Wednesday, November 23, 2011

So much to be thankful for (NOT!)

Dear Drs. A and B:
You've always been fond of discussing the need to include some very advanced topics in our curriculum, perhaps to justify that you teach at a community college despite having PhDs in your field. But you've forgotten that (a) the course we're discussing isn't the same course as the one with a similar name in your other curriculum that has several prerequisites that this new course does not have (and which you applaud as a great course but then let slip that you haven't actually TAUGHT this course in many years, because no one signs up for it since it's a tech elective and not a required course), and (b) there is no way that we can justify teaching this topic in this curriculum as a course that focuses only on concepts and comparisons but doesn't include any hands-on skills, or at least no way that I'd ever support that.

Dear Instructor C:
You're exceptionally fond of posturing about how YOU are in charge of this curriculum development project when in fact you are not. If you are in charge, then how come the only meeting of the committee this entire semester was because I pushed you to schedule it, despite the fact that we're supposed to be (as a group) developing seven new second-year courses to be launched next fall? Or that during that meeting there were many long awkward silences until I finally interjected "C, should we talk about the ____?" at which point you stuttered through asking the group about ____ as if it was your bright idea (ignore the old lady behind the curtain). I don't mind back-leading if its a waltz or a two-step and I'm fond enough of you to forgive that you can't dance for shit, but I'll be damned if I'm going to back-lead this group and do the work while you take all the credit. Why do you think I asked my dept. chair to come to that meeting? So she could report back to the dean on our campus about what really happens in the meeting, which fortunately she did.

And Dear Drs. A and B and Instructor C:
You know, it really would have been great to get this feedback, oh, say a month ago when I first requested it instead of less than one week before I'm supposed to submit my proposed course design, and on the night before a four day weekend. Why the hell are you all online arguing this NOW, when I haven't been able to get any of you to respond to an email for weeks? If it were anything else I'd just shut down my work email and focus on brining my turkey, pickling my liver, and sneaking pieces of pie, but I've been so pissed and anxious about having to depend on people who don't seem remotely concerned about launching all these new courses next year, that I can't just step away from it and leave it until Monday.

Oh, wait!! NOW I remember!! To YOU, "course development" means finding a book that has all of the instructor resources already created (despite the poor quality of the book or poor fit of the subjects covered - like, say, a book that is designed for use in higher-level undergraduate or first year graduate courses), then using that book as a model for your syllabus instead of deciding what really needs to be included in a class then finding a book that best meets those needs.  That way you can "teach" the course by reading the powerpoint slides to your students, give them "tests" provided by the publisher and created by someone who has no clue about what's important to assess, and just rid your mind of any concern about providing them with hands-on labs and activities, discussions, or anything else that will take this and make it real and make it work for our students, if it means more work for you. When I talk about developing new labs, creating performance-based assessments and projects that require them to apply what they've learned without step-by-step instructions that never require them to think, your eyes just glaze over and you look at me like I have three heads, and you pity me for all the unnecessary work that I create for myself when I could just do it the easy way, like you all do.  You're not really concerned with whether or not your students actually learn anything that they can apply later - you just need them to pass, and to justify your salary.


  1. Why aren't YOU the department chair, Granny?

    I'd vote for ya.

  2. I wouldn't take an administrator-level job if they doubled my salary - As a 12-month department chair I would get an extra two months pay, but on a per-month basis the pay is less than $200 a month more, and for those headaches? No flippin' way.


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