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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Smaller fires to put out

I remarked to Ed last night that each day the scale of the fires we're putting out gets a little smaller. We started with horrifying crown fires, then more ordinary forest fires, then brush fires ... Now I think we're down to grass fires. There was a moment this afternoon--of course right after I had begun to celebrate that I was able to turn to working on my own classes--when it looked like the fires might escalate again, but it really was no more than the usual SNAFUs: assigning two sections at the same time to one adjunct; assigning two sections that had a time conflict to another. The biggest hairball of the day was trying to find someone who could teach an ESL dedicated section of enhanced composition--but we finally found someone (and a very good someone at that), so our bacon has been saved. (I'm not sure why we're saving bacon, but there you have it.)

I am going to have a little bit of a struggle with the new adjunct union rep for the department. She is just learning the job, and it's been a while since I had to do what's called the "retention pool," which is a method for indicating that we have not violated seniority in distributing classes. One of the things she needs is a list of who is qualified to teach what, and how the qualifications are determined. We don't have a nice master file of that anywhere: most of it was in Bruce's head, though the qualifications had been sent to someone (god knows who) in the administration as we hired new adjuncts--but now that we have a new chair and all the concerns about having clearly delineated procedures to satisfy Middle States (our accrediting organization), it is important that we have a nice, neat, clear, official statement of how qualifications are determined, how they can be updated--and who is qualified for what.

My struggle was getting the new rep to understand that--although I completely understand her concern that she doesn't have such a list--we can't simply whip one up in just a few minutes, nor can I simply explain it to her over the phone. But this is going to be an issue for P&B to deal with ASAP this semester. If we had more office staff, we could delegate the data-entry parts of the task to one of those people; if we knew who in the administration has the list, we could simply ask that we get a copy. If, if, if.

Right now, Cathy is so mangled by what we've just been through, I don't even want to bring it up--but I just sent an e-mail about it to P&B so I wouldn't forget.

And when I checked e-mail, there was a message from the new union rep, saying that someone who had given us about a zillion choices for her availability only got one course and is complaining about it. She didn't get anything else because of her qualifications--but the adjunct who sent the complaint to the union rep is the problematic adjunct I observed in the fall. We're going to be observing her multiple times in the spring--unannounced observations--because we tried giving her a class we though she could be good at it, and she made such a hash of it, we want to rescind the tacit approval of her qualification to teach the course. It's going to be one hell of a mess to deal with, and I am not not not looking forward to it.

I'm also regretting giving the union rep my cell phone number. I did just say that I prefer not to deal with work related issues on my phone so would prefer to stick with e-mails. The last thing in the world that I need is to get constant text messages about work. I know this has become part of our culture: that we are always instantly available for any reason whatsoever, from friendly hellos to work demands--but I refuse to play that game. I am not chained to my phone, and I refuse to be. I am entitled to my time away from work, God dammit, and I intend to protect it fiercely.

But for now, I think I'm about as done as I can be for today. That's both done as in finished, having completed anything I think I can take on today, and done as in cooked to a turn--perhaps even more than a little scorched. I found some errors on both syllabi and corrected them and started the list of what I need in the way of first week (or two) handouts, and I have quite a list of things I need to handle at home (turning .docx files into PDFs, for instance), but for tonight, I think I can wrap up and head home.

Cathy is happy to have me roll in sometime around noon or a bit later--which suits me fine. I just want a morning or two without having to get up to an alarm--and if I can get my photocopies done tomorrow, I'll be in fine shape. Mangled, but functional. That's about as good as it gets right about now.


  1. I bow to your ability to suffer fools, if not gladly, then more graciously than I. Keep up the tango contest y que brillen las estrellas.


  2. And...brava re phone messages. Enough. Pardon apparent contradiction but these are public comments, not messages on phones.