Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Whole, Final, Miserable History.

In the beginning there was RYS (Rate Your Students), a blog started by "The Professor" on November 3, 2005. It was a slow grower. "The Professor" handed off moderating duties when it got busy. Lots of national press. From 2008-2010 Compound Cal joined as a moderator, and was the last man standing when he shut the place down on May 28th, 2010. (Famously, Cal wrote a great piece for the Chronicle that provides RYS-specific history.)

A number of RYS readers approached Cal about keeping that page alive, but he did not want the name to continue. Fab Sun (aka Fabio Sunshine, I'm not shitting you) got the nod, and College Misery started on June 24th, 2010.

What differed the most between the pages is that comments were turned on at CM, allowing us to flail madly, get off track, insult each other, and (more than occasionally) raise the roof on good ideas.

A number of conceits existed with the community, some that came from RYS, and some that were all our own.
  • The blog was always run at a "compound" somewhere. In the RYS days, it was a desert location, filled with ravenous wolves, barbed wire, tar pits, and townie redheads. CM started in a shed on the campus of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, moved for a time to Weber State University in Ogden, Utah, where the large cache of compound guns caused less suspicion, and then after a hiatus in 2014, relocated at Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa. In March of 2015 the community took their weed, guns, leathers, and canned meats to Oilmont, Montana. In December 2015 they relocated to a non-descript strip mall site in Orlando, Florida, their final resting spot.
  • There was always a hookah, but past RYS "personality" Compound Cash was likely to steal your weed.
  • The page was dying. It was always dying. We were always teetering on extinction, and we liked it.
  • Everything on here was written by 4 people. We were lonely. We had cats instead of families. We hit refresh all day to inflate our page counts. We made millions on the ads, when we had them, and then took that money, invested it, and now have spent it on trash.
  • The graphics sucked.
  • The moderators were always fucking things up, changing fonts, blurring images, capriciously picking and choosing who got to have a voice. Fab used to get hammered for being too big a dick swinger, and then the next day for being too much of a woman. Leslie K would occasionally generate lustful love letters and then misogynistic rants. She treated them all the same, just like she did her hubby, daughter, and son-in-law, with disdain. Terry P. had at least 2 recognized nervous breakdowns during office hours. The moniker "RGM," or Real Goddamned Moderator got used occasionally to depersonalize the position. Hiram ran the page one day, and you can guess how that went. After the 2014 hiatus Terry P. took over again and ended his tenure in mid March 2015 with the remarkable "Mediocre Reveal." Both Ben and Kimmie ran alternate pages during CM hiatuses.
  • Thirstys were questions. Thursday was the Big Thirsty. There were others. Nobody but Cal ever knew what they were or cared.
  • There was Yaro. Read this. Or this. Or this. Or this.
  • There was Katie.
  • Everyone drank.
  • We didn't invent the term, but we like to say we popularized "snowflake." 
  • Our ethos was always, "Don't care more about their education than they do." (Yet all evidence shows we didn't quite measure up.)
  • We solved all the problems of academe, and then we broke it again.
  • In the 2371 days since the page first went online, we published 6346 posts, hosted 73,780 comments, were visited almost exactly 11 million times, and really really really wanted everyone to stop making cookies for their fucking students.
  • Everything we did was out of love. 
  • There was a duck. The duck was popularized in CM lore by Terry P. It was often evoked to change the topic, defuse a tense situation, or because it was such a good looking fucking duck. The duck, as you must know, has left the building.

Saturday, December 17, 2016


Some observations on the semester that is almost (finally; thank goodness) over, arranged by buzzword:

This hasn't been my best semester. I started it tired; I tried something new toward the beginning of the semester and waited too long to bail on the parts that weren't working and regroup; I was trying to teach 4 sections of the same class on 3 different schedules, which is surprisingly difficult, at least for my middle-aged brain, and requires disproportionate amounts of energy and attention to be directed toward simply keeping track of things, where things may = activities, assignments, schedules, deadlines, students, and/or myself. If lost, I could usually be found in my office or apartment, or, failing that, my car, or maybe church. I'm less sure of where a few of my students were, including (especially) during scheduled class meetings.

