Monday, May 23, 2011

EMH Miserable and Reflecting

Allergy Warning:  May contain run-on sentences, and general ranting.

I don't know how much more of this I can take.  Frankly I just can't stand the bullshit anymore.  Having Asperger's and sociophobia doesn't help the situation either.

About a year ago, when I decided to leave California, I thought I would be leaving the educational arena for good.  One place had decided to let me go, and the other place resorted to a series of hostile evaluations until I finally decided to leave.  The institution where I had resigned also invited me to "return in 2013 when the economy is better."  After getting a stellar letter of recommendation from my Dean, I'm still not sure how to interpret things.  And again, I never involved my Star-Trek appreciation at either institution.

But then I landed this other teaching job after I moved.  I guess I just didn't get enough of the punishment the first two times.  Being too depressed and discouraged to search for a real job, I had resorted to selling arts & crafts at the flea-market.  Nobody purchased a thing.  I didn't even bother to search for a non-teaching job.  I mean the only options would have been McDonald's, the grocery store, or Ace Hardware.  Yeah, disaster waiting to happen.  I did McDonald's for a period of my life, but I can tell you that my skin crawls every time I think of having a manager shout at me for being too slow, or every time a customer demands something for free because they forgot to order it, or for ordering the sandwich and getting pissed because they forgot to mention that they wanted the value-meal (the same one's get pissed when you speak-up and ask them if they want the meal...).  And then they plead their case in front of a manager in order to have the manager loudly reprimand the employee in front of the customers.  I remember when I thought our society was civilized.

I do not think I am a nightmare teacher.  I just have eccentric ways of doing things.

I can tell you that when I worked for the golden arches, I thought that our managers were straight-up Looney Toons.  I wanted to believe that it was just the people they picked for the job, but apparently these guys are manufactured in a factory somewhere just specifically for McDonald's.  I can't go back.  I would rather go homeless.  If I had to do fast-food again, the swat team would probably have to be involved.

I never told any of my colleagues or students about my problems with Asperger's and sociophobia.  However, some of them picked up on it.  One student approached me after class with concerns that she felt I had PPD, since her son has it so that makes her an expert.  Another student approached me to tell me that she noticed that the students treat me terribly and that it's because I am "different".  I thought, wtf?!  And then she invited me to her church...  Now, just last month a student of mine approached me to share with me that her son was recently diagnosed with Asperger's and that she was doing a PowerPoint presentation on it for one of her other classes.  This also makes her an expert on it, as she pointed out that I have the symptoms.  Well, our class met again and she starts calling me things like "sport" and "sparky", rather than Prof. EMH.

Then there's the smart-ass colleague who went to graduate school with me and grade-grubbed the entire time.  This guy thinks that just because he carries a Bible around and smacked me with it, that I am the only person in the world who is not allowed to get angry.  He always tried to encourage me to befriend my instructors, take them out for coffee, but could not ever understand why that offended me.  When he was still an undergrad, he scored high on the Putnam Exam.  Consequently, he was loved by everyone and got whatever he wanted on a silver platter.  I remember his comments he made about the Master's Exam:  "Ya know, the Analysis Exam was pretty easy.  But the Abstract Algebra one?  I don't know, I just sorta wrote down a bunch of stuff that seemed true and I'm praying for the best."  He passed both tests the first try.  Then he went on to a Ph.D. program and flunked out of it when he found out that he couldn't make friends with his teachers.  Perhaps he would like to keep the integrity out of his Christianity.  But then that would be like removing all the blood from an organism.

