Friday, January 23, 2015

Completely Random Bullets of Crap and I Forgot What I Was Just Doing

  • Hmm, there's something I was supposed to look up/do online just now, but I have already forgotten what it is, so I opened up blogger. Here I am! I hope I jog my memory loose.
  • So far today I have done 3 cc apps, which is good, and will probably try to get ahead on some more. Unfortunately, the next one due (soon!) has a crapload of special attachments I have to create from scratch and I have no desire whatsoever to create new and exiting sample teaching materials. I have lots of new teaching materials to prepare for my actual courses this semester!
  • Also on my list of things to do this weekend is everything I absolutely hate doing, like read my student evals from last semester (shudder) and clean out the inbox and voicemail for my office phone. And clean the apartment up a bit more. Oh, the to-do list is waaaaaay longer than that but the jobs/evals/emails are what always turn my stomach in knots.
  • Classes look cautiously ok so far but interestingly several of the students who made the most interesting and useful comments in class have already mentioned they are not from the area. As in, "When I used to live in _____ City [not so far from where I grew up] they would talk about this issue in the news and [make some sort of brilliant and insightful analysis of their own here]." Interesting. Meanwhile in the course of our first-day brainstorming about which type of media do they think has the most influence on us today, several of the other students have already said that coming up with a list of different kinds of media that exist is "too hard." Mind you, "television" was already up on the board. It's an interesting little data point about "fit," I think. I need to get me back to a city! And I would love to see what sort of curriculum is going on in our local and regional high schools. I mean, I probably wouldn't. But it is so strange to me that I can bring in activities and assignments that people are clearly using all over the place and at the community college level and something is "off" about how they work here.
  • I have two new to me classes to prep from the ground up this semester ---- I mean, I've mostly prepped them, but I'm back in that lovely place where I get up in the morning and go, "oh yeah, I have a vague idea about what we should cover in our second class meeting but haven't actually planned the details of class or figured out how long any activities will take arrrgh!" This will be fun. Another reason why I need to get all my job apps out at the very beginning of the semester.
  • It is sunny out so I want to make sure I go outside today and take a nice walk somewhere. I have been bad about doing that, post-tenure meeting. The problem is that, while disengaging is good, I haven't been using that freed-up time to get my apps out and move on. And the lead time/waiting time is sooooo long! I am ready to pack and run away from everything now, not months from now.
  • Ooh speaking of, I had to do a lot more of the "process" things associated with getting non-renewed or whatever. I'm not going to put any of the details here, cause now I'm freaked out about what one is supposed to do ---- but really, this is not a process I am familiar with nor one that gets written up in the academic "how to" blogs or The Chronicle or whatnot. I don't know what I am supposed to be doing or what the "right" way to get fired is! And clearly there are the written policy ways and there are the "real" ways and right things to do, none of which are written down anywhere. 
  • Did mention that 3 students have already stopped by ---- it wasn't my office hours but I happened to be in the office with the door open ---- to get help? On the one hand, that is great for my confidence and my sense of being a good teacher that they feel comfortable seeking me out with a problem. On the other hand, all three were very technical tech problems, so I got to learn all about tablets and our wifi and help them and call our campus IT people and try to get through, which isn't something I particularly want to do for myself. But, you know, maybe if I mention it in class at the right moment I can turn around a discussion or influence the evals. We'll see.
  • I suppose I should go work more. Sigh. Or clean the bathroom. Double sigh. Or mend that stupid hole up by the waistband of those pants on top of that pile there. Triple sigh. Or I could post this and then take a nap

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

I continue to be alive

Well I was very sad back during the break when I went and looked at my enrollment --- it was low and several of my full-time colleagues had packed classes with wait lists. Word is getting around about me, I thought. And from talking to colleagues, at least two of them have a different idea of how to grade passing (As vs Cs) than I do, so that might explain the wait lists. But then when I got back here I saw lots of "help wanted" signs at fast food places and bed bath and beyond and other retail stuff, and then got some emails about enrollment being low and we should try to squeeze in as many students as possible to hit our targets. I went back through the department numbers and there are still quite a few classes with lower enrollment than mine, which, it may sound silly but, it made me feel a little better. And the person on my tenure committee who I find a little bit too reserved and a bit confusing has had a couple classes closed for low enrollment. Haha! I think to myself, you can make those complaints about me but students seem to react that way to you too! You just managed to squeak through to tenure. But then I think, eh, that must mean there really is some sort of basis to the complaints and there is something wrong with my teaching. Sigh.

Anyway, I didn't get any last minute changes, which is good, and the colleague had to take over a couple classes away from an adjunct, which is bad, and plus those students might be really screwed over by their class getting cancelled if their schedule is super packed. I don't even get good schadenfreude.