Oddly, despite my occasional confusion (and some students' more-than-occasional absences), retention has been better than usual. There were a few withdrawals, but only a few, and I actually received a final paper from all but one person in each section. I haven't graded all those papers yet (and I didn't see some of them in conference, despite repeated invitations, which is a bad sign), so some of them may be completely unresponsive to the assignment and/or plagiarized, but they exist, which is better than I can say many semesters when I feel that I did a much better job of reminding, explaining, etc., etc., especially for the fully-online students. So maybe, despite the usual advice, I should remind, explain, cajole, etc., etc. less? Or maybe Computer Science majors (who made up at least 50% of my students this semester) have qualities that allow them to succeed with less reminding, explaining, etc., etc. than average? Or maybe, as I all too often suspect, what I do or don't do has a lot less effect than I'd like it to?

Engagement throughout the semester may be the holy grail of pedagogy (and just as (un)attainable), but engagement seems to be pretty easy to achieve when final deadlines, and final grades, loom. All of a sudden people I haven't heard from all semester are reading assignments and comments carefully, asking substantive questions, and generally doing their best to produce satisfactory work (and, I hope, developing a few useful, transferrable skills in the process). This is good, and suggests that students do have the ability to engage with schoolwork when they believe the occasion requires it. However, I'm not sure I know how to produce (transfer?) this effect earlier in the semester (and I doubt all the gurus and edupreneurs crowding my inbox with engagement "solutions" do either).

Development/Application of Transferrable Skills:
"Since the beginning of history, researchers have sought to improve [technological thingie which is a decade old at best]" really doesn't make sense. I've also seen the claim that "throughout history, man has sought to create a self-driving car." Really? Do they even think about what these phrases mean? I guess I should be glad that they've internalized the concept of common rhetorical tropes, and are attempting to apply it, but thought and logic, not to mention the selection of effective/non-cliched tropes, are also desirable. 
I think I've mentioned this before, but engineers are surprisingly bad at simple mathematical tasks, like allocating a set number of participation points among the members of a group. Some try to sneak a few extra points by me (okay, worth a try, except that years of grading things using various point systems have kept my basic math skills, which were reasonably robust to start with, pretty spry), but others leave points on the table. Like Hiram (hi, Hiram! Are you out there somewhere? We miss you!), I'm baffled.

Also, like Amelia, I'll clearly do anything to avoid grading (and thus discovering just how bad some of those final papers are).


Friday, December 16, 2016

From IHE: My Best/Worst Semester Dropping from full-time to a single course reveals losses and gains.

by John Warner
6. I miss being part of an institution.
Periodically, over the course of the semester, things would crop up where I thought I could be of help, but I had to force myself to not participate in order to not be even more culpable in my own exploitation. As the department begins to discuss possible changes to the first-year writing curriculum I know that I could be a voice in that conversation. As they worry about declining majors and figuring out how to help students bridge their educations to careers, I know that my experience outside of academia allows me to provide a useful perspective.
But I am no longer a member of that team, if I ever was in the first place.
The reality of the contemporary university is that much of the potential of faculty of all stripes to make a positive impact on students is simply wasted. Call it the inefficiency of efficiency.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Brief musings about finals misery and a Big Thirsty to Boot!

Clearly Dr. Amelia is doing ANYTHING to avoid grading:

1. "In our world today" was on our list of banned phrases for the class because Dr. Amelia hates it, she does. So, why, Why, WHY am I seeing it in every tea partying essay exam answer today?

2. The students get hot chocolate and therapy dogs to deal with the stress of studying for finals. Where are my puppies? Someone needs to get on this immediately.

3. Yes, you still have to do a final presentation, even if you don't want to or aren't prepared. You will be embarrassed by not having prepared, and I understand that. It's a natural consequence. Life is full of 'em.

4. I commute an hour to my workplace as a two-body problem solution. Could you people please stop scheduling one 30-minute meeting in the middle of a day when I don't give a test? For the love...