So, here I am, another semester under my belt and wondering if there is even a little hope out there.  I am scheduled to teach for summer and fall, but I don't want to go back.  After having so many bad experiences with working with others, I am hoping for some kind of job that has minimal interaction with people.  A hologram can dream, but hopefully I can get some kind of data-entry job.  Sorry, but so far my experience with people is that they do nothing but nasty things to me and are all-around just not safe to be around.  If they can get you fired for not "hooking them up with fries and soda" (even though you will be fired for stealing) or for not doing their homework (they tell the administrator that their learning style is not compatible with yours), or if you accidentally let the word "Bible" slip out of your mouth in the tutoring-center and then some guy gets up and leaves glaring at you on his way out only to return five minutes later with an administrator who is "concerned about a safe environment" then I say that a safe work environment for MYSELF is long over-due.


  1. @EMH: Have you tried/considered online teaching? It's not perfect (and a lot of places will push you to do all kinds of things to "personalize" yourself to your students), but it is, well, disembodied, and, at the very least, you get some time to decide how to present yourself, and how to respond in various situations, and can take a (brief) break from interaction whenever you choose.

    I've just recently started teaching online, and, though I don't think I fall on the autism/Asperger's spectrum (I've taken some of the tests, and have concluded that I'm an introvert with some preference for logic over emotion, since I can read people and social cues reasonably well, though sometimes more in retrospect than in the moment), I've found I rather like it, precisely because I can deal with students one by one, and take a break for a few minutes any time I choose. Of course, the one-by-one part is inefficient, which means that the same-size class takes longer to teach, but, since I'm not nearly as exhausted by dealing with ideas (or even with written questions, even the fairly-stupid ones) as with trying to interact with 20+ people at once 4 times a day, it works out for me.

    If you're in a technical field, as seems to be the case, you really ought to be able to get professional work of some kind, in industry if not in teaching, at least when the economy picks up. The joke at my graduate school was that half the male residents of the graduate living quarters fell somewhere on the Aspergers' spectrum. That was an exaggeration, but it wasn't too far off.

    But avoiding customer-service jobs (craft markets, fast food) sounds like a very good idea for a whole bunch of reasons. I guess the question is whether teaching is inevitably a customer service job these days. If so, there's always the actuarial exams, or something else along those lines.

  2. This post was a lot about what you don't want to do. Here's a question: what DO you want to do?

    Answer that question, and then you have a starting point to develop some employment goals.

  3. There's a lot of hope out there, and I second WhatLadder's question: What do YOU want?

    As for the idiots with whom you are forced to interact, you have the right to tell them to mind their own business. That woman who thinks she's expert on PPD? "I'm sorry, but my private life is private. I'll see you next class."

    Grade-grubbing Bible-thumper? "I really don't wish to discuss [fill in the blank]. Have a good day."

    Seriously, just politely tell these people to piss off.

    One thing I think you should understand, though, is that you're not alone in receiving unsolicited advice. It's NOT because of what makes you unique that you receive this unwanted attention from these asswipes; it's because of them, and some need they're serving for themselves. Trust me when I say that they're not just pestering you.

    And another thing, students should adjust to your style of teaching or take the class with someone else. That's what I was taught many years ago as an undergrad.

    Chocolate, my friend. Chocolate.

  4. @ Greta

    Yes, chocolate. A most excellent idea. I love chocolate (who doesn't?).

    Somebody also brought that up in an earlier post.

  5. @ What Ladder,

    I've been asking myself that for so long. Honestly, I want to express myself artistically but there is no money in that.

  6. And there are no (decent) jobs available without serious nepotism and favoritism.

    Without connections, we're all screwed if we leave academia. Of course, we;re also screwed if we stay in the dysfunctional factory.

  7. EMH, It sounds like you want to get away from having to interact too much with people that make you twitch. Fair enough. You might want to consider working for a testing agency (writing, plugging numbers, you name it). Another possibility is getting into programming, software coding, web design, etc. A terrific way to work remotely, in the comfort of your own underwear, and have minimal interaction with the idiotic masses.

  8. What Greta said. And WhatLadder. Warning: fragments.

    So many students and other people seem to know so little about appropriate boundaries that I wonder whether we still have norms (statistically) for interpersonal behavior.

