Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Great Lakes Greta Surfaces for Air and Rambles in an Unfocused Way
Oh, the snowflakes. Oh, the misery.
Like many jucos, LD3C experiences a significant drop in attendance after midterm break. Well...two weeks after midterm break and the attendance is as miserable as I am. Compounding everything else that is making this academic year one for the hellish ages is the number of transient students I have in my classes. These are students who are in and out of class, whose attendance may be consistent (in an odd way) to themselves each individually, but whose overall patterns overlap and create a jigsaw puzzle of actual students in the classrooms. Some days this piece of the puzzle is missing; others, this one is gone, and this one, or this one returns but this one is out.
I've experienced this before, but not to the extent I'm seeing it this semester. I'm not alone. My colleagues are likewise miserable. The problem then arises that each of them wants to be caught up or to discuss his or her absences right-the-tea-party now! Now, now, now! Yesterday while walking from my car to my office, I was stopped no fewer than three times, each by a different student whose inattention to his or her own education has suddenly become my problem. The last student, Nattering Nick, badgered me into my office, following me in uninvited after I unlocked the door and while I was trying to set down my bags and take off my coat, rambling the entire time about his personal problems without any clue that he was talking to an actual human being who at that moment was attempting to breathe. Seriously Sad Sarah followed me into the bathroom later in the day and would have followed me right into the stall, I'm convinced, had I not shut the stall door in her face. That's when she realized, momentarily, what she'd done. That didn't stop her from talking nonstop while I emptied my bladder. I declined to respond.
On the books, I have 150 students this semester. I'd say that a third of them are playing this little transient game. One-third. Sure, that makes actual assignments easier to grade because I have only 100 to do instead of 150, but of that third nearly half of them are up my craw about trying to pass classes that they will in no way pass. My response is always the same. I'm polite, professional, and I tell them to drop. I do not take late work. There is no make-up work. What's done is done.
What's done then is predictable. They head to the chair. Or the dean. Or even the tea-partying vice president.
I cannot imagine doing this for another twenty years, until I can finally afford to retire. My job isn't about teaching anymore. My job is about explaining to students (endlessly) various things they need to know, like when assignments are due and how I don't accept late or makeup work. My job is about telling students repeatedly what they refuse to hear and defending myself constantly from their badgering. My job--according to my college--is about student retention and graduation rates, and pushing them through developmental writing courses for which they are lifelong unprepared, and holding an insane number of office hours in a tiny, cramped, shared space in which no work can be done and to which no students ever visit except to badger me for grades and time.
My job is about a minimum of five to six hours of committee work weekly, either in the form of meeting attendance itself or prep, committees that move at glacial speed when they move at all; they're so ineffectual that I want to pull out my arm hairs one by one when required to be present, just to feel something, anything.
My job is about trying everything new under the sun in the classroom because a vice president thinks that every new approach may be innovative, and I am therefore revising my courses--significantly--every single, tea-partying term and attending seemingly endless professional development to do so.
My job isn't about teaching. It's mid-March. There are six weeks left in this term. Left to my own devices--my own teaching devices--I would enjoy the rest of the semester. I'd contextualize the transient students. I'd teach (effectively) the ones who remain. Instead, every tea-partying day is spent scrambling to clean up messes, responding to last-minute email directives from those higher up, and exhausting myself trying to do the actual work for which I was hired.
This doesn't feel like any kind of life to me. And that is my rant for the last day of winter.