Sunday, December 28, 2014

An Open Note From Prof. Chiltepin. POW.

I wanted to respond to a few comments, but I wanted to do it in a post.

I don't read CM because I hate my job. I actually really love my job, and could never imagine myself doing anything else. I read CM because I know that there are things wrong with the culture of what we do, and we're not allowed to talk about them anywhere but here. If I say "Hey, my students are often lazy," I'm accused of hating my students. If I say "administrators are screwing us," I get accused of trying to unionize. And if I say "sometimes, the most rewarding and valuable parts of this job are subsumed under a slough of stupid bureaucracy," I get told to stop complaining.

"Golly, teaching is so noble." Yeah, it is. It's goddamned noble to protect and preserve and increase human knowledge, to transmit it to a new generation. I am absolutely, honestly thrilled that I get to be part of that endeavor. But if you think that's all you're doing, well, maybe you should find yourself a better therapist. I like sherry. A good sherry is really, really good, but if someone is standing in my kitchen and pissing in my sherry, I'm going to say "Hey, man, stop pissing in my sherry, okay?" I'm not saying that sherry in general isn't good just because I'm pointing out that someone is pissing in mine. I'm saying, hey, man, stop pissing in my sherry. Pretending that higher education is above reproach because what we're doing is so noble -- that's the bullshit my administration pulls to tell us to shut up about the fact that they're stealing from our students and us.

"Love it or leave it" is stupid advice, as stupid and pernicious as any advice could be. If you love it, you stay. And if there are things that you don't love, things that are rotten, you point them out in the hopes that they might change. And if they can't change, you complain with friends and share your misery in order to lighten it.

And yeah, the blog has been a little slow lately. That could be because, you know, it's Christmas. Crazy, I know.


  1. Hear, hear!

    Especially: "That could be because, you know, it's Christmas. "

  2. I can't figure out why we, of all people, aren't allowed to complain about our jobs. Even ignoring the trolls (yes, let's do that), some people still believe we should love every minute of being a prof. Maybe they think we "get the summer off" or some bullshit like that. Maybe they think that the nobility of our work - a view I agree with - supersedes the right to complain about it. Our jobs can be broken down into roles of manager, counselor, writer, office worker, public speaker and technician. Every one of those professions deserves to gripe and so do we.

  3. Well said, PC, and the sherry metaphor is perfect.

  4. I, too, love the sherry analogy. How else do we improve if not to point out the problems? Not pointing out flaws or expecting those in Education to be silent about the problems and concerns is what drives a cultist mentality...

  5. POW!
    (both Post of the Week, and a Batman-like smack around the chops to the trolls)

  6. Loving this. Thank you! And may everyone's New Year be full of curious, hard-working students!

    In a related note, my UPS delivery of a rainbow unicorn is only days away.

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  8. Prof. Chiltepin, I agree wholehearedly, as do apparently many others. This blog and others like it are clear evidence of the passion we have for our jobs and for the people we encounter while in it.

    If we didn't care, if we thought we and our jobs were already perfect, or if we didn't feel we could do anything to improve things, then we wouldn't need this blog. But this blog is frequented by professionals who can see and want to fix the warts, and who aren't so overcome by learned helplessness that they just punch the clock and cash the checks. I need to know that people like that are out there. And as a practical matter, I've found the advice of the kittens-and-unicorns cult to be far less applicable to reality than the advice given here.

  9. I agree this is well said PC ... and I used to agree with the sentiment ...

    I remember when the coming of a new semester still brought that charge of hopeful inspiration. An echo of the enthusiasm that came during my own studies when each semester brought a new slate of classes, a representation of new challenges and knowledge to come.

    But living the life of the accursed adjunct, the grind has ground me down.

