Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Tina from Texarkana On Schedules.

As the fall begins, the misery has already accumulated like the leaves falling in the forest.

But I will start with the most painful: my schedule. Despite having organized a (as much as possible) reasonable teaching schedule, it all fell apart. The reasons are numerous and, sadly, beyond my control: new registration policies, overall low enrollment, new deans, and some poor decisions by the administrative layer.

My schedule now resembles that of an adjunct, not a tenured professor. I have 5 classes in every possible configuration: super large early morning lecture, followed by mid day lecture, followed by very late night class followed by a small morning lecture, and the week capped by a long practical afternoon course. And 5 separate preparations in 3 different subjects and with 3 new preparations. (The dean, worried about an adjunct's low teaching load, asked me to take on an impossible schedule: late night class followed by early am class. I declined, and was forced to opt for a slightly less impossible schedule. ) My schedule was finally resolved on the Friday before classes start. This in turn made my syllabi writing stressful, and fraught with errors.

As my spouse likes to point out to me, I am no longer 20. That one twenty hour day (due to commute issues) is taking the toll. I forget to copy and distribute important assignments to class. I spent 15 minutes trying to remove a DVD from a laptop that I had actually never inserted. I put the butter in the silverware drawer.

Each day brings a new task via my email box, while I grapple with immediate crisis, such as misbehaving students, and missing textbooks, which the bookstore failed to order.

My list of things I want and need to accomplish (in hopes of avoiding this situation again) is turning yellow on the cork board above my desk. Hopefully, I am also not turning yellow, but my hair is quickly turning white. I am telling myself these white hairs are mere highlights.

21 comments:

  1. Say, perhaps the 20-hour day could make you so exhausted, you might cause an accident that kills someone, preferably one of the goons who gave you this schedule? Seriously: this probably violates some kind of workplace safety rules, and in an actionable way.

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    1. Whenever I had a similarly ridiculous schedule, which sometimes started after 0700 in the morning, I was told that it was the best the timetabling office could do. Apparently, our department, with the variety of service courses that were needed, was the hardest one to draw up schedules for.

      It didn't surprise me, though. In all the years I taught at that institution, I always was left with the impression that the timetabling office was hopelessly inept. It never issued timetables until it knew how many students have registered--something about the efficient use of resources, or some such thing. That meant that none of the teaching staff knew what their schedules were until we came back from summer break.

      By comparison, my university alma mater, which was on the other side of the city, issued timetables for each term during the latter half of the *previous* term. That place had at least 4 times as many students and, despite some last-minute changes, there were few problems. Go figure.

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    2. It may actually be easier at a larger institution, because there are both more sections and more faculty members involved. My school is pretty big, and, while I teach a 4/4 load, I usually have 2-3 preps (3 only if I get a chance to teach lit rather than comp.), and a pretty manageable schedule, which I know well in advance. (Inertia isn't the only reason I haven't quit my job, though it does play a role. If I'm going to teach 4/4, I really don't want to have to deal with the kind of schedule, or scheduling and rescheduling nonsense, Tina describes).

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  2. Kimmie of the Kensington KimmiesSeptember 16, 2014 at 9:05 AM

    I have had similar schedules, but never quite that awful. It's the casual and ignorant treatment of faculty that makes so much of the rest of our jobs a chore.

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  3. Ugh. I haven't had that kind of a schedule in many years (not since CC days when I was on three campuses), but I remember feeling completely devalued and underappreciated. I'm so sorry. Any chance you have time to see a mental health professional so you can at least document the loss of your youth for next semester so they don't do this again?

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  4. Years ago, I once offered to take on a schedule like yours--but only because I knew that my chair, my dean, and my provost at the time would "pay me back." And they did. Yet I wouldn't trust the current dean and provost. I hope you get some type of real pay back other than a quick email message thanking you for being "a team player."

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    1. Sometimes I ended up with a lousy schedule like the one I mentioned earlier. One of the departmental administrators had an intense disliking for me and he was the one who worked with the timetabling office to determine everyone's schedule.

      It came as no surprise that for a number of years, I ended up with early morning sessions. Talk about payback....

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    2. My one Prof took an undesirable schedule and apparently, according to their union contract, the Dean and administration are not allowed to provide monetary compensation for things like that, but they ARE allowed to provide non-monetary perks. The perks were:

      -Each day, an administrative assistant from the office would get my professor coffee no matter where they were in the building up to two times per day.

      -My professor was allowed to take whatever room in the building that they wanted for their courses.

      -They were not required to attend department meetings so long as they got someone to record it for them.

      -They were entitled to one free meal equivalency, on the Dean's tab, per day. A union rep apparently thought that this was a violation of the contract, but neither they nor anybody else cared enough to do anything about it.

      -They were allowed to pick their exam days.

      And, like, these were not unofficial arrangements. These were added via sub-contract. This shit was in writing. It was all above board and legally enforceable.