As long as I am whining I am going to complain about Socal colleague who got hired with me, who doesn't seem to have any problems with her student evals and who I guess hasn't had any problems whatsoever with her tenure process, despite doing a fair number of things in class that I think are pretty inappropriate. Although the getting mad at her students and yelling at them is totally understandable. No, they want to keep that person, who hates this place and hasn't made any attempt to like it or not talk shit about it and who just went in and asked for a letter of recommendation and is doing a full-bore job search back closer to her home ---- which totally shoeked our boss ---- and they got rid of me, who has been really trying hard to bloom where I've been planted. Sigh. Maybe Socal colleague is a better teacher. Grumble grumble grumble it's not fair.

This weekend I need to crank through all those job applications. And touch something lucky. Jeezus, what if I don't land anything and I have to tell everybody? I hate being so anxious; I don't think I can handle this long a timeline for anxiety.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Maturity

So I have family gossip to ponder over, and who do I have to gossip to about it? This blog, that's who.

You might remember that my nephew got in to Local State School and struggled mightily, and was put on academic probation and then kicked out at the end of his second year. He says he can petition to go back if he does certain things and gets a certain GPA with the next 30 units or something, but when I talked to him later he said something about not being so keen on that school any more and if he transferred back he would probably pick this other state school or maybe that one or maybe this private school over here. On top of that, I have to wonder how many more years he would have to go if he has to do 30 units on top of all the units he already did --- he would either be re-doing a year or adding it or only being at Local State for a semester or something.

Anyway, he had immense trouble completing his English 1A course and I think failed it a couple times (and not having that gateway course completed helped mess up his state school situation in terms of getting into other courses in time) and has also done the drop/fail pattern in other classes since coming back to Neighborhood Corner Community College. He is making some progress, but I feel like not being able to carry a full-time load and pass all of those classes will be a bad mark on him when (or if) he transfers back somewhere.

Now he will be taking --- again --- his English 1B, which is what the Cal States all want for the second semester, I think. He dropped it when it was clear he was failing it last semester because, according to him, it was a hybrid course and he didn't do well with that format. I think he just didn't do a single one of the online whatevers.

All of this is worrisome, but in the greater scheme of things, almost completely irrelevant. His big problem, given that he is an engineering major, is that he has struggled with and failed various versions of his calculus classes (I think he is supposed to take a series of 3). Yeah, engineering schools are not going to be impressed with that. Some of the times he failed a course it was because he didn't get it, others that, since he couldn't get into any of the GE classes with a 1A writing prerequisite, he loaded up his whole schedule with his upper-div engineering classes ... other times, he forgot to get up regularly when his alarm went off for that 8 am class, and another time he forgot/didn't know when to take his final exam. Oh my poor boy.

I understand that part of his problems in the dorms/reason he went on probation that first year was depression, and I understand that he also has papers for ADD/various learning disabilities, but HOLY HELL WHO ON EARTH WILL EVER HIRE YOU IF YOU CAN'T GET TO WORK ON TIME REGULARLY AND CAN'T GET YOUR PROJECTS IN BY THE DEADLINES?!?!?! Ahem. Sorry.

As you can see, I'm sympathetic, but not really sympathetic. I know that engineers/computer science people are supposedly not really credentialist and you don't have to have degrees to get the job, just show you can do the work, but ... dude, you can't do the work! You are falling down on the basic skills of time management and professionalism that all jobs will want from you no matter what type of job it is! And my students here might be completely unable to face any sort of negative criticism but, I can tell you from having a family full of engineers and from going to visit their workplaces, if you are doing a shit job, engineers will tell you in exactly those words that you are doing a shit job.

So over break my sister and I, as nosy aunts, were discussing my nephew's problems. Do you think he can get a college degree? Do you think he is not capable of it, either smarts-wise or disability-wise or whatever ? my sister finally asked. I dunno about in general, but engineering is a pretty packed and brutal degree, was my response. We tried to figure out if he should just get some sort of technical help job at Fry's or Best Buy and do that instead, either for a while or as a job job.

We are on different places as to what is the problem. I would say that this whole side of the family has some pretty terrible maturity and capability problems, from just having spent break with them. I understand that sending the kid off to college seems to have led to a depressive episode, but now that he is living back home, his mom is dealing with all of his problems for him. She is very motherly and clingy and she did him no favors by doing him tons of favors all through high school, if you get my drift. He failed classes left and right by not turning in stuff and then she went in at the end of the semester and pulled strings and got everything reversed. It is very very depressing to spend time with them over break and watch a 21 year old and 24 year old squabble and regress and behave like 6 year olds and to have my brother/sis-in-law treat them as such. I guess my advice would be massive amounts of group cognitive therapy for the whole family. But that doesn't really work as a suggestion.

