Saturday, November 30, 2013

5 Years Ago on RYS. "Smackdown, Smackdown, Where's the Smackdown? Oh, Okay, Here Comes Athena To Go Grecian On Some Asses."

So I'm sitting here thinking about composing a nice little essay about my Snowflakes and their general cluelessness and their sense of entitlement and their parents and...what the heck, let's just have a little smackdown.

Pleading Paula: You started your email with, "Dr. Athena, I know the syllabus says that there are no makeups on the exams after the rest of the class have taken them, but..." You could have left off the but. You forgot we had an exam and didn't show up. Your scholarship status is irrelevant to this conversation. Put on your big girl panties and deal with your zero.

Longshot Louie: Your wording isn't quite right. You don't need a C to get into your professional program. You need a C to be eligible to apply to your professional program. Given the number of your peers who will be applying to the same program after earning As and Bs in this class, which is a much larger number than the number of slots available, you're not getting in anyway.

Friday, November 29, 2013

If this is true, we're all in trouble

Rebecca Schuman, author of a recent article in Slate about possible wholesale cuts of entire departments/programs at Minnesota State University Moorhead (and author of the blog Pan Kisses Kafka), has received a copy of an email sent to a faculty list by the Faculty Association.  The email contains the following paragraphs:

I remind you that academic freedom is a limited protection, and applies only to your research and classroom teaching, and, in the case of the latter, to discussion of materials relevant to the course subject. 
Otherwise, faculty can be (and have been) punished for written and oral communication that is disruptive or uncivil.

This strikes me as a new, crucial frontier for defining academic freedom. We still need protection for saying possibly-unpopular (but subject-relevant and professionally supportable)  things in the classroom and in our research, but, in the present climate, we also really, really need the freedom to discuss and, when appropriate, criticize institutional structures (present and proposed) and their effects on our work.  I'm glad to see Jonathan Rees raising this issue on the AAUP's Academe Blog (where I first saw the letter), and I very much hope the AAUP will pay due attention not only to the threat posed to tenure by department cuts, but also to a kind of academic freedom that needs to be protected for the sake of all faculty, tenure-track or not. 

Addendum to Job / Interview Tips From Poopiehead.

Congratulations, you've made the shortlist, and we want to contact you for an interview.

1) The arranging of these sorts of things is quite often following a narrow or short time window. If you've provided an email address, if you're emailed asking about your availability for a job interview, DON'T TAKE FOREVER TO ANSWER THE FUCKING EMAIL where I'm offering you the opportunity to come for an interview.

2) Given your non-responsiveness via email, I decide to try the phone contact info you've provided. DON'T PROVIDE YOUR FUCKING BOYFRIEND/GIRLFRIEND's CELL PHONE NUMBER! (a) They have no idea what I'm talking about when I'm calling, and (b) If you don't happen to be right next to them when I call, they have no idea where you are or say "s/he's at work and is unavailable"; (c) I'm actually not any closer to speaking with you so we can hash out a date for you to come for an interview. If you aren't responding to my emails WHERE I'M OFFERING YOU A JOB INTERVIEW, why would getting a message (probably via email, seeing as you apparently don't have a phone of your own) from your pillow partner make a difference? Actually, you know what? Kiss my ass, I've wasted too much time already just trying to talk with you for 2 minutes. Next on the list...

- Prof Poopiehead

7 Years Ago on RYS. "Fearing the Tyranny of Student Evaluations."

I can't begin to tell you how much I appreciated the recent posting on Student Evaluations. More and more I feel the Tyranny of Student Evalauations, even though (or maybe because?) mine are usually very good.

Yesterday in class we had a visiting speaker, a well-known poet whose work we'd studied--and had lively discussions about--before she came. She attended the class for no pay (just the sale of her books to my students). As she was speaking and generously sharing her wisdom, one student came in late and promptly put his head on the table and fell asleep. Another's eyes were closing, and I glared at him, and he immediately found the energy to wake up. Another opened her laptop and began typing away, even though I've banned laptop use from my classroom. I didn't want to interrupt the speaker, so I tried to concentrate on the students who were clearly focused on what she was saying.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

7 Years Ago on RYS. "On Student Evaluations"

Let me start by saying that I love my job. I love teaching. I love the research component because it's all mine, but I mostly love the classroom and the never-ending supply of young people. I've been in the game for 26 years and think I'm pretty sure I will teach until I retire several years from now.

It's been the greatest career, with dozens upon dozens of amazing experiences. Students continue to engage me and interest me, and watching find their own feet is always a tremendous pleasure.

But today I woke up with a knot in my stomach, and I was out of sorts all day. I was giving my students the evaluation instrument my college uses. As soon as the large white envelope came out of my bag the students started their energetic twittering. I even heard the same comments I always hear: "Yeah, now we get to give the grades," etc.

Things I'm Thankful For, From Dr. Amelia.

  1. It's just about the end of the semester.
  2. Wine
  3. I don't have to travel for Thanksgiving. I do have to cook, but I kind of like cooking when I have the time.
  4. I didn't assign anything to be due right before the break, so, I have no grading. I will pay later, but it's pretty sweet right now.
  5. Our search committee work is over. It's been, um, challenging.
  6. I don't do Black Friday. Thankful I am not going stand outside of some big box at Midnight to save $30 on a TV.
  7. College Misery, of course! You guys help me keep things in perspective.
  8. Did I mention that it's the end of the semester, so THE princess will be out of my life soon.

