Friday, December 24, 2010

Sometimes drinking on the job pays off

To say this term has been challenging at my college would be an extreme understatement. For the first time in over 20 years of teaching, half my courses had pass rates below 50%. (We are required to report those who drop in our pass rates as failures, which makes the numbers look even worse.) Most of my colleagues have reported this to be the worst semester they have ever experienced between the increased snowflakery, the poor attendance and grades that go along with said snowflakery, the new registration system, and the generally low morale caused by our budget crisis. Everyone is pretty much feeling like crap...except for one person.

Some of you may remember my post earlier in the term about Alcoholic Andrea. She came by my office right after finals to ask me yet another question about something she needed to do online. I was with another colleague who remarked afterward that she could smell Andrea before we could see her given that Andrea was wearing eau de distillery chased by a lame attempt to cover the smell with breath mints. She was in a fantastic mood. This was her best semester yet! The students were smart, she had over 80% pass rates in every class, everyone loved her, and she could hardly wait to see her student evaluations. In fact, she was sorry to see the semester end because it had been so incredible.

I really need to find out what she's drinking. Maybe Santa will put some in my stocking.

Photo courtesy of


  1. When you find out what it is, be sure to report it here. We might start a teaching revolution and bring education back from having one foot in the grave... Or, we can all get wasted and not even give a crap about education. It's a win-win as I see it!

    Mathsquatch out.

  2. I have to say that Earl Grey is not exactly doing it for me.

  3. I suggest you check Andrea's sauce for hallucinogens, since this was an unusually bad semester for me, too. What's -with- it, with these children? You'd think the bad economy would make them more focused, but I observe quite the opposite: they're more immature than ever!

  4. While it wasn't so bad for me in the sense that I did not head for the sauce after each class, I can't say the same for a few sections of pre-calc that I taught. I had, at best, a 45% pass rate in two particular sections and, in one section, it was quite evident by late October that students were dropping like flies. The remaining students were asking out loud "what's going on here?" and telling amusing stories about the looks on the faces of those students coming in to get a withdrawal form signed.

    What always amuses me, in terms of comments from students, is "I did well in HS on this subject, I don't know why I'm having such a hard time here?" This explains it all-the secondary schools are passing these kids along and we are the terminus, nowhere to go after us.

  5. My theory: Lots and lots of people returned to college (or started college) in fall 2009 because of the recession. What else were they going to do if they couldn't find jobs? They took their 10th grade optimism and flocked to campus. They struggled, floundered, and scrambled--anybody can survive a semester or two--but then fall 2010 was their last gasp as their attempts at being college material were utterly exhausted.

  6. Maybe there should be another viable option for young people between "college material" and "failure." I'm a big fan of Matthew Crawford's "Shop Class as Soulcraft" argument.

  7. I'm guessing she had generous helpings of vodka and denial.

  8. Totally out of thread:

    I like the Santa background; looks like something from a Rankin-Bass Christmas special, maybe "Santa Claus brings Christmas to the Zionists" or "The Great Santa-Rudolph Belch-off."


    Sparky Electroshock

  9. Lord Humungus has it absolutely correct: we are the terminus.

    I hear this from so many students every single semester: "We were never taught this..." So many of my students weren't on the college prep track to begin with--and they get to my class and are completely floored by what they're expected to know. Every year we admit more students in need of remediation (we had to add another section of our lowest-level, non-degree credit composition course). And my students will tell me point blank that their teachers didn't teach. WTF? And yet the D(rop)/W(ithdrawal)/F(ailure) rates are OUR problem...and then the jackwagons in that state legislature point to those rates and uses them to "prove" that we're not doing OUR jobs...Classic catch-22.


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