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Monday, December 8, 2014

Not bad

That's actually one of the few things I know how to say in Russian. I have no idea how to spell it (even transliterated from the Cyrillic), but I can say it. (I can also say "It's snowing out," which, mercifully, it isn't--or not enough to count for anything.)

The fact that I start this blog post being somewhat daffy indicates how utterly fritzed my brain cells are at this point. Fortunately, some of the pressure is lifting, just in time to keep all the fuses from blowing at once.

One reason for diminished pressure is a new twist in Advisement procedures. Starting last week, the Advisement Center stops signing students in at noon, and all the full-timers go to a different building specifically to advise new students. I, however, am exempt from that: all I have to do is mop up whatever students signed in before noon and have not yet been seen. Since my stint ends at 1:30, that usually means I actually am advising until about 12:45, and then I am able to do, well, whatever.

Today, I could have marked some assignments for 101, but I chose instead to pretend I was actually going to write something intelligent and ask to be on the list of speakers at tomorrow's BOT meeting. Right now, I've let go of the fantasy that I'll speak, but I'm still pretending that I'll actually go. I should go--even if just to be a body in the room (the more bodies there, the more seriously the BOT takes whatever is being discussed)--because the Board is now trying to make a unilateral decision to eliminate, or at very least significantly reduce, remediation for our students. As far as we can tell, their reasoning for this decision is essentially 1) we can't "prove" that students who take remedial courses actually benefit from the courses and 2) students get pissed off when they're placed in remedial courses and may decide to go to Suffolk instead--and we can't prove that our quality of education is any better than Suffolk's.

From our side, the counter argument goes something like this: 1) Actually, we do have concrete data, at least for students in English remediation, that those who get take the remedial course do better in credit bearing comp than the students who place directly into the credit-bearing course. Further, if students who receive remediation tend not to stay in their classes and tend not to stay at Nassau, it may be because they receive too little remediation. True, we don't have specific data to support that, but I'd be willing to lay any odds that if we could put more students in remedial classes and keep them there until we really think they're ready for college-level work, they'd do a hell of a lot better across the board. As for point 2, that's based on the idea of academic institutions as businesses and students as customers, and I can't explain the fallacies of that premise better than to share with you all the editorial by Joel Thomas Tierno from the blog "Academe" on the AAUP web site:

I care about this very deeply, and I can get pretty fierce about the ideas--but I find it inutterably painful to wait around until the private session of the Board is finished and they troupe in to the public session, which is likely to be maddening. This is why I frequently leave department meetings before they conclude: when people start pontificating and bloviating and taking extreme stances, I can either leave or explode. Not even productively, just explode. (Standing up and yelling "Will you fucking quit???" isn't terribly conducive to civil discourse.) So, I like to at least pretend I'll go to the meetings--and try to find ways to legitimize my ultimate decision not to go. (My body will sometimes cooperate very nicely and provide a pounding headache.)

But that's tomorrow night. Today was fine. Class went well enough--but the best part of the day was when one of the students left, then came back and very nervously asked me if I'd write a letter of recommendation for her. I immediately said, "Sure!" and she was quite taken aback at how easy it was. I don't know what she'd been expecting, but she even said, "That was easier than I thought it would be. I've never asked before, and I was really nervous about it." We ended up coming back to the office to talk a bit about letters of recommendation, applying for transfer, academic goals, career ideas... In our future seminar hours, that conversation would have fallen under the heading "mentoring/advisement." And I truly do love doing it. Any time I get to spend with the students individually is always the best part of the job. I can get pretty jazzed about exciting classroom discussion, too, but nothing beats working on that one-on-one level. I love it any way I can get it: e-mail conversations, face-to-face meetings, whatever.

I also, again, conveniently "forgot" about my meeting with my "conversation partner," until I heard him pawing at the door. We had another torturous "conversation"--but I'll only see him one more time, and then I'll wish him good luck and a pleasant journey.

I was hoping I'd get some time to work on my promotion folder today. It should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I carried it home with me over the weekend and carried it back without even opening the bag it's in. Yet another of those ways in which I delude myself: "Oh, sure, I'll get that work done at home." Hah. But I do want to look at my calendar and figure out when I can set aside a good chunk of time this week to grind through it and get as much of it done as possible. It's not due back to P&B until January 20, and not due to the college-wide P&T (promotion and tenure) committee until March, but I want it out of my hair yesterday.

For now, however, I'll do a quick sort through of the triage pile, make sure the most urgent bits are on top. I will spend a chunk of tomorrow working on adjunct schedules with Allen, and I sincerely hope we finish everything as much as we can so I can turn it over to Bruce and say, "Your turn." Then I'm out of that loop: it's over to Allen from then until I take over again, either next summer or next fall. Realizing how little I can realistically expect to get done in the little time remaining of the term, I'm in "delegation" mode: figuring out what I can palm off on whom. I don't want to leave anything flapping in the breeze, but if I do, well, someone will figure it out and deal with it--or it will still be there, tattered and torn, for me to find again in the fall.

And whatever I forget tonight will be there for me tomorrow--or will be forgotten until it slaps me in the face at some future point. Here endeth this post.

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