6 Years Ago on RYS. "The Chiefiest of all Chief Correspondents - Weepy Wayne from Waterloo - Waxes On Why We're So Woeful!"

Regarding the question of academic unhappiness. Without question, there are worse jobs out there. I know. I had one of them. I was at the bottom end of the construction trade for 10 years before working my up from a community college, to a state university, to a private college for my graduate degree. My grad experience was comprised of long hours, genuine poverty, sketchy urban housing, malnutrition, and a lack of genuine human contact. Having said that, I wouldn't trade that experience for anything. I sacrificed a great deal for something I considered worthwhile, and it showed me what I was made of.

After graduating at the top of my class, I arrived at the gates of academe, and was shunted into a janitor's closet as an adjunct. There I stayed, watching dedicated professors twice my age being drained of their vitality by an exploitative system that sold promises to tuition payers and larded administrative sinecures with pensioned hacks. In the classroom, I encountered students who were lazy, arrogant, and aggressively apathetic. They yawn at Dostoevsky, wince when confronted with a five page essay, and glare at me when I implore them to step it up for the challenges of that "Real World' they are so impatient to embrace.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

4 Years Ago on RYS. "Why do I Bother? AKA It's That Time of Year Again AKA Can I Quit Yet? Vic From Vegas Asks All The Big Questions."

The 'flakes had a holiday last week, and then another, unexpected one earlier this week when I had to cancel class. I figured that in the interim, they might actually get their drafts done and bring them in for my consideration and for their peers to edit.

Silly me. Stupid, silly, naive me.

Out of the 2/3 that bother to come anymore, only a handful had their drafts. The rest sat around for about an hour and socialized until I told them that their assignment was now late, but, since they didn't have their flash drives and were not inclined to print out papers anyway, they might as well leave and bring the blasted things on Monday. One came to me to confirm what I had just said. I pointed out to him that the draft due date should have come as no big surprise, as it has been on the syllabus since the beginning of this semester--August, to be precise. "Oh, I never look at the syllabus," he replied. Well, that explains a great deal, does it not?

A Job Misery Letter from Madame Librarian.

Dear Hell in a Hand Basket University,

Goodbye and good riddance. Also, thank you sincerely for not renewing my contract. If you had renewed me, I might still be trapped in the tiny closet of an office I shared (shared!) with another faculty member, fighting administration to keep on attempting to help my students. I might still be fighting a nasty case of depression, hiding in the bathroom at work, waiting for the latest piece of horrible to fall on my head.

Every day when I would enter my tiny sardine can of an office, my office mate and I would wonder aloud "what fresh piece of hell" would descend from on high. We would watch administration do baffling things, and let the people who contributed the most horrible continue to do so. You would not let me buy books. You would not let me tell the faculty I wasn't allowed to buy books.

But you did not renew my contract. And so I left.

Instead, I'm here, at this delightful community college with colleagues that don't hate each other, or administration. I have an office, with a window that faces a grassy field and college buildings. I get paid more, with summers off. I work with an administration seems to try to do the right thing, even if they sometimes get it wrong.

And it is funny, Hell in a Hand Basket University, how everything we warned you about is coming true. Your new initiative is under-enrolled. Your students hate you. You have fired most of the dedicated and hard working people I knew in the last 6 months.You have the faculty union after you. You have the other colleges in your system in despair.

But your misery is no longer my misery.

Thanks again for firing me,
Madame Librarian

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

In Which Bella Shows a Video.....and Feels Thankful.

OK, so.  I admit it. When things are bad.....really bad.....I sometimes just revert to showing my class movies. 

It's a move I reserve for the end of the semester, and I only use it in dire straits.

Now don't get me wrong.  I am a consummate consumer of mass culture, and I try to think of ways said consummation could be useful in the classroom.  I do. .....honest.

Oh....well.  ....Shit.  This class.  This Composition from hell.  THIS CLASS.  We needed a movie experience.  Together.

5 years Ago on RYS. "Mildred from Medicine Hat Bitches about Everything."

Bitching about Administration:
Today my chair tells me that the calendar committee has rejected my rewrite of a course description for the calendar because it "included questions." Well, yes. I thought "Why are we here?" would grab a little more student interest than "The student will examine various philosophical perspectives on the nature of being." And use fewer words, too. But no, apparently question marks won't do.

Oh, and the other problem with my course description? Complete sentences. I can't have those either. In the interests of saving space I have to butcher my grammar. They suggested, in place of my 3 short, pithy and eloquent complete sentences (one with a question mark) , a 4 line sentence fragment which not only makes no bloody sense, it actually takes up more space than what I submitted. But they refuse to back down.

Quite aside from every other question this raises (We're a UNIVERSITY. If we don't use complete sentences, who will?), I can't believe how much time they're wasting on this. Every member of that committee is an academic just like me. Have they no papers to grade? Lectures to write? Homes to go to?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Job applications: What not to do

This started as 3 observations, then
I thought of a few more things to say.
Once I got to 7 items, I added some
filler to make it a top 10.  I'm sorry
if these details ruin the sense of mystery
of how this post came to exist but I think
we should be honest with each other.
For Christ's sake, people.  What the fuck are you doing sending me this terribly shitty mess of cover letters, CVs, emails from students (emails from students!) and miscellaneous bullshit?  We are searching for an assistant professor, not the dumbest job applicant in the world.  Perhaps our ad should be more specific.