5. You "Studied together" and the part Jimmy Bobby was responsible for summarizing was wrong and you just studied his summary and therefore got that essay question bass ackwards? Too. Darned. Bad. Either pick better friends, or do your own work. DO NOT tell me things are not fair.

And a mini fill-in-the-blank thirsty for youse guys:

I don't always get this angry while grading finals, but when I do...

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Irene in Iowa. Finding Out the Truth.

After three wonderful years post-doc at my PhD school, I took a tenure track job this fall a hundred miles away at a sorta of notoriously lousy college. Sue me. I needed dental for my growing family of crooked-teethed children! I wanted a living wage, too, and a real office, and a title, and all the things that we are told are part of the academic dream.

I was pleasantly surprised to find a lovely spot with reasonable enough weather (I know where I live!) My colleagues were pleasant and welcoming. I became friends with them and their children and spouses. And my kids loved their new schools.

And then I started teaching. I taught two weeks of church camp 10 years ago to middle school aged kids. That's what my new job was like. They were boorish and impatient, unable to focus for even a minute at a time. They didn't buy the book let alone read it. I flunked 60% of them on the first test (short answers, 1-2 paragraphs each, about fairly easy textbook and lecture stuff.) They moaned. Why wasn't it multiple choice? All the other kids get multiple choice!

And it didn't get better. My classes started with 30-50 students, and now in the afterburn of finals week, I'm averaging about 60% of the students still left, and only about 50% with reasonably safe passing grades. (I've got a big bunch across all my classes on the D/C border, and after talking with some colleagues - who have been alarmed all semester at my attrition rate - I'm going to bump some of them up.)

These students won't work. My post-doc years were at the state's flagship school. The undergrads I taught or TA'd were bright, inquisitive, and above all, at least willing to try. I had no idea how special they were until I got here.

I had my last final today, and across from my classroom is a small lounge area mostly used by students. I started my students off on their test and took a cup of coffee to the lounge and just stared out the window. (Snow's coming; I love snow.)

Anyway, I heard a blend of conversations during the hour I sat there. I was pretty unobtrusive and I look young. I was half hidden by a piling and there was nothing forced or odd about the casual chatter I heard. (I only recognized one student I knew, but he was a long ways away and I never heard him talking.)

Some of the things I did hear:

  • "I have a 135% average in my math class. My teacher said as long as I got over a 50% on the final I'd get an A. Then she just said skip it. 'You're not going to get a 50!'"
  • "My roommate hardly ever makes it to class. He's got a 4.0 like me. Our whole floor is pretty much 4.0."
  • "With the calculator it's easy. It's all multiple choice so I just try it with the calculator and then bubble in whatever number is closest. I'd be screwed if I had to write something down."
  • "That bitch made me rewrite my paper. I didn't fix anything but put in new margins and a new font and she bumped me from a B to an A. Stupid bitch."
  • "This class is so much easier than high school. I swear, I'm in a 200 level class that is easier than my senior History."
  • "My teacher made everyone cupcakes and during the final we talked about how she was getting married and wasn't going to teach for a year."
  • "We only had 2 essays. The rest of the time we just watched videos."
  • "We had a textbook reading each week, but then he'd always read the important parts to us on Mondays and tell us what parts were on the quiz. And then the quiz was multiple choice and pretty easy."
  • "My professor took us to the gym and we shot free throws to see who'd have to do the extra problems."
  • "I told her I had my period and then I went to by boyfriend's mom's place. She was so worried about me she gave me an extension. I wasn't even going to write the paper, but I had extra time after that."
  • "Just email your essay and say you couldn't work SafeAssign. Then she can't check you for plagiarism."
  • "Don't get a paper off the internet; get one from someone in your dorm. If it's recent enough it won't get caught. My roommate and I both used the same nuclear power paper. But I got an A- because I didn't even have a bibliography."

Yes, I know students love to talk and are given to hyperbole, but these students talked like my own students acted - anything to avoid work. Happy to avoid work. Glad to get the easy grades and the easy classes. 