Anyway, that's the old news. The new news is that my niece --- the one listed in the above paragraph --- just got rejected to the teacher credential program she applied to. I still need to get the details on that. She's the one who struggled at first --- or maybe the real description is that she didn't struggle all that hard at first --- in community college, but eventually got the degree and transferred to a (state party school) and graduated. I hadn't thought it was that competitive or difficult to get into a teacher ed program --- but I know that my niece also thought of it that way too, so I wonder how much effort she put in to her application. So, both kids are living back at home and are having to take some hard stock of their lives and dreams and choices. Except I know their mom is absolutely thrilled to have them back at home and would like nothing better than to have them bake cookies with her every afternoon like when they were 6, so I don't know how much they are actually going to take hard looks and ask hard questions.

That's all I've got. I don't know what advice to give. I don't know how to help them solve it. I alternate between sympathy and a little shadenfreude, a little bit of "I told you so and have been pointing out this is a problem for many years now." If they didn't live in the middle of the most expensive rental market in the US I would say kicking them out and forcing them to go it on their own would be a great way of building up their maturity, but I don't really know how one creates maturity. It's just all one big mess.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Back in the land of confusion

Ok, break was rough. It's getting all Flowers for Algernon with my dad, who hasn't lost any of his go-go-go executive vp drive but his memory and his comprehension are deteriorating down to match his struggles with walking. Someone got him a birthday card with a flying fish that had a halo on the outside, and in the inside it said, "holy mackerel! It's your birthday!" And dad didn't get it. This is a guy who has always loved puns, too. He pronounced some simple words wrong inside another card and didn't understand a few others when he read the rest of them to us also. That would be fine if he didn't still insist on running the household like he was running a company --- he doesn't really remember what he's doing from one half hour to the next, but if we have something on, like extended family coming over for dinner, he expects them to be 15 minutes early and treats it like a dr's appt. or important meeting, where the start time is extremely important. And he starts checking in on when they should arrive right then, with querulous nagging, at 7:15 in the morning or whenever he decides to start asking questions. We cannot get him to understand for the life of us that it is a family leisure day and nobody wants it scripted; they are relaxing and not making any plans because it is a day off and they will come over when they are good and ready. Ugh. If there's a quality I lack, it is patience, and we are rapidly running through my reserves of patience with dad's abilities. And I know things are only going to get worse. I don't know how I'm going to cope with it.

But now I am back in The Hot Place where nobody seems to understand a word I say. It's getting positively to be a Gaslight sort of experience --- is there something about me? How is it everyone is having problems understanding? Maybe it is me and I can't communicate or teach worth a damn --- but then why have I never really had a problem with communication and being understood anywhere else?

I just went and picked up my cats and evidently somebody said something, like called me Mr. Cog instead of Ms., but I didn't hear it, and went around the corner to hand over the cat carriers, and came back to the front desk to get abjectly apologized to by the receptionist. "I'm sooo sorry I disrespected you and please don't get me written up, but I don't even know what I said," groveled the receptionist. "What? I didn't notice anything. I'm not mad; there's not problem. No problem!" We went back and forth for about 5 minutes on this with both of us assuring the other that no offense had been knowingly given or taken, and at this point, really, I just want to get my damn cats. Then someone else, another receptionist, comes around the corner and gives the first receptionist the what-for. "You know what you did," she finally exclaims. "And don't tell me you won't be calling us up once you get home to ream all of us out for her," she hisses at me. A third receptionist has been trying to bring up my account and is having trouble; evidently someone entered in the codes all wrong and the price is different for both cats and appears to be wrong in either case. This third lady laughs at me and goes, "you've got a deer-in-the-headlights look right now!" The second lady laughs and says, "you have the strangest things you say!" "I had a person call on the phone and be so rude to me I told him if he came in here he could kiss me on my little pink BE-hind!" "Yeah, but what was the weird one? Raining on the cats and dogs?" "It was raining cats and dogs yesterday." "You are so strange!"

After a bit the first receptionist person helps the third with my billing error and runs my credit card. Nobody has gone out and gotten the cats yet. That third lady, the little pink Be-hind lady, does various things and runs around a bit and then tries to go back to the back room and run my credit card a second time, and totally doesn't understand me when I am trying to explain why I don't need to hand her my card. Finally the first receptionist comes out and explains things to this third lady who FINALLY comes around the counter to get my cat carriers from me, and then I get to wait about 10 minutes which is pretty standard for the cat-capturing part.