Here's a list of ten things about job application letters that piss me off.

10.  If you are a researcher, don't try to fake your way into a teaching position.  Oh, you really care about education?  That explains why you publish out the wazoo but your only teaching experience was as a TA in 1992.

9.  Likewise, if we are looking for a researcher to shower our department with grant money, then your mentoring of a high school kid's science fair project last year won't earn you any points.  In fact, Our scoring system looks like this:

   # of grants
+ # publications
- 100,000,000 if your CV says that you mentored a student's science fair project

= a number

It works surprisingly well.

Here's the jumpity jump, or as the RGM likes to say ...

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Oh Why Can't My Kids Count?

I have a freshman class, a sort of Humanities hybrid thing where students learn about college and so some "great books" style reading. I usually teach it once every two years and it's sort of fun. I couldn't do it every semester, though.

Yesterday I had Stupefied Simone in my office. She wanted to get her grades for the semester, even though I give all their work back and even though the standard syllabus shows the 100 points available each term, with letter grades corresponding as: A-90+, B-80-89, etc.

Let it begin:

Simone: I wonder what my grade is.
Kimmie: Well, do you have all your assignments with you?
S: Yes!
K: Well, add them up.
S: Okay, they come to 45.
K: That can't be right, Simone, let me count: 8, 8, 7, 8, 9, 10, 8, and 7. That's 65.
S: Oh, what grade is that?
K: Well, it's no grade yet, really, but you can see that we've done 8 assignment so far, all worth 10 points. We just have the final left and it's 20 points.
S: I need an A in this class.
K: Okay, well you need 90 for the A for the semester. You only have 65 so far, and there are only 20 left.
S: So can I still get an A?
K: Really? What's 65 + 20?
S: (Brightening): Oh, 95. No, wait, 75.
K: It's 85.
S: Oh no, so I'm going to get a B?
K: Well, if you get at least 15/20 on the final you will. Less than that and you can get a C.
S: I thought I had 95, no, 85.
K: You have 65 now. There are 20 points left. The MOST you can get is 85, and that's a B. If you get LESS than 15, you'll get a C or worse.
S: WORSE!?!?!

Why I Make Terrible Decisions, or, Poverty Thoughts. From KillerMartinis.

I thought this was insightful – We all have had students (and adjuncts!) who deal with this grinding poverty and make what we think are stupid decisions.
-Krabby Kathy


There's no way to structure this coherently. They are random observations that might help explain the mental processes. But often, I think that we look at the academic problems of poverty and have no idea of the why. We know the what and the how, and we can see systemic problems, but it's rare to have a poor person actually explain it on their own behalf. So this is me doing that, sort of.

Rest is a luxury for the rich. I get up at 6AM, go to school (I have a full courseload, but I only have to go to two in-person classes) then work, then I get the kids, then I pick up my husband, then I have half an hour to change and go to Job 2. I get home from that at around 1230AM, then I have the rest of my classes and work to tend to. I'm in bed by 3. This isn't every day, I have two days off a week from each of my obligations. I use that time to clean the house and soothe Mr. Martini and see the kids for longer than an hour and catch up on schoolwork. Those nights I'm in bed by midnight, but if I go to bed too early I won't be able to stay up the other nights because I'll fuck my pattern up, and I drive an hour home from Job 2 so I can't afford to be sleepy. I never get a day off from work unless I am fairly sick. It doesn't leave you much room to think about what you are doing, only to attend to the next thing and the next. Planning isn't in the mix.

The Rest.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Coolest. College. Students. Ever. A Very Old Feature Comes Back By Request.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy
Harvard College
BS, International Affairs

"Here's to Huffy Harry." From Horrible Meanie Prof.

As a shiny new proffie, I was perhaps no more obnoxious than most, but surely full of myself. I remember the thinly veiled contempt all us young pup proffies had for Huffy Harry – a bitter, sour senior colleague who constantly accused us young pups of coddling the snowflakes, having low standards, and having no real commitment to the production of responsible adults from the precious, delicate crystallized water we had as raw material. How we rolled our eyes at him every time he started ranting. HE wasn’t doing real, cutting edge research, HE was just a teaching drone.

Since he retired, my program’s enrollment and class sizes have quadrupled with constant faculty numbers. Adminiflakes tell us that our goal is to have greater than 90% retention, and there must be something wrong with US if the students can't learn from us. Mega State University has reorganized and reorganized and had all kinds of upper-admin interference in what should be academic decisions by the faculty. Yadda, yadda, yadda, it’s all been said here many times, and more amusingly, by others.

But the other day, another ‘older’ colleague and I, during an epic kvetching session, complaining about how our younger colleagues are coddling the snowflakes and have low standards (well, DUH, they’re not tenured yet) simultaneously looked at each other, and said, “Oh, lordy, we’ve turned into Huffy Harry!”

