading...

Colleagues say 'just don't come to work' but, dammit, I WANT to work in my office where my books are, where my large-screen grant-paid-for computer and whizzy software are, where I don't have to pay for the

Sid From Santa Fe Sends This In.

At my sprawling and poorly run community college, we have an abysmal student-run newspaper. It got shut down yesterday after its "sex" issue was published. There's been a fair amount of caterwauling internally, but our much more important and powerful (yet smaller) brother (a uni in the same city) has also taken up the charge.

Their student rag published this:
The took my sex issue away!
On Tuesday, Shitty Community College administrators, in a ruthless and authoritarian display of censorship, stripped students of some basic constitutional rights.
Tuesday’s issue of the weekly, student-run newspaper centered on sex. Staff members said their intention was to create a dialogue on the topic and educate students on safe practices. The administration didn’t see the value in this, and immediately suspended the staff and declared that it would halt publication until the summer. 
The college pulled Tuesday’s issue off the shelves and staff members said college representatives even pried the issue out of students’ hands if they saw them reading it. 

I'm Baffled By the New Chair

He doesn't answer phone calls. He replies with a text message instead. LONG text messages.

He's 40. He acts 24.

He has that victim mentality that is so charming. He was the only one from the department who was at a recent off campus meeting, so during a departmental meeting someone said, "Could you fill us in on what happened?" He replied, "Well, if it's going to be ALL on me..." Well, shit, not all of it, but you were there. Can we not ask questions?

He'll tell you exactly what you want to hear, whether or not its the truth, whether or not he can actually deliver what he's saying. He'll do it all the way up and down the hall, too.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Stink.

I hate it when students come to my office after several days without bathing, and then sit in my chairs and spread their stink around for me to enjoy for the next hour.  That's the worst.

An Early Thirsty From Nella Down in Nacogdoches.

I'm one year away from tenure at a school I like, but don't love. I got an offer sheet for a t-t job at a school and in a place I've long wanted to live. I'll be 4 years away from tenure on my new clock.

I'm single, not in debt.

Q: Is tenure worth staying for, even if the school is not my dream job? Is it a comfort to the mind that I don't know about yet? What would you do?

Monday, March 25, 2013

Winner of the "No Duh!" Sweepstakes. Student Professionalism.

I love the breaking news from the past couple of days about how student "professionalism" is on the decline.

Really, Seth?

I've followed the insane new rules our dictatorette (errr, moderator in flowing white) for adding some context, but let's begin with the "flava" from a recent Crampicle of Higher Edjumucation.

In a recent survey of college and university professors, more than one-third (38.3 percent) said they felt that fewer than half of their upper-level students exhibited qualities associated with being professional in the workplace, and nearly as many (37.5 percent) reported a decrease over the past five years in the percentage of students demonstrating professionalism.

The survey was conducted by the Center for Professional Excellence at York College of Pennsylvania, which over the past four years has conducted an annual study of employers' views of the professionalism of recent college graduates in the workplace.

According to a report describing the survey's findings, "2012 Professionalism on Campus," the qualities the respondents most strongly associated with being professional included having good interpersonal skills, being focused and attentive, being dependable in completing tasks on schedule, and displaying a work ethic.

Stunning, I know.

But I wonder if "professionalism" is even the right word. I wish there was just a graph that charted students and their "laziness," "cleanliness," "ability to open ears," etc.

I don't mind if they're a little unprofessional. I don't mind if they're not QUITE ready for college. But I've lost patience with the ones who are blank and unwilling to accept that they might be able to learn a different way of doing things.

I'd like a survey that unearthed whether freshmen are willing to do something in college that was not done in high school, read a different way, cite a different way, do ANYTHING other than what Mrs. Grundy had them do when they were a junior at James Franco High in San Luis Obispo. That's a survey I'd partially fund (with the vast coffers I have access to from those Google Ads that generate pennies per day!)
The full article, if you choose to read it. You don't have to, because I've captured it perfectly above, and contextualized it flawlessly in my OWN here.


Nobody wants this duck to die.

When Do They Study? Take Tests?

I hate to be so clueless about this, but at the two institutions I've taught at, student athletes rarely were away from school as often or for such protracted periods of time as these NCAA basketball tournament teams.

At the small liberal arts college I'm at now, I actually have students on most of our teams, and they are among the most conscientious.

But how do students get school work done on these top tier programs when they're traveling and competing over a long period of time like the NCAA tournament?

