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Student Readers: A Warning

I welcome students readers to this blog. However, be aware that, although I do not use anyone's actual name, the descriptions of behaviors and conversations are not disguised. This is a space in which I may rant, vent, and otherwise express responses that I would do my best to mask or at least tone down in professional interactions with students. This is my personal, gloves off, no holds barred, direct from the gut expression of what it feels like to do my job. If you think you might be hurt or offended or upset by that, read no further. The person I'm ranting about could be you.


Hi! And you are...?

My readership has suddenly blossomed, which is a lovely development--but I don't know who is reading the blog, how you found it, and why you find it interesting. I'd love to hear from you! Please feel free to use the "comment" box at the end of any particular post to let me know what brought you to this page--and what keeps you coming back for more (if you do).

Not you, Barry. You already told me--and thanks!






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Friday, August 29, 2014

Thank you, Facebook

My kid sister--also a professor--posted this on Facebook. I tried posting this to the NCC FB page, and what do you know, it doesn't show up on the posts. Hmmmm. I am, however, going to add the link to my faculty home page. It's too good not to try to pass along. I may send it to the faculty e-mail, too.

http://www.businessinsider.com/10-things-every-college-professor-hates-2014-8

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Teeny Tiny Improvement...

Bruce and I spent another chunk of time today canceling sections, shuffling things around, flagging things to be switched from adjunct schedules to FT if need be; there's more to be done, and yet contract signing has begun. Tomorrow may be mass chaos, but I'll have to abandon Bruce for most of it, as I have two doctors' appointments that may mean I can only be on campus for about 45 minutes at a time (if that). I figure that's my pay-back for last week, when I came in to do nothing.

Not all the shuffling has shown up on Banner yet: the office staff are drowning in the deluge of typing up and revising contracts, contacting adjuncts (and FT faculty) about changes or potential changes, and actually affecting the changes in the web platforms. I can't express how good they are at their jobs, or how much we rely on them. Oh, yes, and they're dealing with students who are in snits for one reason or another, on top of everything else. I don't know what they get paid, but it isn't enough.

In any event, once the actual switching around has been done, I should have a few more students in my later 101, which has the lower enrollment of the two. But the classes may run with the absolute minimum number of students. Of course, students can register (or drop-add) all through next week, so I won't know for sure what I'm facing until the second full week (and even then I may not know for sure, as freshmen sometimes think there's nothing wrong with turning up for the first time on the third week--because "nothing happens the first weeks anyway"). But at least I don't have to worry that I'll suddenly have to prep a 102 class--or, even more horrifying to contemplate, an 001. For a while there, I truly was braced for that possibility. Now Bruce tells me I can rest easy, so I intend to do just that--at least in terms of concern over enrollment numbers.

Meanwhile, I've been enjoying giving a little "survival tips" talk to students at orientation sessions. In addition to the usual "work through frustration" thing that I say to my own students, I've come up with a few other suggestions, several courtesy of Paul (of course). I like what I've been saying well enough that I think I'll use the same notes for my own classes. Here's what I have:



New Student Orientation Notes:

Some of your classes will feel a lot like high school. Some will feel very different. You’re here to learn, which means you’re here to change. If you think you know everything you need to know and are perfect just like you are, maybe you don’t need college—or now isn’t the time for you to be in college. Don’t look for what’s easy or just to get more of what you already have. Look for challenges: want them.

Develop a work space and a tool kit. To do college-level work, you need to find somewhere quiet, without distractions, where you can settle deeply into your own thinking. It can be any place that works for you—but multitasking is a myth. You can’t do schoolwork and watch videos, chat (FTF or through cyber means), have the TV on….
          You need to figure out your own tool kit. You should always have at least two pens and two sharp pencils with you, and something to write on, no matter where you go. Have your own mini-stapler. Whatever will help you keep things organized and take notes that you won’t lose.

Figure out an organization system that works for you—and use it as if your life depended on it.

Develop a clear sense of the amount of time you need for everything in your life. If necessary, make a weekly grid. Figure that for every hour you spend in class, you need at least two hours of time for homework. (Some classes will use less; some will use more: it pretty much averages out to that.) So, if you are taking 15 hours of classes in a week, you need an additional 30 hours for homework: that’s already a full-time job.
          It’s better to slow down and do well than to try to load up with credits and end up having to re-take classes.