Huffy Harry, if you’re out there anywhere, you were right, and it’s only gotten worse, MUCH worse since your day. I am filled with remorse for how shabbily we treated you. We should raise a statue to you.

Great Zarquon forgive us.

Real Goddamned Mail. November Edition.

I don't have a unifying theme for these today. They're just a collection of complaints from the past couple of weeks.
  • What I don't understand is why you have this rule: "When the page has a surfeit of posts on a given day, the moderators reserve the right to delay a post to an upcoming day." if you're not going to use it. One day last week you had 5 posts up between midnight and 5 am. And then you let two more people post items. Guess where mine was? Right on the fucking bottom. Thank you. Nobody saw it and nobody responded. I love this page, but there's no point in writing posts when you're going to allow a flood to drown posters occasionally. Why have the rule? Use the fucking thing.
  • This place feels like the Chronicle forums. And that's the worst insult I've got for you. Where is the fun?

Professor faces trial for '95 killing of alleged rapist. From USA Today.

photo: Orange County Register
Rejecting a plea deal and maintaining her innocence, a psychology professor now faces trial for her alleged involvement in the murder of a man she claimed raped her 18 years ago when she was a student in Southern California.

Norma Patricia Esparza, 39, who lives in France near the Swiss border and teaches in Geneva, was taken to jail Thursday after an Orange County judge revoked the $300,000 bail that had allowed her to remain free since last year. After previously pleading not guilty, she rejected the prosecutor's offer to plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter and be sentenced to three years in prison.


An FSU Teacher's Lament. From

by Adam Weinstein

We love the game. We love the players, too, even when they scare us.

Like the blue-chip defensive secondary leader who wrote his personal essay for an openly gay professor on the time in high school he gleefully commanded a posse to bash a girly fag near to death, caved the queer's face, and ruined his smile.

Or the hulking offensive star who brought a friend to help him corner a short, pretty instructor alone in her closet office and scare her within an inch of her life for telling the athletic department he was clowning in class.

Or the top offensive player who sought tutoring from me on a plagiarized paper while tweaking on uppers. Or the standout lineman who never showed for my lectures or turned much in except for a term paper written in someone else's voice, then magically disappeared from the class roll when I resisted the team handlers who pressed me not to fail him.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Mostly Misery... but only mostly

And I consider that a win. This week, at least.

(No "Professor Facepalm" logo this time, folks - this is not a humorous entry.)

On Tuesday, I lost my patience with my class when I discovered that no one - no one - had done the reading. I lost my patience, and I cursed at them.

I curse in class a lot. But this time I cursed at them. I regretted it the moment I did it. I think there's a world of difference between saying something that might offend my students and saying something offensive directed at my students. I think the latter is unacceptable.

And - hoo boy - so did some of them.

Students. What Are You Going to Do With Them?

I did it yesterday.

I flunked every single student in one class.

It was just an assignment, but you'd have thought I murdered their whole families (or deleted their Twitter accounts.)

The dumbest students I've ever had. They refuse to read directions.

The sheet said that you MUST include a well-integrated quote from the text. This is a concept we cover often. They had their texts with them. We've done it on the white board. (This is just one example of what they failed to do.) 4 out of 30 did it right.

Two other things they had to accomplish in this tiny in-class assignment. Not a single student got all three parts right. Most didn't even get ONE item right. There was such laziness in the answers, just the kind of lackadaisical approach that more and more of us see in our students.

It was one of those days when - as I passed out the assignment - someone said, "Do we have to do this?"

"No," I said. "You can go home. You are ALWAYS free to go home."

"And this won't count against us?!?!" Someone said excitedly.

"Well of course it will. Are you kidding? It all counts. It all matters. What you do in here matters; in fact it's the whole idea of living on the planet with the other humans."

Fuck me. I just want to cry. Not for them. For me. I don't know how to do anything else.

Big Thirsty on Office Clutter From Proffie Galore.

  • Is a clean desk the sign of a cluttered mind?
  • Is a cluttered desk the sign of someone who can't find that bookstore form again?
  • Is it possible to get to your desk without stepping over piles of books and papers?
  • Is it likely that your office has a window behind all those boxes?

Q: Where is your office* on the continuum from Martha Stewart to Hoarders?

*At home (especially for adjuncts), at work, or both.

Confused Connie Just Wants to Believe Everything She Reads......

My Composition students seem to think they can believe everything they read.  Anywhere. If they can find it in print, it must be true!

This concerns me. I worry about them, the little lambchops. I worry about them when I am not cursing their collective names and wanting to send them to the work camps in Siberia.

I came up with what I thought, in some drug or alcohol induced fantasy, would be a great idea! I'd have them write a brief essay in which they look at two different websites dealing with the same topic, and compare the two sites on the basis of accuracy, authority, bias....things like that. It seemed so clear and easy to understand when I was dreaming it up.  They would compare the actual web sites themselves....get it?  Well, anyway, I thought they'd get it.

To make a long story short....they just had a lot of trouble GETTING it. Whaaaaa? They said? What on earth are you even TALKING about? How do you dream up this kind of IMPOSSIBLE shit? Originally, I thought they could choose their own general topics and pick their own websites. Nope. Even the smartest one in the class came up with the idea to compare two different kinds of....wait for sticks.