My hubby made me watch Florida Gulf Coast's game yesterday and despite all the running and slamming, all I could think was, "When are they finishing their essays?"

Creepy Book Buyer Guy

The Creepy Book Buyer Guy is lurking in the hallway again. I've managed to avoid eye contact and to pretend to be busy when he sidles on by, slowing as he notices someone (me) in my office. In the past, he has rifled through my shelves, which has felt akin to some grubby stranger handling my clean laundry. These books, the ones I treasure, are not on the market, and I have cringed to see him hover his scanner over the barcode and then turn an expectant look my way. "Not that one," I have hastily interjected. And he has moved on to others. It boils down to this: I don't like him touching my treasured books. But what about those that arrive free, unsolicited for me to consider?

I know it's not quite like the purposeful act of music/movie piracy, but I still feel guilty about selling him books that I didn't pay for because some colleagues act like I've stoned a bunny when they see me talking to the Creepy Book Buyer Guy, and others act like it's our right to profit from the capitalistic pigs that are the large exploitative textbook companies. Sure, I didn't ASK the publishers to send me free copies of texts that they're replacing with new editions every other year now (why?!!), but do the publishers' (many) transgressions justify my profiting from these texts? How would I feel about others selling my textbook (actually, I think I'd be OK with it since the pittance the author/editor receives is just that... a pittance)?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Veterinary Emergency

One of my regular losers missed class a couple of weeks ago and brought in documentation of a medical emergency -- from his vet for his dog.

We didn't actually have any graded work, so it was a wash, but still. . . .

Saturday, March 23, 2013

A Weekend Word Puzzle(r) from Lucy, Countess of Bedford.

I've pasted an email below, received by a friend in another department. We've puzzled over this for a week or so. Clearly, the student used a translation program, but what was the original idiom that became Chopin in translation? I offer the following to the hive.

I have not received your electronic copy for your lab 2 report. You will get a zero on the report unless I get it. Please send it to me as soon as possible.

I'm moving this and last week, which means my computer is disassembled (disconnected SATA hard drive cable), and I have no internet access during this time at my home. I didn't return your pervious email is because you said those emails only there to serve as an automatic remind and the electron copy itself is not that important as long as you get it into your database.

Also, I realize my report is not finished. Because I have to meet with bank, builder, insurance, lawyer, and a martian ambassador in late January and the beginning of February. After that, I'm facing 5 mid-terms in the week of the due date. If you can understand, everything is "Nocturne Op.27 No.1 in C sharp major" for me in the last month. I'm sorry things did not go very well in the aspect of my lab report, but that is not because I'm an idiot or I'm trying to do it on purpose.

If some suspicion of academic dishonesty is put into my unfinished lab report. I hereby claim in the name of my ancestor that I will never shame myself by copy another's work.

But ASSUME I struck by a lighting someday, and my brain is reconfigured so that I decide to copy someone's work; I shall only steal the heart and the mind of the work, not the body and the fresh. Of course, I will also submit a completed report by the end of the day for my piracy to be profitable.

My electron copy for lab 2 report will be sent to you before dusk. And my next 2 lab reports will be completed in great effort and precision. Please show some faiths in addition to the initial threat.

Thank you.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Speedy Rant: Copy Machine Operator Error

To my colleague next door (yes, I know it's YOU, because I see you skulking back to your office clutching a sheaf of cantaloupe orange paper):

When you've finished making copies, take the fucking cantaloupe orange paper out of the paper drawer, or learn how to use the bypass tray. It's a bypass tray, not a Smart Board; you lay the paper on it. That's IT. You don't even have to try to figure out if "lay" is a transitive or intransitive verb. No possible reason exists for you to pull out the paper tray to fill it with your festive intentions.

(We also all know who leaves the copier jammed when you use the colored paper because no one else in the department touches that stuff.)

In fact, stop using colored copies altogether! Your students don't care if your handouts are colorful. They just want to know if you'll post them online, because as soon as they leave, they'll lose your splendiferously colored handouts, but our copy machine will still have colorful paper in the drawer, leaving me with copies of cantaloupe orange grant proposals that I cannot possibly use.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Are Alpacas Morose? Even Middle-Aged Ones?

Well, Al From Alpaca Falls got the job. How do I know, because Al is me, or I am Al, or I am Spartacus, it gets confusing.  For those entering the theater late, last fall Al (me) asked for advice as the internal candidate interviewing for his own job which was being converted from a term slot into a TT position.  I wanted a little extra anonymity so the Mods agreed to post my thirsty under a different name. 

