Friday, April 1, 2016

This Twitter thing just might catch on after all.

This Twitter thing just might catch on after all.

I have a Twitter account that I seldom have time to use. I follow a few users (Tweeters?) who tweet things of high snark value, but many of whom (like me) go for days or weeks between tweets. I don't typically consider the medium conducive to deep thoughts, despite what some digital pedagogue might have us believe, but sometimes things come down the pipe that do cause me to think. Typically, links to other things. Here are three that recently caught my eye.


Flava: It's about grading rubrics.

Comment: You'll probably find it funny because it's true. That is all.


Flava: This really happened on a real campus [picture of a shout-out to adjuncts not shown]

Comment: This same thing could happen at my joint. When I get a call from someone who isn't even listed in our phone book but whom I'll find as an instructor of record if I dig through our LMS, I would appreciate at least the opportunity to put a face to the name. I think a department's neglecting (or refusing) to post pictures of adjuncts alongside the "full timers" speaks volumes.

The glass-half-full way of looking at how we treat adjuncts at my joint now is that we just treat everybody like shit. But if we ever did acknowledge our faculty in the way pictured, I'd campaign to include all or none. If we're embarrassed by the imbalance, good. Embarrassment is recognition, and recognizing the problem is the first step to fixing it. (Or it's the first step to redefining what constitutes a "problem".)

The LINK which, to save you the trouble, links to The End of Research in Wisconsin

Flava: This past June, American academia went into an uproar over Gov. Scott Walker's new budget in Wisconsin, which ... also severely weakened shared faculty governance and effectively destroyed professor tenure at state universities ... Some enraged Wisconsin faculty expressed their ire in public ... at least 40 of UW–Madison's superstar faculty entertained other offers but eventually decided to stay in Madison—thanks, in no small part, to a $9 million effort to keep them.

Comment: If you treat faculty as you'd treat any interchangeable working drone in "the real world", then you shouldn't be surprised when they treat you like "just a paycheck" and go wherever the grass
is greener. Get used to making counteroffers while your customers suffer the consequences. And, in case I haven't said it enough lately: Fuck You, Scott Walker.

Since I had some work to procrastinate from, I went ahead and read part of the way into the 1300+ comments, too. Of course there's the usual misunderstanding and suspicion of tenure and the "cushy" life of proffies, but it's a reasonably respectful conversation not entirely without merit. With the caveat that Slate commenters are a self-selected, perhaps non-representational cross-section of society, I think it's good to periodically consider what society has to say about these matters.

-From OPH.

P.S. Here's one more I found in my feed this morning just as I was about to send this post:

When someone who has never taught tells you what to do in the classroom.


  1. It looks like my experiment with emailing a formatted post, "exactly as [I'd] like to see it on our page," failed miserably. Sorry, everyone. (I miss being able to preview in Blogger prior to publishing.) But I got some useful data. If the email itself is "rich text" instead of "plain text" it just might work next time.

  2. Where is the April fools day thing?

    1. I thought the lack of HTML formatting was either a mistake or the April's Fools' day prank. Either is fine. The whole page with the HTML showing would be an atrocious mess but kind of funny too.

    2. Oh, I dreaded this day. We have such a grand tradition of the day and I just don't have anything!!! Where are Fab and Cal and those bastards?


    3. We also have a tradition of April Fools-type pranks showing up at other times of the year, so maybe the lack of an obvious April Fools' Day post is just a plot to lure us all into complacency.

    4. No pressure.

      Things which burn out RGMS are bad. Pressure burns out RGMs. Therefore, pressure is bad.

      So, no pressure.

    5. The mistake was entirely on my end, Ben. For forensic analysis, I saved a screenshot of this page with my bungled formatting, prior to the RGM or delegate having kindly cleaned it up. (THANK YOU, whoever you are! And again, sorry for creating more work for you.)