THE Princess is Back. Dr. Amelia With an Update.

**Note: the scoring in my class is additive. You earn points all semester for various assignments, various points for various types of assignments. There are 1250 points total.


The time of reckoning drew near, and Dr. Amelia received a missive from THE Princess. "Amelia," the missive read, "I am expecting to earn an A in the hamster fur weaving class to which I have lent my royal presence. You are to send me an accounting of the royal progress at once."

Not being one to tick off the royalty, the dutiful Dr. Amelia dutifully copied the royal grades from the gradebook onto a piece of paper for THE Princess. These were the same royal grades that had been returned with the royal work all semester.

In the middle of the class, the tiny nose twitched. The hand went up. "Amelia," THE Princess began, apropos of nothing, "You must explain to me the royal grades at once."

Some Old Fashioned Smackdown. RYS Flashback. 8 Years Ago Today.

Monday, November 21, 2005

We Break Our Canadian Cherry And It's Fun.

A full time professor from a university in western Canada sends these along:

N: Exactly what else did you expect to get when you fail to attend all lectures, and spend most of the exam time, me?

B: I really don't give a shit about your girlfriend, how some minor point I made in class pertains to your life, or any of of the hundreds of boring anecdotes you manage to blurt out in the time it takes for me to run from the classroom (and you) to my office for that "important meeting." Maybe if you had actually passed any of my tests, I might have seen your banter as something more than a weak attempt to befriend me in the hopes that I wouldn't give you the F you so richly deserve (and, in the end, will receive).

S: You wearing the mini skirt to my office hours gave me quite a thrill, but don't mistake me for one of the brain-dead frat-brats you so easily seduce every weekend....this isn't a reality show, so you still get the grade you deserve.

T: 'Thinking beyond the material' doesn't excuse you from knowing it in the first place.

S: I didn't even know who you were (in my class of 200) until you showed up to complain that I was being a racist by "awarding" you an F. Lots of white folks got Fs in my class too.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

An Early Thirsty From Ben About How We Got Here.

Am I doing this thirsty
graphic right?
I call this a Wednesday Thirsty but I'm sure that's the wrong name.  I hope Cal changes the title to whatever is appropriate according to the Book of Misery, "Chapter 27: Naming of a Thirsty".

Math Man's post mentioned that students alerted him to our blog.  That reminded me that it was a student (probably not the same one) who originally showed Rate Your Students to me so many years ago. Conan's post got me thinking about people coming and going.  Apparently, there are some students out there who appreciate the highbrow discourse that we find on this page.

Here's your question:

1.  How did you find out about College Misery?  If you were around in the old RYS days, how did you find out about that?

B.  When did you start reading CM or RYS?

III.  Did you go back and read a bunch of the archived posts or did you jump in and never look back?

Five Years Ago on RateYourStudents: Milo From Manchester!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

"The Regulars!" Milo From Manchester On Student Invisibility & Passivity.

On some Tuesday and Thursday afternoons I feel as if I’ve had a stroke. This semester I have a freshman Comp class that, through some mysterious process of self-sorting, has arranged itself in the room so that on my left are ten or so ordinary students who behave in ordinary ways and on the right are ten others who, well, simply are not there at all. Like I said, it’s as if I’ve had a stroke that has wiped out half my visual field. Except that I can see them, of course – it’s just that they are practicing to be invisible. And getting pretty good at it, I must say – by the second week of the term I had, as usual, worked my aging brain hard to memorize their names, but I look at them now at mid-semester and draw a blank. They have erased themselves from my mental roll sheet.

There are always students who sit passively through class, but they don’t usually sort themselves out quite so starkly as this lot. Practically speaking, it’s not much of a problem: I just conduct the class standing in front of the responsive group, though this gives me pause, a little, as if I am somehow responsible for the invisibility of the right-hand group, the ghosts. They have worked hard to be invisible – why should disturb them? Recently, however, I decided to do a little investigating, run a couple of experiments. At first, I just sidled over to the right side of the room as I spoke. Sure enough, they were still working at being invisible, flickering in and out of existence, looking, looking down at their desks, fiddling with their pens, though made a little nervous, it seemed, by my proximity.


"Dr. John Smith, Ph.D."
Not just John Smith, Ph.D.  
Doctor John Fucking Smith, Ph.D.

Not just thirsty.
Thirsty for some kind of liquid to go down my throat.
Oddly enough, I'm probably not thirsty for dry, hot dirt.

Oh, on the other hand, shit, maybe I am actually thirsty for that goddamned dry, hot dirt.
Yes, shove that dry, hot dirt down my throat.

Because I'm Dr. John Smith, Ph.D.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Math Man of Milagro Says Howdy.

I have just found this blog this week. My college newspaper published an op-ed on rating professors, and someone wrote in the comments about the insanity of rating students and cited this page.

Well, you're doing the right thing here. I've read most of the last few months of posts and I've been laughing and crying and hollering because you people are my real colleagues. I have spent four years feeling thirsty, parched, and this page has been like a cool drink of water.

Thank God I am not alone. I truthfully imagined I was the only professor in creation who felt like I did - not a soul where I work would dare say or even think the things you all write here.

I feel better about what I'm doing now knowing that I'm not alone. Thanks a 10 to the sixth power you marvelous renegades.