I've had such a sad semester. My kids keep me going, and their own classes feel rigorous to me at a distance. I sit and watch them do homework - as I do mine. And I get called Dr. Irene and Prof. Irene, and I bought a car and a duplex and my kids teeth are straighter! The town is cute, and big and small enough at the same time. And I just am lucky lucky lucky lucky, far luckier than many of my grad school cohort.

But this college! These students! These awful students!

Before I wrote this post I started reading final exams. I held out hope that 15 weeks of learning by osmosis might have revealed itself in the final exams. But no such luck.

When asked for specific examples, it's generalities. "There are many essential parts of study in Xxxxxx and its important to study them from back to fornt using all of the history of the great study of Xxxxxx and how essential and interesting it can be for people who want to spend their careers in Xxxxxx doing good work to make the United States a leader in Xxxxxx and a pagan to the rest of the world."

Yeah, so there's that. That's 25% of the final grade there.

I'm home now. The kiddos are in their last week. There's an actual goddamned chicken in the crockpot and potatoes and carrots and my oldest helped me make sugar cookies. We're going to have a good night, and then tomorrow I'll look at the rest of these finals.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Comments Caught in Spam.

I am finding 1-2 legit comments in the spam filter every day. I will try to check there more regularly. Sorry if a comment of yours doesn't appear timely.

The RGM 

Oh, hey, here's some misery...

The faculty union at Orange Coast College is squaring off against a student who shared a secret recording of a professor's in-class comments about Donald Trump on social media.

The recording starts mid-sentence; the professor was apparently responding to a student who asked her to her to "talk about how she felt" about the election.

The recording was published on Facebook, and a student group has now filed a formal complaint against the professor.

The student might be in trouble too; secretly recording the class was apparently a violation of the student code of conduct, the California Education Code, and the course syllabus.

The comment section is the usual parade of geniuses.

I'm just thankful that whatever my own misery, at least it doesn't include my unsatisfied customers students suddenly having a platform to complain about me on national news.


"Those Sweet Freshpersons." Coming to a theater near you. From Dr. Amelia.

Prologue: Quiet room full of students taking final exam, where they have been hard at work for 8 minutes or so.

Opening credits: Thought bubbles over their heads.

Act 1: Late student enters. Takes exam and sits down and begins to work. An hour passes.

Act 2: Late student asks to go to the bathroom. Goes, and returns a full 15-minutes later. Prof gives student the side-eye as s/he erases several answers and chooses new ones immediately upon sitting back down. Having not accompanied the student to the bathroom, prof can't prove anything. Silently, sarcastically thanks student for ruining the bathroom for everyone.

Act 3: Late student signs honor code, turns in paper and leaves. Prof looks at paper and sees that of the 5 answers student changed, 4 became false following erasure, and one became true.

Post-credits scene: Prof. is sitting at a diner table with Wonder Woman and Thor. "Kids these days!" she says. Everyone has a good laugh.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

What to advise a student who has done poorly all semester, by Froderick Frankenstien from Fresno

Final exams are next week. I am now getting the usual wave of students coming in during (and not during) office hours for the first time all semester. These students have done little reading or homework all semester, and have done poorly on the mid-term exams, and now want to know what to do.

The deadline for dropping classes passed long ago. So, they want to know what they have to do to pass the class.

They seem to expect you to produce a jar of magic beans, and tell them that if you eat one, a miracle will happen. Or maybe they expect me to do the Vulcan mind meld, not noticing that I don't have pointed ears. It's much like when Tina, the technical writer in Dilbert, asked Alice, "Show me how to be an engineer. I don't care if it takes all day."

It does not work to get mad at them, the way Reverend Spooner did when he told a student, "You have hissed every one of my mystery lectures, and have tasted the whole worm." They're not soliciting opportunities for sexual services, either. (Those usually involve a salacious grin while saying, "Isn't there ANYTHING I can do?") Frankly, I can't help feeling a little sorry for them, despite how they got into their sorry situation is entirely their own fault.

This semester, I had an epiphany. I told one student, just before Mid-Term 2, "Take this pencil, and this eraser, and this pad of paper, and do so much writing, the pencil turns into a little stub. If you come to the end of the paper or eraser first, use new ones, but make this long pencil so short, it's no longer usable."