So anyway, I interviewed, did well, made the finalists, taught a demo class, did extra interviews, etc. Some of it was a bit odd.  I’ve been at my school longer than my dean, but she interviewed me as if I were a stranger.  Another member of the department let me teach a demonstration lesson in one of their classes and it had a bunch of my past and current students in it.  I even enjoyed being taken out for dinner that evening to “get to know the department,” although I got to pick the restaurant as I’ve lived in the area longer than most of the rest of the committee.  They skipped the campus tour and the meeting with HR to review possible benefits. 

Late yesterday Dean Smith called and she offered me the job. I took it.  This is the culmination of a long, long road.  When I started grad school I hoped to one day end up teaching at a small four-year school somewhere. That day I walked into my first graduate class was, well, it was quite a while ago. The USSR still existed, Johnny Bench was still the Cincinnati Reds’ catcher, Princess Leia was Luke’s crush and not his sister, and most of my students’ parents were still children themselves. An interesting career outside of academia lay before me and I had no idea that the journey would take this long, but here I am.  I may not be a patient man, but I am a persistent one. 

So thanks for the advice to “Al.”  It helped and I appreciate it. Now I get to see what it’s like starting my dream career in my mid-50s when my friends are all retiring.

A Perfectly Reasonable Morning Rant From Academic Charlotte Anne.

Yo, Annie.
Loving the new blend!

OK mother fuckers. This is IT.

WHO FUCKED WITH MY COFFEE???!!! I am sure the two cans LOOKED the same to you. But they are NOT the same so WHY THE FUCK did you dump one can into the other??? One can is crappy tasting (but I keep it around in case we run out, as bad coffee is often better than no coffee) the other can is the good-tasting nearly full one that I use every day to make the coffee. 

You may think “what’s the big deal, honest mistake.”


Since NOBODY else seems to be able to handle such difficult tasks NOBODY should touch the coffee.

A Big Thirsty on Essay Help From Tessa from Tucumcari.

I'm a rather new proffie, and in my discipline we only have students write 1-2 essays each semester. But at my new college it ends up being a big chunk of the grade.

I want to offer help to my students, after all I do grade the final projects. But one of my colleagues from the English department tells me my plan to meet with students outside of class in a rough draft conference is not necessarily the best way to do this. I've been told peer workshopping is better so that students can learn from each other.

I don't have any background in writing instruction that wasn't learned in my own one on one discussions with grad school mentors about my thesis and dissertation.

Could the writing instructors among us help me?

Q: What step or steps should I be taking in order to give my undergraduate students the best and most useful writing help as they work on the occasional essay in my class?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Spring Break Is a Time for Renewal and Re-Engagement. Heywood from Henderson.

Thankz for the Lulz.
Hey there, cats and kittens, Heywood from Henderson comin' atcha again, this time with some misery about the utter disengagement of some students!

Our fine and upstanding institution of higher learning has a notification system in which students who are receiving poor grades get an automated "contact yer prof, STAT" warning. These went out last week.

One such sterling example of disengagement, who has attended less than 50% of class sessions, handed in zero written work, and failed the first exam, decided to respond to his warning. My shocked face, let me show you it.

It was the response itself that contained the lulz. "I've been meaning to meet with you about my grade. I know I am not doing well in your class can I meet with you tomorrow after class?"

Cats and kittens, the email was sent the Monday of our spring break week.

Yes, indeed, it is spring break and the little darling is so disengaged with the learning process that he didn't even know that this week is a well-earned week of debauchery and shenanigans for him AND for me.

And with that, I'll get on with my spring break, chuckling all the while. Cheers!

bad haiku for the theory of the vernal equinox

it is a kind of
joke, the idea that spring
will emerge from the

tough, hard ground, that the
tyrannical winter will
be driven from the

landscape by the mere
fact of science, a turning
world that for millions

of years has forecast
this sameness, this fate. after
all, arizona

says it's equal, all:
evolution, god, matters
of academic

opinion now.  of
course, of course. this must be what
einstein meant when he

meandered into
relativity.  theory,
right?  one word, taken

righteously out of
context and suddenly the
force which holds humans

to crust holds as much
pull–ha!–as intelligent
falling and along

with humans, not long
ago, the dinosaurs roamed
a landscape that must

Leona Shares Some Email.

A student email on why he missed class:
"I know I missed class but I had food poisoning. I also have a seizure disorder. So I don't like to go to the doctor because they only ever ask me about my seizure disorder. That's why I didn't get a doctor's note. I wanted to go to the doctor but they would have asked me only about my seizures instead of the food poisoning."
Someone put me out of my misery, please. For the record, I do not give anything resembling a shit about why students miss class.