I have an afternoon class full of "snowflakes," and I'm going to melt them with some truth.

Math Man on board!

An Update on the Complicated Death and Life and Adjuncthood of Margaret Mary Vojtko. From

On Friday, Aug. 16, Margaret Mary Vojtko, an adjunct French professor who’d recently lost her job at Duquesne University at the age of 83, suffered a heart attack on a street corner in Homestead, Pa. Vojtko collapsed yards from the house where she had lived almost her entire life. She was rushed to the hospital, but she never regained consciousness. Vojtko died on Sunday, Sept. 1.


I am - NO LONGER - trapped in my building's elevator.

And security has been notified.

All the guy really wanted to do though was impress upon me that I'm not allowed to be in the building before 7 am. He was bothered that I was calling for help on the elevator intercom at 6:30.

My emotions are a bit all over the place at the moment, but I'm pretty sure I'm going to follow up on this joker telling me I'm not allowed to go to my office any fucking time I feel like it.

Leslie K


Update: Okay, it took 27 minutes for security to rescue me. Not to get the door open, but to make their way over to my building, which is about 100 steps from their kiosk. They talked to me through the speaker for a while, and then SHAZAM, the thing moved and the door opened. I did not follow up on the "allow" comment as I just wanted to get to my office and get my day going.


Cal says: "You wouldn't have to take any guff, Les, if you had one of these:"

Click image to enlarge. 
That's what she said.

Conan the Grammarian on Leaving Misery.

People are always in one of two states with respect to each other: arriving or leaving. The two stages can be roughly the same size, or the arrival can be short and the departure be long or vice versa. People can also leave and arrive multiple times. But eventually they will always leave.

College taught me this early on. People that I thought were still arriving turned out to have been leaving for the past two years. My friends went different ways as the scenery changed. One by one, the people I knew and loved, some of which had just arrived, left. And... I was alone.

New people arrived in my life in college as I made new friends. Some people who had left before even arrived again. But I'm afraid. Won't the same thing just happen on a larger scale when I graduate? I guess, in a generation that embraces change and has trouble standing still, I just want some things to stay the same. I'm fine being aboard a fast moving ship, but I always want to be able to count on a sturdy lighthouse.

The name of this site is College Misery and this is truly the greatest misery I've suffered in college. The misery of people leaving. Does it get better after college? Or worse? And am I crazy for feeling this way?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Nanaimo Nick With a Speedy Rant On Visiting a High School And the Horrors He Discovered About His Own Job.

Fuck me for agreeing to go to a nice high school 2 towns away to talk about college academic writing.

I teach at a decent enough 2 year school. I feel as though I do good work with the best kids, and slug it out with the rest.

I spent 3 hours in 3 different classes at the high school, looking at rough drafts, talking about some typical first semester assignments, and I was heartily ashamed. Every student was better than my own. Every student was doing more complex writing than my students.

I talked about the way I teach the research paper, a tried and true method that has come about from gauging what my own students could handle. Whenever I pitch it, it takes 2 class periods to get students on the same page as me.

Today, in about ten minutes, I had better comments, questions, and suggestions from the high schoolers than I ever get.

I wanted these students to bypass the big provincial uni and come to my little neck of the woods instead, so I could benefit from their ability to understand

Instead of driving back to my college, I wanted to get on the ferry and jump to a watery death.

4 Years Ago on RateYourStudents. Sarcasm Can Be Fun!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Sarcasm Is Wasted On the Stupid. A New RYS Playlet. "Charlie Must Be So Stoned!"

Cheating Charlie: What? I didn't cheat! What are you talking about?!?!!

Me: So it's a coincidence that you wrote down the exact same 10 wrong (at best) to nonsensical answers as the girl in front of you?

Cheating Charlie: I studied so hard.

Me: This test was a gimmie - I even gave you a review sheet. If you studied for 10 minutes, you should have aced it, or at least known what some of the words meant.

Cheating Charlie: I did - I swear - you can even call my mom [attempts to hand me a phone].

Me: [jaw dropped - long pause] Ok, then why don't you tell me right now what your answer to question 1 was.

An Early Thirsty From Dr. Python That Finally Gets to the Fucking Heart of It All.

Q: I know, my fellow mortals, that administrators would consider drinking while grading a mortal sin. 

 I want true confessions of how many of you drink, perhaps a bit beyond excess, when grading (best grading beverages?). 

 Are there certain situations which may make you more prone to doing so (like really, really boring and poorly written freshman papers)? (NOT that I would EVER do so....never!!!)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Lucy From Leadville Sends an Open Letter to Plagiarizing Pita.

Dear Plagiarizing Pita,

You plagiarized. I know because I googled a dozen phrases from your essay and found them strewn across the world wide web. I know it was probably unintentional. You're not a native speaker. I get it. But I don't really care either way. You get a zero.

You can question me all you want. You can play the "my culture doesn't view plagiarism the same so I'm not accountable" card all you want. You can tell me what plagiarism "really" looks like. You can disagree with the definition of "quote" versus "paraphrase" all you want. You can tell me I'm wrong about how quotation marks work all you want.

Hell, if you really want, you can tell the department chair what an idiot I am. Go for it. I can give you her email address to save you time.