      It appears that if an email contains a URL, GMail's "plain text" is not so plain. Blogger's software then rendered the URLs as links and the remaining, hand-coded HTML as plain text. I used the "display original" option on what I sent to sparkydarlin, and I can confirm that GMail did indeed fuck with my text in unpredictable ways. It's like GMail is going the way of MSOffice in assuming it knows what I want better than I know myself.

      tl;dr what I typed and what I sent were different things.

  3. Hah! to #1 (though I do struggle a bit sometimes with some STEM colleagues' conviction that the main function of writing teachers is to stamp out grammar errors -- as if we could actually do that -- at the same time that I appreciate, and sympathize with, the desire for and even necessity of precision).

    And Aargh to the last one (though at least such occasions are more and more leading me to think "how could I get into that line of business? At least I have experience, and, what's more, given the opportunity, I'd turn professional development workshops into a chance for colleagues to share wisdom with each other -- what the best outside speakers/facilitators do -- rather than to bloviate").

    And one piece of good news: my university just chose an experienced-at-all-levels (i.e. has taught English 101 as well as a grad class within the last year) classroom teacher over a "higher ed expert" (who seems perfectly nice, but also kind of clueless about what the majority of the faculty -- i.e. the non-tenure-track part -- do) to lead our excellence-in-teaching office.

    1. > sometimes with some STEM colleagues' conviction that the main function of writing teachers is to stamp out grammar errors

      In all seriousness if you could just get them to believe that grammar errors need fixing it would be a huge help.


      You see, we're transitioning to "Writing in the Disciplines", so my annoying (to the students) habit of making them write papers in upper division quantitative gerbil classes needs to be extended to the whole quantitative gerbil group, and I've been designated to spearhead the effort.

      If all the students reached that point able to write reasonable well in any style I could mostly concentrate on teaching them what quantitative gerbil citation style looks like (not how to format the entries which any monkey could learn to do, but when and what to cite).

      And how to ruthlessly murder 80% of the adjectives in their papers.

      And to define their symbols.

      And to include and make good use of figures and tables.

      And that sounding like a Discovery channel documentary is emphatically not a good thing.

      When I get a student who can do basic writing, turning his or her attention to the discipline specific stuff is easy. I love to write at the end of a first draft 'This is a very nice essay for the humanities and the writing is basically sound, now we have to make it read like a science paper,' because I know that I can expect progress.

      When I get a student who struggles with something basic—like making sentence that mean what the student thinks they mean or mustering arguments and evidence for an idea, or stringing more than two thoughts together with a plan—I know I'm in for a world of hurt.

      And I don't know how you all manage and I'm grateful for your efforts. Really.

    2. Unfortunately, PP, the only way I know to make students really care about issues of technical correctness is to fail them, or at least severely dock their grades, if they make more than a very few errors. I've never tried this approach, but apparently our business school did for a while, and, miraculously, without any particular additional instruction, many more students turned out to be able to locate and fix mechanical errors than most of us would think (well, either that or the business students pay someone else to do/edit their writing if the stakes are high enough).

      The problem with that approach, of course, is that it privileges technical correctness over pretty much anything else.

      The other difficulty with which you (and we) are dealing is that students don't learn to write a coherent sentence, once and for all. It's a proven (at least in composition studies) fact that when students move to a new level of thinking, their prose tends to fall apart for a while, as they struggle to express that thinking. It may be partly a matter of writing more complex sentences, but that's not all of it. There really is a connection between thinking and writing, and it seems that the ability to express an idea in well-wrought prose tends to trail the ability to think it (or at least begin thinking it). I'm not sure whether this also goes for thinking about a new subject (your experience suggests maybe not), but I wouldn't be surprised if it did.

      We do try to emphasize stuff like evidence and coherence and such, but, well, even when we make progress, that doesn't mean we get all the way (and we'll hope the student at least takes another step in the writing-in-the-disciplines class; ultimately, we're all in this together).

    3. That's fascinating. And it does make a certain amount of sense: my students do struggle to articulate new ideas even after they can apply just fine in a problem context.



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