Be willing to admit what you don’t know and when you need help—and get the knowledge and understanding you need. Do whatever you need to do in order to be sure you have what you need to do well. (Lots of campus services available: www.ncc.edu/campusservices/)

Learn to work through frustration.

I didn't write out the full idea on any of these (but it does seem typical that my "notes" are extensive and verbose): this was intended to be just enough to remind me what I want to riff on, another example of my tendency to over-prepare and then improvise on what I've prepared.

And with that, my brain shut down. I am sure I had other wildly scintillating things to share today, but whatever they may have been, they've been lost in a mental vapor-lock. It's time to get out of here. Two more days on campus this week (if you can count tomorrow: heaven knows how much time I'll actually have on campus around those appointments), then a three-day weekend, then it all begins in earnest. Ye gods. I'm prepared, but I'm not ready, if that makes sense. Still, as my buddy Jane and I used to say, onward and awkward.


 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Further semester prep

I was fit to be tied last week when I came in two days to help Bruce--and one of the days he wasn't even here, the other he said he didn't have anything for me to do. Fortunately, there is always work to be done: the job will suck up as much time and energy as one gives to it, so the only limit is what I set for myself (thus far and no further). I got lots of organizing of handouts done, so papers are in dated stacks, ready to be handed out, and I know when I need to send out the next batch to be copied (it will be a while, thank god).

Of course, I've prepped for my classes to be filled to the max--27 students in each section of 101--but at the moment, neither of my 101s is even in double digits. Bruce and I did some shuffling around of courses, including canceling some, which will help a little, but I have a suspicion I have lots and lots of paper that is simply going to go into the recycling bin in a few weeks. My environmentalist conscience winces.

I'm hanging around now because I'm going to talk to incoming freshmen at an orientation session at 6, a performance I will repeat tomorrow and Thursday (earlier each of those days). After doing all the organizing I could think of in terms of the coming semester, I found myself thinking, "Well, I could finally clean out my bookshelves..." and lo! Again, I could do much more organizing (putting the books in more careful and well-considered order--even, dare I say it, getting rid of some old textbooks), but the shelves haven't looked so neat and tidy since, well, possibly since I first moved in to the office.

In the process of cleaning out a folder that was marked "sort and file," I realized that, now that I've done the gut renovation of 101, I'm pretty sure I'm due to do the same for my 102s, next time I teach them: most, if not all, of my standard handouts are either going to be revamped or ditched entirely. So a lot of the "sorting" that I did was tossing huge stacks of outmoded stuff into the recycling bin.

And once more, there is much more I could do along those lines: I did go through my files not too long ago, but I could be a great deal more draconian about getting rid of stuff I'm unlikely to use ever again--or that I'm likely to forget I have and will consequently reprint and recopy, obviating the need for the file drawer full of copies. There are times when I almost feel that the best thing to do would be to just throw everything away without even looking at it and start fresh, but I know as soon as I did that, I'd need something (a lot of somethings) and would regret the hell out of it. It's an interesting balance to achieve: "there's a reasonable chance I'll find this useful" versus "it's too unlikely that I'll want this again to hang on to it."

Shifting topic streams pretty wildly: pursuant to a little series of posts I've had on Facebook about the possibility that the low enrollment in my 101s may be because students have been reading my Rate My Professor ratings, I decided it might be time to take a look at those again. Although I no longer have the red, frowning "danger-danger-danger" face next to my name, I don't rate a green happy face--which is fine by me, actually, except that reading the students' comments starts to feel quite toxic. I know the reasons why it's useless to pay much attention to what they write: it's usually quite clear what kind of student is giving the "she's an evil bitch" ratings--and as long as they can post anonymously, they can be as vile as they like and consequently probably express their dislike of me in particularly heated terms. I will say, too, that most of the negative ratings are older: my (slight) mellowing over the years apparently is keeping a few students from feeling the need to vent on Rate My Professor (even though they still drop the course). But it's interesting to me how snake-bit I feel after reading the ratings. I'll shake it off pretty quickly, even find some humor in some of the posts (some of which are so profoundly stupid as to be potentially funny--if I squint just right). One student said that only those with extreme patience would be able to refrain from smacking me on a daily basis: I feel like smacking the students who wrote the snotty posts. So there. A very mature exchange of opinions.

I may have call to post again this week--who knows what may transpire between now and Friday afternoon--but for now I'll wrap it up and toddle off to scare the crap out of the incoming freshmen. Or simply tell the truth, which may amount to the same thing.