I give zero fucks.

A CM Flashback. Three Years Ago Today. Stella & Jesus & Essay Topics.



Dear Freshman Comp Student:

You don’t like this topic. I can tell by the way your nose is scrunched up. And you’ve made a voluntary expedition to my office to tell me you would like to write on a different type of essay on a topic of your own choosing.

But wait--before you regale me with your justifications, please understand that there are several reasons why I doled out the assignment you so want to avoid. Firstly, I assigned an evaluative essay, because frankly that’s the easiest sort of argumentative essay for freshman to complete. Secondly, I saw to it that the scope of the assignment is small enough so that none of you would try to solve some sort of impossible problem in 2000 words. I don’t care how smart you think you are. You can’t come up with a solution for global poverty in eight pages. What I have asked you to do instead is to evaluate something to do with the town in which you are currently attending school. You’re a freshman. You should learn something about where you are living.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

"Of Students and Squirrels," from Dr. Magnus.

At the Sanctuary, we are in danger of being overrun by a species of pest known as the Snowflake Squirrel. They take human form, but like their relatives in the wild they run toward danger and learn nothing from their narrow escapes, vocalize vehemently as soon as they sense anything dangerous, and throw nuts at people.

Here are some examples from our recent observation of snowflake squirrels in the Sanctuary:

1. "Dr Magnus," one asks as he stands in my office door, "I have to study for Dr Tesla's scary test. That test is right after your class, so I'm not going to be in your class because I'll be studying for it. We aren't doing anything important in class, are we?" Who, with a brain cell left in their body, says this to a professor? Think it, sure. Act on it, maybe. But tell the prof that you are doing it? No.

Dr. Python Talks Tunes In This Weekend Thirsty.

The tenure portfolio is submitted. Now it's time for the anti-climatic blues.

I remember creating a CD of superfine amped up songs to crank in my car when I submitted my dissertation (many years ago, like R. Kelly's "World's Greatest"). I danced all over my living room, much to the delight/disgust of my cats, lip-synching those tunes. When I played that music the day I turned my material in, I felt nothing.

Q: How do the rest of you handle these professional emotional roller coasters? I really want to dance around to Katy Perry's "Roar."

Why I Have a Big Problem with James Wetherbe’s Libertarian Fantasies about Tenure

Dear Jim,

You seem to have drunk some pretty heady Kool-Aid there my friend.  Tenure, The First Amendment, Corporations, Lawsuits, Lions and Tigers and Bears oh my.  Where do I even begin? 

Maybe I’ll start with your consumer model of universities.  When you have a hammer everything looks like a nail, and when you have a business degree, everything looks like a widget factory.  You talk about the need to serve the customers, but I’m not sure you really know who a university’s customers are.  It’s not just the students, it’s society.  I’m still trying to get my head around your comment about the socialistic monopoly on issuing driver’s licenses and all the inefficiencies it creates.  Are you seriously proposing that we have an open market system for driver’s licenses?  For realz?  If you’re willing to float a wild idea like that, you might want to reconsider the protections of tenure.  I mean what could possibly go wrong?  Let’s just open up Cletus’s house of driver’s licensing and smoked meat emporium.  If they can dish out the certifications faster “provide better service” than the DMV, why shouldn’t “Cletus’ Certified Car Chits” carry just as much weight as the official government certifications? 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Great Lakes Greta Surfaces

My dear fellow Miserarians,

I just wanted to thank you all for the outpouring of support and concern following my whine of a month ago.  I was in a dark, dark place for a good month before that and I didn't know what to do other than post.  Posting helped.  Reading your responses helped--a lot.  That specific darkness began to lift the moment I shared with you.  This semester continues to be a struggle, professionally, but I have been able to put much of it in perspective and to forgive myself a little bit for my own inadequacies--and that is in large part because of the responses I read from you good folks here.

This is the first moment I've been able to steal to surface.  I just wanted you all to know that I'm fine and that I remain grateful for this virtual community that has sustained me through so much.

Much love,
Great Lakes Greta

P.S.-- I am working on new haiku.

Dr. Amelia's Pro Tips for Job Searchers.

Dear job candidates:

Thank you for your interest in the Hamster Fur Department. We are so pleased to welcome you on campus this week. Here are a few tips for ensuring your success:

1. If we ask you what classes in the major you can teach, don't make up classes that we don't offer and probably won't ever offer. We all have dreams. However, we work in reality.

2. If we ask you about a 5-year research trajectory, it's fine to give broad strokes of the types of questions you are interested in. We're really interested in making sure your ideas are feasible in our environment. If you can't answer that question without referring to "my advisor" in every other sentence, you have a problem.

You thought THAT was mean?

To the student who burst into tears and blurted out, "You're so mean," when I said, "I won't check grammar since you can get that taken care of at the Writing Lab, but I'm happy to look at your overall argument to see if it makes logical sense," thanks for reminding me that I did, indeed, make the right choice in limiting myself to working with "adults."

To the colleague who ranted about the fact that the chair of the Rank and Tenure committee was "mean" when she told him that he needs to submit only scholarship from his time here at this institution, are you fucking kidding me? That wasn't MEAN; that was a kindness, because otherwise, your whole portfolio would have been discounted and the real mean people would have pointed and laughed.