It worked: this student got a B on Mid-Term 2. This pulled the student's overall grade up to a C.

For final exams, I've been giving out two pencils. Mind you, this is for my third-semester, calculus-based physics class for scientists and engineers (on optics, special relativity, and introductory quantum physics). The subject is done with a pencil and paper, since it's very heavy on analytical mathematics (as opposed to numerical mathematics, for which one uses a computer). Nevertheless, this may work for other courses, such as English comp: I learned that in 1976, largely by putting pencil to paper. I think I'm onto something here.

- Froderick Frankenstien from Fresno

Friday, December 9, 2016

From Terry P. Whatever you do...

...don't go on Twitter and type "professor cancelled final."

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Hector Sends In This Link

Here's a website that has been popping up on some of the plagiarized papers I've been getting.


Who are we?

We are a young yet experienced team of writers and service specialists who have been helping students since 2007.

Why do we do what we do?

To put it simply, we’ve all been there. We know the pain of wasting precious time on less-than-exciting assignments while your student years slip through your fingers. We’d like to ensure that you can focus on what matters to you.

What do we want to achieve?

Let’s admit it. The current educational system is flawed. Students are assigned papers that bear little relevance to their interests, or they are too busy to complete assignments because they are working hard to cover enormous tuition fees. We work to address the deficiencies of the system, one paper at a time.

Overnightessay writers team

Follow Up to Yuri...From Cal. (And a Kind of Quickie Big Thirsty Just For Continuity...)

It may be that some people on Yuri's thread below don't have a lot of experience with what goes on in many typical freshman comp classes.

The sheer amount of outside class cheating is sometimes overwhelming. The first essay I took in this past semester in my 8 am section (always a bad time for this it seems), had 14 of 21 papers that had work copied and pasted from online essays, and these were literacy narratives, stories about how the writer first began to control and love language. Students weren't willing to write about their own experiences and found it easier just to copy and paste from the limitless pool of student essays online. (That they knew they could get caught with the ubiquitous plagiarism-checker Turnitin didn't dissuade this time or on the next essay!)

When I can control the assignment, assigning creative and quite specific topics that I already know will be difficult to find versions of online, my students work a lot on their own.

But, for my students' research paper, I start with the system that Yuri's clever English proffies use. Quite a great thing. The lab days are split up with in-class days where we review things in our normal classroom like MLA or APA citation, work on works cited pages together, pitch annotated bibs to each other, study student research paper models from our text, etc.

For me, once a paper is started and has some shape (opening, some body paragraphs, etc.) I allow work in the outside world, but I'm always tracking their changes in MSWord to make sure no large scale copy and paste bullshit is going on. Really once they commit to a topic and settle on 6-10 sources, it is VERY noticeable if they cheat, because well, their nuclear power disaster paper becomes about NASCAR helmet technology. The temptation to cheat lessens, too, the more time they spend on things.

Of course nothing is foolproof, but I swear by some of the same processes in Yuri's post, and it has been so nice to stop getting those Turnitin reports of 96% and 98% (VERY VERY BAD) that are just so dismaying.

For me, in my own experience, it's first and second semester freshmen MOST in need of a set of parameters to keep them from the allure of free online essays, so a comp class - where their writing is the WHOLE content - is the perfect place to institute this plan.

Q: Other poor English proffies with lots of comp instruction, what methods do you use to keep students from grabbing an essay mill paper and passing it off as their own?

yeah...real student email from this week

Often noted
as the worst ever
CM graphic. Thx!
"I just reviewed the feedback/ criticism from my long draft report. But hey, try giving out some positive remarks with all of the negative you like to give. Also, I did complete the [hamster hairdressing] research, I didn't submit it. Thanks again for your criticism!"

The author is not a 20-year old snowflake.

The author already works in a profession with very serious consequences when not well practiced well.

But, I'm relieved to know that this student completed the assignment that s/he did not turn in.

"All of the negative that you like to give." Oh my. If I were a songwriter...I'd a write song with this as the hook.

- Miserable Adjunct

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Yuri in Youngstown on Academic Cheating.