Also, why is it more than halfway through the semester and I'm just now hearing about a seizure disorder? That seems like the kind of thing a professor might want to know about. Not in an invasive, TMI way, just, "Hey, if I collapse or go into rigor or whatever, here's what to do."

Great Lakes Greta Surfaces for Air and Rambles in an Unfocused Way

It's the day before spring and winter has yet to release us from its cruel and apparently steadfast grip.  I would quip about the winter of my discontent except that my discontent is in full bloom.  It's summertime in the darkness of my soul--a fetid, swampy, crawling-with-bugs summertime, one in which there is no relief from things that sting and bite nor that which oppresses with the weight of its rancid heat.  Yes, it's dark where I am.  

Oh, the snowflakes.  Oh, the misery.

Like many jucos, LD3C experiences a significant drop in attendance after midterm break.  Well...two weeks after midterm break and the attendance is as miserable as I am.  Compounding everything else that is making this academic year one for the hellish ages is the number of transient students I have in my classes.  These are students who are in and out of class, whose attendance may be consistent (in an odd way) to themselves each individually, but whose overall patterns overlap and create a jigsaw puzzle of actual students in the classrooms.  Some days this piece of the puzzle is missing; others, this one is gone, and this one, or this one returns but this one is out.

I've experienced this before, but not to the extent I'm seeing it this semester.  I'm not alone.  My colleagues are likewise miserable.   The problem then arises that each of them wants to be caught up or to discuss his or her absences right-the-tea-party now! Now, now, now!  Yesterday while walking from my car to my office, I was stopped no fewer than three times, each by a different student whose inattention to his or her own education has suddenly become my problem.  The last student, Nattering Nick, badgered me into my office, following me in uninvited after I unlocked the door and while I was trying to set down my bags and take off my coat, rambling the entire time about his personal problems without any clue that he was talking to an actual human being who at that moment was attempting to breathe. Seriously Sad Sarah followed me into the bathroom later in the day and would have followed me right into the stall, I'm convinced, had I not shut the stall door in her face.  That's when she realized, momentarily, what she'd done.  That didn't stop her from talking nonstop while I emptied my bladder.  I declined to respond.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

It's Not Quite the Dog Ate My Homework...But....

So, I haven't posted in forever, because I am too busy hating my life. However, I found time for this: just wanted to see if anyone has ever gotten this excuse before, because it completely flabbergasted me.

A student emailed me the night before class to say: "Hi prof, the dryer in the dorm is broken so i can't dry my clothes and literally don't have athing to wear so will not be in class tomorrow."

I haven't even replied back, because I'm afraid my response will be so vitriolic, nay, so nuclear-scorch-level sarcastic, that the mere act of the student opening my email will cause their laptop, and more importantly, their FACE, to burn right off in a glorious fireball.

Rhonda in Rochester With A Speedy Rant!

I have one freshman class that has struggled a bit all term. They begged me last week for a complete class period where they could "casually" and "without pressure" discuss their semester-long project. They didn't want a lecture or assignment or instructions.

Their stress level was SO high. They thought working in small groups sounded good, and after some convincing, I acquiesced.

There are 38 people currently registered in my class. By an overwhelming show of hands I delayed our normal schedule to fit in this special day. I told them they could do their small groups, share in-progress projects, just talk about what they had left to do, etc.

So that day was yesterday.

38 students registered.

Counting me, how many people do you think were in that room?

a) 39!
b) 30?
c) for the love of God not less than 20!!
d) 4, it couldn't have been 4, could it?

Yes it was.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Just Leave, Already!

I find it's a nice
place to finish
my Sudoku.
I've never had this happen before, and I am confused. Four students in two sections dropped the class three weeks ago (because I told them they had no statistical chance of passing) but they continue to attend. Three OTHERS are getting solid Fs with no chance of passing, and they, too, keep coming (they SHOULD HAVE dropped the class, but didn't).

These students haven't been submitting any work all quarter (hence the need to drop), but they keep coming to class. They participate in discussions when they can (since they don't read, their participation is limited to general comments), they don't seem to have a poor attitude about being there, and they keep coming. One asked permission to keep coming, claiming that he needed the structure to his day or else he would sleep all day. The others just keep showing up. When I told them that in college they don't have to keep coming, they shrugged and said, "We know." Some of them claimed they just enjoyed the class and wanted to keep coming. One comes and works on other homework (quietly, in the back row). One said she was embarrassed for her friends to find out that she had dropped and asked if she could keep coming so they wouldn't find out.

