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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Oh, my giddy aunt

What a maelstrom of a day! The continuing swirl of chaos and craziness regarding adjunct scheduling--and we're still not done, as there are still a number of classes hanging fire in terms of whether they'll get enough students enrolled to run. Some affect FT faculty, and those are the biggest concern, but then we have to repeatedly comb through the adjunct seniority lists to be sure that people with the most seniority have classes--even if they end up tossing them back to us. We have a lot of adjunct courses on hold, too, as we're not sure but what we may have to cancel them. It's a rolling cluster-fuck (which sounds like a lot more fun than it is).

I was once again called upon to exercise my diplomacy skills today: an adjunct was breathing fire about being jerked around, threatening to file a grievance, trying to throw his weight around how he'd been here for 20 years (um, no) and was a "full professor" (um, no--not here anyway), shrieking about how he's had to declare bankruptcy and don't we understand that he has to keep his house and feed his family.... It was one of those times when I remembered my mother's sage advice to be "relentlessly" polite, and because I stayed calm--the most I said, several times, was "May I finish my sentence, please?" always said as a gentle request--eventually I think he started to realize that he didn't have to act like an asshole. I explained the contract to him; first he argued with me about it, but I said he was half right (which he was), and when he said, "Is what you're saying going to stand up to a grievance?" I said, "Yes, it will." Then he asked if the adjunct union rep would say what I was saying, and again, I assured him that would be the case. By the end of the conversation, he had completely backed down and simply asked us to do what we can.

And it turns out, he was flipping out about not getting a course that he may get anyway. The office staff were just telling him he might not get it, because it might have to go to a full-time faculty member (and I had to explain that no, we can't just give full-time faculty "administrative work" to fill in for a course: we have to teach our full course load). But I get it: he's petrified that he won't get the money he's counting on, and he was displacing that fear into a whole lot of misdirected anger. He sure didn't have any business screaming at the office staff about it--nor at me, for that matter, though my position does at least make me someone who should have to field complaints. The office staff can't do a damned thing except what we tell them: he was blowing the messengers up with a bazooka. I'm very glad I could get him off their backs--and off my own, actually. And I'm superlatively proud of myself that I didn't feel stressed out or anxious about it at all.

But, in terms of dealing with people, Bruce did his thing of charging in with guns blazing instead of talking someone off the ledge (as it were)--on two separate occasions. On the first occasion, I probably would have handled things differently, but I think ultimately his way of handling the situation was appropriate (a full-time faculty member was unhappy about a change that probably will have to happen to her schedule and wanted something that we can't do). On the second occasion, however, I understand why he acted as he did, but I think a more diplomatic response would have worked as well if not better (though I admit, it would have taken longer). In that case, a couple of students were pissed off that we wouldn't put then into courses that were already closed because they were filled to capacity, and first they unloaded on the office staff--who also aren't great at calming people down--and then when the office staff called Bruce in, he didn't even listen to the students: he just said "I don't overload courses, period, end of discussion."

Now, I grant you, the students were being snotty brats with a severely over-developed sense of entitlement, but there are ways to deal with even that attitude, as completely maddening as it is. Yesterday, I was on the phone dealing with something else, and just happened to field a student who came charging in to the office, saying he "absolutely refused" to take a remedial course because he only missed the cut-off for credit-bearing courses by one point. I directed him to Cathy, but before he went to talk to her, I said, "A word of advice? Going in with 'I absolutely refuse' probably isn't the way to start things off, but if you explain your frustration and ask if there's anything to be done, I bet she can help you." He understood, calmed down, talked to Cathy--and I saw him today, registering for 100.

Let me hasten to say: I have not had a personality transplant. I still have a ferocious temper, and it can explode in a nanosecond. But I'm getting better at going with a more beneficial reaction as my first response and saving the volcanic eruption for more worthy situations.

I did spend some time on my own classes today--and as an ironic side note, the thumb drive actually was in my purse yesterday: I just didn't dig deep enough into the little pocket where I'd stashed it. But of course today, I found a few more mistakes--and ended up adding a reading to the SF class, as well as dividing one of the novellas up into three portions instead of two. It's all about the "built in extra credit" thing: I wanted the Mystery course and SF to have the same number of total points at the end, and as I'd constructed SF, I was two readings short. The one day at the end that I'd reserved for general discussion with no assignment due is now a day when a reading response is due. And unless I show a film on the day when the final paper is due (and finish it the last day of class), we're only going to watch one movie. I may have another hanging about, just in case we have time for it (the classroom is just down the hall from my office, so I can make an impromptu decision), but my guess is that I may end up ditching readings anyway so we have more time to discuss.

Tomorrow, Bruce says he'll only be in for about an hour; I'll try to arrive around 10 again (it was closer to 11 today, but hey)--but Thursday is when he and I will have to really get down and dirty with nailing down the last wobbly bits. Fun and frolic, man: it just is a carnival around here.

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