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    3. Those were the days my friend: when admins did everything above board and legally enforceable. Ah........

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    4. At my university, it really depends on what school the professor is at, based on my understanding. The Hamster School of Wheel-Running, where I study, is apparently very competitive. In every regard. And our Dean is revered by everyone in our College (students, faculty, staff) as some kind of messiah. Which isn't far from the truth.

      Everyone remembers the story of Dean Awesome: Dean Awesome was made Dean of the Hamster School of Wheel-Running. He saw it and knew that it was good. But he also knew that it could be better. He beseeched his Father, President So-So;

      "Oh, Father, grant that I may build a new building for the Hamster School of Wheel-Running, for thy current building doth creak too much and is strong in the ways of being decrepit and shitty."

      And President So-So replied "No. Thou shalt prosper with the building that thou haveth at present and I shall entertain the matter no further."

      So Dean Awesome went to the Great Wealthy Alumnus and sought funding from them. they agreed. And the Wealthy Alumnus struck the ground with his magic cane of success and spawned a stallion. He and Dean Awesome road off on the stallion and Dean Awesome demolished a building, designed a new Hamster College, and built it with his own two hands. And that's the story of how Dean Awesome, a Wealthy Alumnus, and their horse built our new building all by themselves.

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    5. When I asked a mentor-type what's the best way to get away with writing controversial stuff, I was told "Make friends with the friends of Mammon."

      I thought, How?

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  5. That sucks. Last year, I was able to organize the slickest schedule all year round. I had all of my classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Every Tuesday I would be thinking "Why?! Why did I do this?!" But then every Thursday night I would be thinking "Oh, right, this is why." This year? Not so much. God, it was so sweet while it lasted, though.

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  6. That sounds terrible. I hate working 12+hours days (just like pretty much everyone else). Be prepared to stand in front of a door, any door, and wonder what opens it - housekey? swipe card? parking validation? do I show my ID to the door? After a long day I've been known to stupidly show my ID to my front door and then stand there waiting for something to happen. Well, at least I've never tried sticking my key into the security guard's mouth (or worse).

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    1. Indeed. I know I've been working too many hours when I try to open my house door with my office key, or vice versa. Now that I have a car with one of those new-fangled electronic entry thingies, I'm sure I'll eventually try to open other doors with that, too.

      I haven't put the butter in the silverware drawer yet, but give me time.

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  7. In Starbucks terms, you're clopening. Maybe when they get around to fixing this for service workers (if they do), they'll do it for college proffies, too? (Nah, we're probably "exempt"). In any case, no, this is not a viable teaching schedule, for anybody, adjunct, full proffie, or anything in between. The New Faculty Majority's "faculty working conditions are student learning conditions" slogan applies here, I think.

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  8. Like Frod said: that's probably an actionable offense. They tried that on me once, and I bravely soldiered on, but I am not 20 any more, either. When a friend noted how tired I looked and I complained about my schedule, he sent me an email with the list of violations that this schedule had. I rewrote that into a nice little note to the scheduler and said: please, no more of this.

    This semester is a dream - no classes before 12, just 3 days I have to commute, nice classroom near my office, same classroom for all classes. WIN!

    [nice to be back at CM, BTW!]

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  9. I laughed, and wept at your responses. I often confuse office key with home key and car key. I avoid driving home this late, and am taking the very first bus to work and then the last bus home. The last bus home is full of office cleaners, and fast food workers. we are all subdued. i also have to do this because by the late hour of 11pm, there is nowhere to park in my 'hood. Or at leas nothing within a mile radius. Try explaining that to someone who didn't get that a 7-11 pm class followed by an 8 am class was a bad idea!

    My state is an at-will state with no collective bargaining ( unions) allowed. Believe me, I suggested a number of other options but was told take this or worse choice.

    Hearing people say this verges or is illegal interests. I'd like to know more.

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    1. It seems to me that, if they really need you to teach this sort of schedule, they ought to arrange some sort of on- or near-campus sleeping arrangements for the night between the late and early classes: a hotel room, or the use of guest suite in a dorm, or something along those lines.

      Even though there's no collective bargaining (don't you love the "right to work" concept?), do have a faculty senate or AAUP chapter or something along those lines? Or maybe an ombudsperson, or even someone in HR who deals with matters of health and safety? Even your health sciences faculty (should you have any -- doesn't everybody these days?) might have something to say about this.

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    2. I wish we had those solutions...but no. I have considered crashing in my office- buying a cot.

      Right now, I have pretty much written off Wednesdays...and Thursdays and Fridays and Saturdays.

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    3. Air mattresses can be pretty comfortable (and easy to store), and you wouldn't have to worry about the main potential downside of trying to sleep in your office: fear of getting caught by the cleaning and/or security crew. Getting caught would simply make your point.

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