    The idiot who "diagnosed" you and then patronized you; the Bible-thumper. These are characters on the same continuum as the students who give us TMI*; the jerks who "diagnose" the sex of a baby and then call the pregnant stranger "honey"; and the asshole in-laws who grill our recently graduated kids about their career goals and shoot down every one.

    As I recall from Star Trek, the EMH had a great sense of dignity and a set of comebacks (no doubt programmed in as subroutines). I like Greta's suggestions for polite comebacks, especially if Captain Subtext is on hand to give them some bite, at least in your imagination.

    As for what to do . . . I don't know, how much money to do you need? It doesn't use a math degree, but what about working with animals?

    * Sorry, can't get a link embedded.

  9. EMH, I don't have any advice as good as what you've already received but I do have a question.

    Is that Angry Archie in the car?

  10. "Honestly, I want to express myself artistically but there is no money in that."

    EMH, sometimes one's sanity is more important than money. And really, from what I've been reading on this blog, proffies don't do much better than artists, which is surprising to me. It also makes me thankful to be in a tiny office where nobody bothers with me all day except for crazy stinky cat lady in the next office. Good luck, and put your artwork on to start off with, as a means of avoiding dealing with people directly. Everything on that site is handmade and a great place to get started.

  11. @Ben: it looks more like Ronald McDonald to me. The picture left me wondering whether Strelnikov had finally gone postal and commandeered a police car. But I think he'd be hauling off snowflakes (or those hawking plagiarized work on the internet, which may be the same thing) to a grisly fate, not EMH, or Archie, or Ronald McDonald for that matter.

  12. EMH: I feel your pain (a bit).

    I don't have Asperger's, but I am a dorky math nerd. Students in Calculus+ don't seem to have a problem with this. However, students in my Math-For-High-School-Students-Masquerading-As-College-Students courses seem to freak out along the lines of, "OMG, he communicates in a different manner than I've been conditioned to!" It gets old.

  13. I've been diagnosed by so many so-called experts, mostly colleagues and fellow students when I was in grad school, that I know what you mean. Great Lakes Greta has it right, tell them to piss off politely.

    Personally, I only share information about my learning disability with the occasional student who has an LD and needs to know that it won't necessarily stop you from reaching your goals.

  14. I second the programming suggestion. There are avenues there to satisfy your creative side, to an extent.

  15. You're right, students and administrators are nasty, stupid, selfish, and don't care one iota about you. My solution is to set things up so that I don't have to respond to their shit. I tell students from the beginning that I don't put up with any nonsense and send them packing to the syllabus if they ask me about anything other than advanced navel gazing. I let them know I don't give a flying fuck about their miserable and idiotic personal lives and that my personal life is not any of their business. "You say raving lunatics cut off your arms and ate them? So the fuck what. Now give me your homework."

    When student flakes go to administrator flakes and whine like the babies they are, I send the adminiflakes packing to the syllabus. I never explain myself to an adminiflake. I refuse to waste emotional energy defending my class policies or the way I teach to an adminiflake. Yes, an adminiflake can fire your ass (I've been fired twice by adminiflakes), but you can always find another position even if it takes a long time. Adminiflakes who fire you will always give you a stellar letter of recommendation because they don't want you to sue. Adminiflakes are cowards.

    You seem to be very passionate about your field. So why talk with student flakes about anything other than that field? A long time ago I made a decision to talk about nothing other than advanced navel gazing when I'm at work because that is what I care about and that is what I'm paid to talk about. I say nothing to student flakes when they bring up some stupid personal bullshit and eventually they go away. Adminiflakes are afraid to talk about advanced navel gazing because they are ignorant, so they leave me alone. I'm free to think and talk about advanced navel gazing without distraction or emotional distress.

    I guess I'm recommending that you spend your time on what you love and refuse to engage in interactions regarding anything else with those multitudes of flakes who don't respect what you love, don't want to learn anything about it, and want to keep you from talking about it. When at work, treat your field as the most important thing in the world and make everything else out of bounds.


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