When I first became a Dean, I had no idea that a large part of every week would be spent on academic cheating cases. It was endless. It was discouraging. It changed the way I look at students forever.

In reviewing the past couple of relevant posts and comments, I remember a couple of English professors at my college who began to combat this in a way I found clever and unique.

It started with one loudmouthed kid who sat in my office one day
blaming his professor for a plagiarized paper. The argument was illogical but boldly proclaimed. He said, "My professor never even saw a rough draft." (Why? Because the kid skipped it.) "My professor gave me so much time out of class to work on it." (Why? Well, because this is college.) In the end, the kid just bought or copied a paper from an essay mill and turned it in. It popped up 90% plagiarized in our SafeAssign software, and then I was asked to be involved.

In the aftermath of that, two English professors made changes to their "out of class" essays, requiring that they be written - for the most part - in computer labs, much as they had run their final exams in the past. They had noted an increase in plagiarism and a complementary discrepancy in the quality of out of class and in class writing.

These profs, both of whom who are still here and thriving, began to book 2-4 classes in a row in our computer labs. Essay assignments were given ahead of time, and students could make notes and outlines and even do research. But they could not write.

Only in the labs were they allowed to work on their actual documents. At the end of lab time on a particular day the professors gathered the in-progress drafts (one on a flash or external drive; one by taking in emailed files.) Then the next day the students would continue with those same files.

I'm sure some kid figured out a way around the system, but all in all the incidences of plagiarism plummeted in those courses. The practice has now spread to some other faculty in English, and a great amount of worry that our students are doing their own work has dissipated.

I don't know if this kind of thing would work for everyone, of if there are some important pedagogical practices being skipped, but I do know it made for a lighter load for me.

- Yuri

Early Thirsty From Tentative Tina.

I can't seem to
drink this problem
I'm a freeway flyer, as we used to say, and I'm stuck at the WORST COLLEGE IN AMERICA for 2 sections this term because my normal part-time gig got plucked by someone else. Anyway, that's straightened out and I won't have to return to this place again.

However, I am taking in final papers from my students and they are FULL of plagiarism cases. If anyone uses Turnitin software to check essays' originality, you'll know the special horror of seeing a row of 90+% papers come in at the deadline.

I don't mind giving the Fs. But at this college I'm supposed to also fill out formal academic cheating forms for the Dean's office, each one is 3 pages, for each student, and then "be available" over the semester break for followup and disputes.

No. No. I can't do that. I don't want to do that. I want to flunk the worst offenders and not report them. I want to tell the ones who seem to be good students (like my 40 year old air/conditioner company owner who has done solid B work all term) that he's made a HUGE mistake by copying a freshman paper from 2001 and turning it in on his own.

I don't want to shirk my responsibilities as an educator. But I DO want to shirk my responsibilities as a part-timer with no history or future at this place.

Q: Am I Just Too Precious and Lazy and Wrong For Words? I Sense I Am. Help? What Should I Do? And What Would You Do?

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

From Stanley in Statesboro.

At the last minute faculty got it cancelled.
Yes, we have a gun range on campus.

tu esd ay

O pe n 4 rUm 

Monday, December 5, 2016

POW! From the Wombat.

I'm going to miss class today.  What do I do?

-NotWombat's Student


IDK, Netflix? 



Open forum

Sunday, December 4, 2016

S U N D A Y. O P E N. T H R E A D.

Just type 
yer mizery in 
the region


Saturday, December 3, 2016

University of Southern California professor fatally stabbed on campus, student arrested

The president of the University of Southern California has identified the professor stabbed to death by a student on campus as a psychology professor and neuroscientist.

USC President C. L. Max Nikias said in a letter to the USC community that the professor killed Friday afternoon was Bosco Tjan, an expert in vision cognition and perception.

The USC Department of Public Safety said that investigators believe the stabbing "was the result of a personal dispute" and that there was no threat to the campus.

More misery.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Friday Thirsty: Best Urban Legends? From Three Sigma.

One thing I dearly love is urban legends about college.