To the Administrator who told me that I should have been kinder to the student who surreptitiously pulled out his mini-iPad to "check the weather" in the middle of a tri-term exam, you are an idiot. I caught him straight-up cheating and he then lied about what he was doing and lied to you about the fact that I "made a big stink." I quietly asked him to put away his device after taking a screenshot of what he was looking at and emailing it to me as evidence, and you want me to be 'kinder' by having to put together another exam and let him take that version? Hell, no! I reserve the right to "be mean" in this case.

To my friends who aren't in academia. You thought it was mean of me for not showing up to your Friday night Fall Festival party that lasted eight hours. I'm sorry, but you get together every Friday night for some event or other and I attend those when I can. I had 85 exams and 85 essays to grade this weekend. I was being kind by not showing; had  I come, I would have drunk all the booze and left you with a sad, dry party.

Seven Years Ago on RYS. A Flashback on Someone Who Was Getting Out.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Someone is Getting Out, But Has Some Words for Profs, Students, and The iPod Generation. The "Something Shiny" Post.

The countdown has begun. In four weeks, I will graduate with an MA in British literature and a year and a half of experience teaching freshman composition.

To my professors, past and present: I love you. Over the past 10 years, you have all shaped my life in ways you could not possibly have imagined. You opened up new worlds to me, new perspectives, new philosophies. You gave me your guidance, and some of you have blessed me with your friendship. I don’t think I ever really appreciated all you do, all you go through, how I abused my position as a “good” student, and how much inadvertent disrespect I showed you. You have my eternal gratitude, and my deepest apologies.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Speedy Rant of the Refrigerator

Dear colleague-who-leaves-open containers of foul-smelling food on my shelves: I am NOT your personal refrigerator. The sliced raw onions that you insist on eating with each meal "for health reasons" stink up the whole office every time someone opens my door.

For Duck's sake, put your food in a container with a lid or take a supplement "for health reasons." The yogurt on the second shelf has moved as far away from the onions as possible, and even he now smells of onions, and it's gross. I work really hard to keep your food cold, and your onions give me a bad rep.

"Oh Why," With Kimmie.

  • Oh why do we even break for Thanksgiving this year? We come back for 3 more classes after that. My students always go completely asleep after all that turkey, and I never get them back on track before the final.
  • Oh why did I agree to write this foreword for this book. I don't know the authors very well, and just because I know the subject matter doesn't mean I know what to say before their book, which, I must admit, is not one I would write at all. Do I write the foreword to their book, or the one to a book I would have written? Do I have to say something nice? Does it have to be long? I asked the authors, "How long?" And they said, "Oh whatever." Whatever? You mean if I gave you 80 pages you'd use it? Oh why didn't I say I was busy?
  • Oh why am I trying to save my student Stupid Steve from himself? He's done nearly nothing to convince me that he deserves to stay in the class, but I keep adding alternate assignments to a growing list of things he hasn't done. I don't think he could do these alternate assignments in two semesters. I've begged him to drop. I've offered to let him in a class next semester. But he keeps doggedly insisting he's just right there, ready to get going. I mean, he won't pass unless he does an incredible job, and I can't make him drop. But is he waiting me out?
  • Why did Hiram drive his Dean to Cincinnati? Was it punishment? Did he go to the conference, too? What did they have for lunch? Is Cincinnati nice? 
  • Oh why am I so curious about all the CM people? Why are they so much more interesting than my own colleagues? Can't we all start a school somewhere so we can be friends? (If Darla would be there, I'd be in! How's her baby? No updates? A new mom in the middle of the semester isn't busy, right?
  • Why can't I get this song out of my head?
  • Oh why do I have to be the designated lesbian AND designated woman in my department? I get asked questions that would not be appropriate in any workplace on the planet, and nobody seems to think it's odd.
  • Why does my career fuck up my love life and not the other way around?

This Week's Big Thirsty from Eating Low Salt. Best Teaching Tip You Ever Stole From a Colleague.

My colleagues, oy vey, they're dunderheads. Nobody is as wonderful as me. Yet, one day, while doing an observation, I witnessed an engaged and ready classroom, different from my own. These students were active. I would give anything for action.

The students talked. They asked questions. Before the proffie started anything, a student had a theory he wanted to talk about. The class answered him. The proffie, the shiftless bastard, just sat there and smiled like he'd just eaten an entire jar of Nutella.

It stunned me.

I walked out back to my office and reconvened with the observed party, that shiftless and errant bastard!

"How did you do that?" I asked. "I didn't see any wires or smoke. Your students actually led the class."

That miserable son of a bitch smiled again and said, "I trained them. I start the semester MAKING each student in turn start the class. They have to do at least 120 seconds of an opening salvo. They HAVE to. They get docked points. I MAKE 2 other students each day give at least a 60 second response. They HAVE to. I give them tiny points for extra insight, for an example from our readings."

"And they do this all semester?"

And he smiled again, that motherless, despicable asshole! "No, I stop MAKING them do it around midterm."

"And the rest of the time?" I asked, already knowing the answer, already slumping in my chair, already designing some kind of torturous death for this unctuous and abhorrent creature before me.

"The rest of the time they do it themselves."

Q: What's the best teaching tip you ever learned from a colleague?