What do you make of this? Are they secretly hoping that by coming to class faithfully, I'll just pass them? Do they really not GET that they don't have to keep coming after they've dropped a class, or if there is no hope of passing? I'm thoroughly perplexed by this.

Since It Appears the Mods Have Killed Off Flashbacks, Here's One I Like. From Seven Years Ago on RYS!


Somebody Fresh Out of a Faculty Meeting Wants to Get a Little Something Off His Chest - We Hope He Doesn't Have a Weapon

I do my best to be a good doobie. But after 6 years of this SHIT I'm fed up. I get tired of people complaining about the students when it's the other faculty that makes this job such a trial.

C, you are a social misft, a gigantic idiot, who can fill up space and time with your blathering. I don't care what you know about quantum macroeconomic theory - or whatever - and your "reflections" on that shit just makes me want to get after you with my tennis racket.

S, you are our fearful leader, and your days are numbered. I can't stand how you cherry pick the majors for yourself, huddle together with your sycophants and favorites, and then look down your nose at any junior faculty who deigns to want to be involved in the life of the department. Why don't you go home to your rich real estate mogul husband and drink yourself even dumber than you are already.

C#2, I know you think that bullshit publishing house is really something, but we all know it's half an inch removed from being a subsidy press. You can print out your press releases all day, but we all know you wrote them yourself, and nobody - but nobody - gets to write that their readers are "waiting breathlessly" for a new tome.

M, you can stay on the 4th floor please. I don't want any Earl Grey tea. I don't want to hear how your tenure hearing was fixed. If you don't get it next month, it will because you're a daft loudmouth.

G, there's a reason why your classes are scheduled at night. The fright of you in daytime is too much for our freshmen weak hearts.

Surly's slimy blurter

In the comments to a recent post, Surly Temple's excellent rant brought some of my own students to mind. I hope she doesn't mind if I turn it into a post unto itself.

 Surly wrote:  
I have a (HS) student who is distracted and distracting during class, often blurting OVER me while I'm talking and constantly trying to hijack the discussion with irrelevant personal anecdotes. He's also the kind of student we describe as "slimy": smart enough to behave in school and around adults, but sketchy and unethical everywhere else.

At the end of every class (and we meet daily, so I mean Every. Single. Class.) on his way out he turns to me, smiles, and says "Thank you! Have a great day!" Every time it happens, I feel icky and manipulated. Except that he's a callow teenager who is about as good at manipulation as he is at taking tests, so it's more the ickiness of someone *trying* to manipulate you and thinking he's getting away with it.
Ah, yes. I've been trying to think of a good alliterative moniker for this archetype. I have two exemplars right now, in different classes, so I see one or the other Every. Single. Day.

Big Ol' Doofus is distracting, but his heart is on his sleeve. He means well but just hasn't grown up yet. All I have to say is, "Naaaaame?" and he laughs and says he's sorry and then raises his hand appropriately for up to 10 whole minutes at a time. Then he finishes up class with a cheerful, "Catch ya next time, Doc!" Yes, Doofus I can chuckle about.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Nice Try, Nadine

So.  This past week was Spring Break, and I have an essay due Monday at 11am.  I reminded them up the ass about this.  I have story boarded the damn essay in class in such a way that if Stella, bless her, knew where I lived, she'd pay Strelly to blow up my house.  I asked for drafts from the beginning, but so many had not sent them to me by the beginning of Spring break that I made them one last deal:

I told them if they e-mailed me their drafts by Monday, 11:59am, I'd look at them over the break.  8 did this.  Nadine was the last one to e-mail me something.  I admit I did not specify when, exactly, I would look at them.  I looked at Nadine's (the last one I received at exactly 11:59pm) on Friday morning at around 1am, before taking off for Boston for an overnighter with my 15 year old daughter (we had a blast!) at a more reasonable hour on Friday.  Nadine did not send me anything----she sent me a blank document. I e-mailed her and told her to send it to me pronto and I'd look at it in the morning on Saturday as I would be away from the computer all day on Friday.

Encomium of Composition Faculty

There but for the grace of [deity/ordering concept of choice] go I.