Scene: A huge lecture theatre, with many students busily writing in test books. The professor looks at his watch, and announces, "pencils down." The stragglers all reluctantly put down their pens and file up to the desk with their papers, except one student who keeps writing, putting the finishing touches on their paper.

A few moments later he gets in line, but the keen-eyed professor says, "No, I won't accept your paper. You kept writing after I called time. It's not fair to the other students you get more time."

The student pulls himself up to his full height and stares the professor in the eye indignantly. "Do you know who I am?"

The professor, slightly nervously but standing on his principles, says, "No."

"Good" says the student, and shoves his paper into the middle of the pile.

Q: What's your favorite legend? 

Wide Open Friday Forum. In the Manner.

Feel free to post your insane misery below
in the region.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Found on the Internet....

I posted something I found on the Internet today, some story about a TA who made a mistake and tore up a student's test because the TA thought the student had been cheating. I guess I was taken in by it because people are pretty sure I've been hoodwinked and that it would never happen. 

Sorry. Thanks for the comments and the emails. ('cept that one...sheesh, you kiss your mother with that mouth?)

I'll watch out for phony stories in the future.


Big Thirsty: Half Assed, Of Course...

I mentioned that titles with colons often were useful in providing a two level message. "Epilepsy: Treatment Options." "Youth Helmets: Protecting or Hurting?"

Then I got this one from a student this morning: "History of the NBA Colon All Of the History."

Q: What one student moment from the semester stupefies you the most?

Break Bound Train (A poem of College Misery)

Break Bound Train
Here in the flat country, we get by on grits
and long nights with red pens,
staggering towards the end of things,
and something between death and resurrection
pulls you onward day by day:
a slow moving train going to a place you bought a ticket to
but don't yet believe in.

It might be Oz or Narnia or
(most likely) Winter Break,
But for now, all you see is flat land and trees
outside windows clouded with a thousand dusty days
and dew streaks tracing snail tracks in waves.
"The windows need to be cleaned,"
you think to yourself. You know you
won't be the one to do it.
Your hands are for bleeding.

Your fingers hemorrhage ink on paper;
the conductor collects it every few days.
When the coal ran out, it seemed like the best idea we had.
You don't know where they get these papers;
you are sure you already covered this.
The bleeding red is reflexive at this point.
You unfriend your college roommate
because she still butchers semicolons;
your fingers never stopped aching around her.

When the conductor stops coming by,
you worried but kept working.
Without you, the train wouldn't move
at all. Someone made a new conductor's hat
from a blank title page. We take turns wearing it.

The papers were piling up, so we started taking them
for burning. The engine was gone. I found the dragon
that had eaten the engine liked paper marinated in red ink.
I wonder if we summoned it when we started burning
student papers just to keep moving.

You keep grading. We are running low on red pens,
and the dragon eyes the one who wears the conductor hat
"One more week," the oracle whispers, and you find

-- Poetical in Pensacola

A previous poetical 
spasm may be 

In Which Bella Laughs at the Uselessness of Online Evals

We went to paperless student evaluations about five years ago. Now, none of our students do student evaluations (like 1-3% in a semester). We have been threatened. We have been cajoled. We have been "required' to make the student evaluation completion a "for credit" assignment (as in: the admin told us to give the class five extra points on something if 85% or more did the evals).

At one point, I actually tried to get them to do the online evaluations! I walked them to the computer lab, stood in front of the class and read the handout explaining how to access the class/professor evaluation link, and then stayed at the front watching them do something on the computer for fifteen minutes, their screens of course not facing me as I would never try to see what they were writing when they are doing evaluations!!

After class was over, I went to my office computer to see how many evaluations had been completed for that class: none. N.O.N.E. Those little fuckers were reading email, gambling, and/or looking at porn while I stood up there watching them, making sure they did not leave while they were supposed to be filling out evaluations telling me what a shit I was. That was it! I don't even mention the student evaluations any more, not to one student.

Our college actually has the WORST completion rate of any college in our state system, but none of the colleges and U's have an even "good" rate of completion. And you know what? This year, they made an announcement at the state level: we are going back to paper evaluations.