    I have benefited from the ascendancy of online programs because having such assignments as reduced the need for child care which I couldn't afford otherwise. I used to talk up how online courses didn't allow anyone to slack off and hide in the back of the room, which is still mostly true. But it also means that every term, like the composition teachers, I am faced with a sizable group who are challenged by the basics of grammar and structure. Fine tuning like where do the italics stop in an APA citation or the difference between a colon and semi-colon are pushed to the way back when I am regularly inundated with incomplete sentences, improper subject/verb agreement, and the inability to distinguish between "loose" and "lose." Oh, and let's not forget an overwhelming amount of students who cannot grasp the instructions: "Do not simply summarize the assigned reading in your answer. At least one scholarly source must be used to contribute new information to the discussion."

    But then, the face-to-face energy in on-campus assignments should help inoculate against the worst online symptoms, right? Well, the writing isn't much better, but at least I'm not slogging through 50 - 100 short-to-medium sized writing samples every week. No, on campus, the challenge is FINDING that proverbial energy. In a particularly ironic twist, online course work is old-school - here's the information, digest, and apply. There is a notable lack of bells and/or whistles. Face-to-face is a relentless pursuit of finding the best packaging so as to "engage" the students. I'm half-a-step away from donning pasties and twirling flaming batons in an attempt to get more than two students in the room to at least pretend there's something being transacted in the room. Stand-up comics dread the "dead room"? I feel your pain - incessantly - Sparky.

    Equally soul sucking in both venues - the lip service students pay on evaluations to how important receiving feedback is only to utterly ignore it when they get it. Nothing is quite as motivational as regular doses of irrefutable evidence that the very core purpose of your presence is, forget disrespected, flat out disregarded. "Just rubber stamp this assignment with your self-of-steam reminder of how awesome I am and lets move me one step closer to that piece of paper you're blocking my access to."

    Of course, as an adjunct, I can say none of this aloud. Hell, I fear even thinking it lest my cheery facade show a crack of discontent. Simple EMail replies or assignment comments can trigger full-blown anxiety attacks. "I know I HAVE to say something here, but it can't be too angry, or challenging, or critical, or ... hell ... truthful, lest that been the final (silent) nail in the 'works well with others' coffin."

    At least I have the summers off. Yeah, right, in what fantasy? The modern education machine is a 24/7/365 industry. I refused to turn on my computer Christmas Day, not out of any particular reverence for the holiday, or even to spend time with the family, but because it is the ONE day/year where even the Scroogiest of adminflakes has to begrudgingly capitulate to downtime. (Of course, that didn't stop one program from scheduling no break in its winter session.)

    I should get a new job, no kidding.
    For the love of Dog, how?
    We are firmly entrenched in the New Economy.
    The work ethic has been retooled to "Be grateful you even HAVE a job, so STFU!"

    I used to look forward to the new term. Now it feels more like having my parole denied - again.

    1. A & S:

      I know only too well what you're going through. I endured several years of something similar.

      My situation was made worse by certain colleagues and, later, administrators who thought my being hired was the biggest mistake in the institution's history. They never failed to remind me of that. Those same administrators bullied and harassed me for most of my time there and, unfortunately, anything that happened with my students was held against me. That was only an excuse, as I believe my tormentors had personal motives for their behaviour.

      I quit my teaching job more than a dozen years ago. It took me about 2 years for me to be rid of all the stress that had accumulated during the time I was teaching.

      I used to think that to teach was to do something noble. After what I had to put up with, both from students and administrators, I beg to differ.

    2. A&S you have elucidated so much of what I hear from the part-timers at my college. We are destroying the profession on the backs of amazing folks like you. You deserve better.

  10. "Just rubber stamp this assignment with your self-of-steam reminder of how awesome I am and lets move me one step closer to that piece of paper you're blocking my access to."
    Painfully accurate (missing apostrophe and all).

  11. Amen (to the post and the comments, especially A&S's and Hiram's).

    And now I'm going to go back to staying off the internet for a while, because I'm lucky enough to have a job that allows for that, and because, yes, it's Christmas (week), and because my brain needs the rest/rewiring.