I am on batch #3 of written assignments, just little three/four-page essays that should implement a basic approach in my home discipline of History and Theory of Small Rodent Material Culture. I simply want 'real' essays, with, like, a point (thesis) that is hopefully made clear (in something like a statement) in a nice first paragraph (introduction) with some sort of flow and structure and transitions and a conclusion that concludes that shit. An essay, you know? Grading these is like. . . Ugh. I'd seriously rather go to the dentist for a root canal. This is by far my least favorite aspect of my job (especially with the "But this isn't an English class!" that follows. Oh? What language are you and I speaking in here? (when I say it in my head  sounds like Samuel L. Jackson, but in reality it sounds like Yoda). I mean, if I could ditch this requirement for them, I would. But the dears DO need the practice before being trainwrecks in upper div courses.

Anyway! My point!

I. Can. Not. IMAGINE! dealing with student composition as my number one thing. I know we do our exasperated, "My God, what are they teaching you over in English 100?!", but, seriously. Ya'll are saints.

Did you have any idea what you were in for? Were you planning to teach Middle English epic poetry or Victorian Lit and seminars on Wilkie or late medieval women's mystic literature? Were you in love with Rossetti and the PRB, or did you want the freedom to publish your experimental concrete poetry, or did you think that interacting with the Youth would inspire verisimilitude in your novels and your scripts, and this fell on you, dreams slowly crushed to bits over a sequence of MLA interviews, but at least it pays the bills, kinda? Or are you really that philanthropic?

In any case, a Pádraig's toast in appreciation and sympathy to the English Comp martyrs. Here's to the Comp instructors! May you be in heaven for a full half hour before the devil knows you're dead, and may you be on spring break for a full half week before the department chair knows you've left the office.

Ignoring the Prof. Sent in By Vog3lfr3i.

I don't really mind them not coming to class. I still get paid. And if someone can learn to apply the Fundamental Theorem of Gerbology on their own, why should they have to sit with everyone else? I know I needed a lot of help with that way back when, but some of them are undoubtedly quite intelligent.

And with the mid-semester break coming up, a few decided to go home a few days early and how can I fault someone who loves his parents so much? Just don't let mommy call me about that test on the material missed.

Don't really mind them texting or being 'absent' in any way that doesn't knock me off my game or make it difficult for others to see or hear the lecture. If the Fundamental Theorem doesn't interest you, I'm not sure how to make you care.

I do try to come up with interesting examples of applications and stress how amazing it is that while an individual gerbil behaves quite randomly an infinite number of gerbils would behave in quite predictable ways.

But I don't get the point of going through all the trouble of coming to class if you are not going to try to pay attention. And if the way you don't pay attention distracts others, then wouldn't it be for the better good if you just stayed home?

Now there's a study with numbers and everything that confirms what many of us have tried to tell them.

Stay home if you don't care to listen. I don't take attendance. Someone told me that you are adults. But if you come to class, don't bring an entertainment system with you.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

For Fab

Why we love students...
I'm sick, it's cold and rain-snowing out, and I'm trying to wrap up course grades for an online session.  This is a busy time for me, of course, because all of a sudden everyone cares so very deeply about their grades on every little goddamn assignment dating back ten weeks that they just have to contact me now, the day after the course ended.  Because, you know, "failure is not an option" and they "worked so hard,"  blah, blah, blah, insert the typical cliches.

Anyway, so I get an e-mail from Plagiarist Petunia, who six weeks ago lifted an "essay" in its entirety from a general-info web site, pasted it into a Word doc, put her name on it, and sent it in.  I gave her a 0 for the assignment and an F for the course.  Petunia says that there is "no excuse" for what she did, and she was "clearly wrong."  Could I "please just reconsider" and let her pass the course?  She "can't afford" to take it again.

Never mind the moral hypocrisy, the patent BS about money (she can afford to take the class again, but her scholarship doesn't pay for Fs, so she's going to have to pay for this class).  All of that is just par-for the-course nonsense.  The thing that pissed me off was that Petunia, like many of her classmates tend to do, signed off with the following:

"Have a blessed day!"

I'm trying to articulate why that phrase irritates me so much that I want to reach through the computer and slap their blessed little faces.  Is she trying to tell me that Jesus would have given her a second chance?  Why does this particular sign-off so often conclude e-mails that are petulant and inappropriate, or asking for completely unreasonable "favors"?

I don't know, man.  Maybe beer knows the answer. I'll give beer a try.


Wait, is the compound on a holiday?

You mean there are no posts today?

Cal didn't do a boring vidshizzle?

Leslie didn't get a Crampicle link from someone?

Nobody quit the page?

