Monday, April 25, 2011

Is this the way it should be?

It is my last term at an institution I have taught at for nearly seven years. I feel like I was a baby when I started working here (professionally speaking I suppose that I was).

I have already formally resigned and set a stop date, and that means that it wouldn't really make any sense to fire me. So what does this mean?

Well, it could mean that I could break all of the crazy arcane rules this place has about dress code and faculty behavior. But, instead, it means pretty much the same thing it meant the last time I quit a teaching job and new it was my "last term."

Over the years I've worked here our curriculum has grown stricter and stricter. More and more we have to grade the way we're told, rather than whatever way seems right. Consequently, the best thing about this term is knowing that I'm teaching without being reviewed, grading without consequences, and I can, quite honestly, shoot the curriculum to hell and back and nobody will care.

Maybe it would be in the spirit of this site to announce that I am therefore doing NOTHING in class this term, but that's not true. Instead, I'm teaching to the students' potential (quite high) instead of the curriculum (quite low). We're doing awesome fun projects. We're running all over the school really enjoying the subject and turning every spare corner of the place into classroom space.

In other words--I'm teaching the way I really want to. I imagine that this is what tenure is like (shut up, I'm sure it sucks too).

In the past few years I've seen many people resign from a number of different schools in many different fields and they nearly all do the same thing that last term--they teach the class they've wished they were teaching for years.

There is something terribly broken about our current views of standardized curriculum and assessment when every term can't be just like this. Is everyone a good teacher? No! But I bet many of us would be better teachers if given a little more leeway in what we teach. Standardized testing and curriculum has killed K-12 education (at least, most people seem to think it has). Why do we assume it's right for college?


  1. This is an excellent illustration why all of this talk about "standardization" and "accountability" is going to destroy higher education. I am tired of admins telling us we're not to be trusted. I've blogged about it myself:

    More and more, admins are sending the message to students that we, the professors/instructors, are incompetent. Is it any wonder that we're then treated like crap by said students?

  2. Start at the new place the way you ended here. Congratulations on your new position too!

  3. As a young'n myself, I'm pleased to see someone who's experienced in the system also dissatisfied with the status quo.

    Congratulations on enjoying your 'last' term and let me second Ovreductd's recommendation on starting off your next post just like you've ended this one.

  4. Yes, this is the way it should be, and, to be fair, for all my complaints about my situation, this is the way it is at my institution. The comp faculty may all teach far too many sections per semester of the same few courses, over and over again, but we do have considerable autonomy in deciding how we meet some basic (and well-thought-out) course objectives, and we take full advantage of that, and experiment regularly, and freely. In fact, the freedom to experiment is probably the main thing keeping a number of us sane.

    We are getting pressure from the state higher ed governing body to do more assessment of various kinds, but, so far, we're also being allowed some chance for input on what will be assessed and how. At the moment, I'm leaning in the direction of thinking that the process could actually generate some interesting conversations, but I realize the dangers, so check back with me in a few years to see how it's actually going.

    As for the dress code, definitely break that -- preferably in subtle ways that have people scratching their heads and wondering if it's worth saying anything.

  5. I'd sure like to hear more about the dress and behavior codes imposed on you.

    Don't be a such a tease!

  6. The dress and behavior codes are really non-subtle. In fact, it's pretty hard to say what they are without alerting anybody who has ever worked for us exactly who I'm talking about.

    Basically, we wear business professional every day. At least, women do. Men aren't really required to follow it. If I show cleavage, I could be written up or fired. If I swear, I could be written up or fired. I had a very "pieces of flair" moment with my boss earlier this year where I was told that I was meeting all the requirements of the dress code, but they wanted me to do "more." I am, as a parting gift, considering a copy of Office Space.

  7. Institutions that expect business professional on a Salvation Army paycheck are truly evil.


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