Yvonne Strahovski wasn't on TV anywhere?

Nobody's grading inane essays at home and finding a funny line?

Maybe it is a holiday.

No posts on Saturday, I guess.

Except for this one.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Dreaded LOR. (Letter of Recommendation.)

I had her last year in my Intro to Freshman Hamsterology class.  Sullen, angry, often disruptive. Intelligent but troubled, serious problems with authority, saw me as a daddy-figure to rebel against.

I wouldn't say I disliked her, since she kind of reminded me of a younger me, but she made the class a hell of a lot harder than it needed to be for me and her and everyone else.

So this shows up in my mailbox:
"Dear Professor Chiltepin.  I was wondering if you had the time to maybe write me a letter of recommendation. You're the best professor I've ever had, and I learned so much from you.  I'd really appreciate it!"

No indication for what, or when it was needed, but most importantly --



Okay, here goes:

To Whom It May Concern:
Susie attended class regularly and on time.  She participated in discussion and contributed valuable insights.  Her insights would have been more valuable if she had read the assigned reading.
She contributed to other students' education by loudly and regularly explaining "what a joke" higher education was, and flouting the professor's authority at every turn.  She offered helpful advice on everything from the professor's handwriting to his wardrobe.  She was driven in class, even aggressive, even confrontational, even mean.
She exhibited creativity by never following formatting requirements, once turning in an in-class writing assignment on a used napkin.
Someday, I am sure, Susie will grow up.  That hasn't happened yet, though, so if you are looking to hire an adult you may wish to wait before you send Susie down to talk bennies with HR.
Prof. Chiltepin

Brief, totally bias rant.

Grading papers. The straw.

Memo of the day to students, everywhere:

There, I feel better now.

Also: "Unique." "Random."

Is it too early to drink?

The Unnecessary Agony of Student Evaluations. From the Crampicle.

Hey there, cats and kittens, Heywood from Henderson comin’ atcha with some student evaluation misery!

They suck. We know they suck. The students know they suck FOR US. The admins continue to fellate the student evaluation philosophy with the fervor of a five-dollar whore the day before the rent’s due. This is preaching to the choir, but everybody needs a little gospel to keep the faith alive.
Student evaluations can be either the most painful or falsely ego-boosting things we faculty members read. Sadly, they’re becoming more and more important as American universities veer toward private-enterprise models of educational management. Based on the concept of the customer survey, they have been taken public by a range of Web sites, most famously Rate My Professors.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Funded Research Misery (and thoughts on the value of humanities methods of analysis)

[Okay, let me give this a shot.]  This article (on questions raised about an article published in Nature, and the suicide of one scientist involved, and firing of another) made me think about the conversation Cal began a few days ago, which ended up touching on a number of things, including the relative value (by various measures) of humanities vs. science methods of inquiry/analysis (the social sciences got sort of left out, I think, or maybe we were really talking about quantitative vs. qualitative methods).

One thought: I'm really glad no one is sending me emails like the one from an NIH administrator quoted in the article:
A few years later, another deadline was looming, and Elise Feingold, an NIH administrator, wanted to know what the lab had accomplished.
“I do need some kind of progress report on what you have been doing the past two years . . . and what you think you can accomplish with these funds,” she wrote to Boeke.
I do get indirectly accused of wasting taxpayer money by not teaching larger classes now and then, but the pressure is never quite this direct.  As a taxpayer myself, I'd far rather "waste" money on inconclusive or negative results (which may be part of a necessary process of elimination) than have researchers pressured in this way.

Better luck next time

"After careful consideration, we have extended an offer to another candidate, who has accepted. This was a very difficult decision. We appreciate your time, and wish you all the best in your future endeavors."

Cal, will you hire me to wrangle the llamas at the compound? I can feed the duck. Or cook it. Or just hold it and cry.


from your CM colleagues...

What are edu-critters on ... ?

... and can I have some?

I've just spent the past couple of months trying to recapture the enthusiasm I had in the youth of my teaching career. I signed up for as many webinars as feasible, hoping to come away with some inspirational nugget or new approach to the process so my inclination to reach for adult beverage would stop trying to merge with my morning coffee.

Of course, most of these "professional development" workshops were designed and presented by edu-critters. But for the love of Dog, I had forgotten how totally full of themselves they are.

Did you know that if you just employ rubrics, all your students will start writing at grade level? Apparently, all the darlings needed was a reminder that exemplary work follows the instructions and has a minimum of grammatical errors.But of course you should also take class time to introduce rubrics to your students and help them become proficient in their use.

Or if you add a wiki to your course, like magic, students will become engaged and energized. Suddenly they will yearn to learn (yep, the presenter said that ... repeatedly). Oh, but don't forget, you'll need to set aside a couple of classes to properly indoctrinate, er, educate students on their use.

Better yet, everyone sign on to peer assessment -- what most of us used to call group work. Except now, the darling flakes get to decide the quality of each other's work. From the generation of "great post," there's no way this could go wrong, right? Big hook! This will reduce the amount of grading the instructor will need to do but, of course, you'll need a couple of class sessions to get everyone up to speed!

The pervasive theme to all of these presentations was the unflappable assurance that, done properly, every one of these techniques will universally revolutionize the success of your students.

From where does such unabashed hubris rise?

Until I figure that out, pass my Irish coffee!

Google Ditched the Wrong Product

Let me start by reporting that it has been a very good week for the Twitter. Between the Pope, political news, Pi day (holla CM mathies!), and the horrifying/hilarious stream of retweets from @CollegeMisery, something happened that might have threatened to singlehandedly break the Internet had it occurred on a slower news day: Google Reader will be phased out.

Gentle readers, I don’t use Google Reader. Frankly, I don’t even really understand what it does. The only reason I am aware of it at all is because yesterday my Twitter feed let out a collective yelp at its imminent passing. While my Tweeps pour one out for their departed Reader, for Google's next trick, I want them to consider eliminating our truest frenemy—I speak, dear CMers, of Google Scholar.

Oh, Google Scholar, you shine with a veneer of seriousness that our flakes just can’t resist. Your menu icon shows an old-school model of an atom. The lowercase g in my browser tab sports a jaunty little mortarboard. Your motto, “Stand on the shoulders of giants” beckons in go-ahead green below the eager, blinking search-box cursor.

It's such a shame that the flakes don’t have a clue how to use you.

A Big Thirsty From Leona From Loveland.

I'm sure I'll long for this problem in 20 years, but right now, it's quite annoying. Apparently I look young. I look too young to be a professor. I'm out of my 20s, and I don't dress like a kid, and I have some grays and smile lines. But I guess I still look young.

Prospective students visiting my class ask where the professor is. I'm the dressed-up person setting up a Power Point presentation at the front of the room.
I checked some books out of the library, and the student worker looked at my faculty ID card (no photo) and asked if I was checking the books out for my mother. "Like, you teach here? Or your mom teaches here?"

I sat in on a colleague's class, and an undergraduate tried to hit on me. "Wow. I've never seen you in Dr. Feminist's class before." Probably because I'm usually teaching another class on the other side of campus during this time.

Q: Do I start dressing like an old lady? Do I wear suits? Do I get a gray wig? Or do I just accept it and enjoy it?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Baffled by Irregularity.

Has anyone ever tried making up a schedule for posting?

I'm a voracious column reader, online, papers, mags. I love knowing that my favorites are coming around, whether it be Time magazine or

Would there be anyone interested in committing to posting once a week or month or something.

RGM, would that be allowed?

Some Beach...

Hello to all of my fellow CM'rs! I send my greetings from the Administration Building of an empty campus in Podunk, Nowhere. For all you faculty types, I hope that you are enjoying your much deserved Spring Breaks. You have certainly earned it, and then some. I hope the beer is cold, the margaritas have little umbrellas, and that the sun and companionship is warm.

I'm a long time RYS and CM lurker. I even remembered to include in a crappy graphic!  I have seen stuff. I wouldn't recommend all of it. I've worn a lot of hats in my time. I was a snowflake, student assistant, gradflake, TA, adjunct, and now have turned to the dark side of the Force, and have returned to the ranks of full-time junior university administration. I assess stuff. You know, things. Yep I'm THAT person.  Which means that while you are hopefully on a warm beach, I'm here in my office overlooking an empty campus, dreaming of a cold beverage and warm sand. At least parking was a breeze today...


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Snow Drifts Are Rising. A Report From the Real World By Cracker Jack.

A bit of terror from the world beyond the academy.

I work in that place you send all your students -- you know, where "if you act like that in the 'real world', we'll see how you fare"?

Today some HR person put up a big sign showing a bare tree and the words "Recognize your colleagues. Say thanks for a job well done." Attached at the bottom of the sign was a pouch with pieces of paper upon which one could identify their colleague and why they are so wonderful along with tape to affix it to the tree.

Each piece of paper? A snowflake.

Winter is coming.