And THEN when I get the cats who are furiously meowing out and in to my car and am about to drive away, another tech knocks on the window and hands me a big bag of canned cat food. My canned cat food. There is a printed sticker on the bag --- now that I am home I can see it has my cats' names and my name and phone number ---- and there are 32 cans in the bag. ... Uh ... what have you been feeding my cats, people? They should share a can every morning and every evening --- that is two cans a day for them --- and be given the dry food in between. It is typed up on my records and all the vet info; I see it whenever they hand me a printed out receipt for boarding or vet checks ... why are you handing all the food back to me? I don't understand what you don't understand. Am I just magically incapable of being understood in this place? Do I suddenly speak gibberish and have strange, hostile expressions on my face at all times? Are people here just completely incompetent for words? Nothing makes any sense.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Sigh. Back to the grind.

Uggggggggggghh. I don't wanna send out goddamn job applications! I don't wanna! I don't wanna! I don't wanna!

Also: re-tooling these apps from last year is a pain. As is tailoring them in a bunch of weird directions.

I have quite a few things with rolling deadlines (ie send it in immediately) and a few more that are due by the end of the month, but I just haven't been able to buckle down and do them. I have started working up one letter for a weird thing, but haven't completed it yet. And I mostly updated my CVs but need to go find my list of activities for tenure and make sure everything I did gets properly highlighted in my service. And I need to pester people about letters. It's all very annoying and draining. This is why I haven't been working on them ---- I go out and do annoying social things with family members first thing in the morning and then don't have the energy or ability to do anything unpleasant in the afternoon. So today I did a bit of letter-revamping and now am in my post-lunch slump, but because the deadlines are right now, I need to go back in and do more hard work. I think I have already done all the easy nonthinking bits.

And once I have these all worked up and sent along I get to create a couple new classes practically from scratch! My break is no fun this year.

That reminds me: visiting with all the family this year was really hard. It's tough not telling them things (see my last post). I kept noncommittal for the most part but my uncle proceeded to ask me and my cousins about our new year's resolutions or plans. Totally normal and fun, right? But it was very awkward talking about possibly traveling over the summer or whether I should buy a car and how the housing market looks over in my town (my cuz especially likes hearing about this and trading house renovation stories) without telling them I wasn't going to be sticking around. I'm not technically lying to them, but...

It is also hard to hear stories about how my nephew has crashed and burned and been asked to leave his state school (and honestly, is not doing too hot at the local community college this semester, either) when I'd like to give him advice as well as a strong tongue-lashing (him and his parents need to hear the what-for, since their worst habits are strongly enabling his unproductive behavior), but I don't feel like I can hold myself up as any sort of model behavior or success, considering. And who knows: maybe I am terrible at this and my standards/expectations are all off and therefore any advice I would give him is bad! Anyway, one of the things I have learned at this school is that giving advice and warnings only makes students mad instead of making them heedful, so it is probably for the best that I sit on my hands and clamp my mouth shut over my tongue in the case of my nephew.

If only I didn't have to send out all these damn applications. Then I could be complaining about my course planning instead...

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

I have a secret, and I can't tell anybody...

That is all I am thinking as I walk down the halls, as I teach my classes and meet with my students. As people stop me in the halls to ask how my weekend went, and as I attend a special emergency faculty meeting, all I can think about, obsessively, is I have a secret, and I can't tell anybody! 

This feels so weeeeeeeeeeeeird.

Except some of them know... I just don't know how paranoid to be about how many people know already. My tenure review committee is not supposed to say anything, but I assume some people talked. I think that some of the people who have never warmed up to me shared that feeling with certain committee members who then kept them in the loop with my non-renewal. But fit is fit and if they really wanted me here they would have done something different, given me more time to turn around my student evaluations etc. And they are probably right that I do not fit so what am I going to do?

That's a real question --- what does one do when one is nonrenewed? It's not like there is a chapter of etiquette on Miss Manners about this. It's just this weird awful burden I am constantly carrying around wishing I could tell people about. But what good would that do? That would just make the relationship/interaction awkward on both sides, and possibly lead to people coming together against me, talking me down so that they could feel better about pushing me out. And since I have to apply out again I don't want anything out there making it even harder to get a new job than it has to be. But, man, from here to the end of the school year is looooooooong. I don't know how long I can keep that up or how much I can disengage from the school with so much lead time. And I don't know how to handle social events: avoid the subject, straight-up lie, just don't go?

And I haven't told anyone in my family. That'll make Christmas break fun.

I'm leaning toward not telling them anything about this until I get a new job set up, if ever. But then that's a lot to keep in and not tell them and I have a lot of past shit that I haven't told them or that we're not speaking about, and it sucks to add even more to the pile.  And my dad is getting to the place with his Alzheimer's that I'm not sure he will understand whatever I tell him, just be confused and worried and upset. Nope, I'd rather try to solve this problem on my own than explain it to family.

But that just leaves me wandering around with this weird invisible weight: I have a secret, and I can't tell anybody...

Thursday, December 11, 2014

I don't get it:

I am looking through ads in the Chronicle and saving and printing things and I ran across this ad, and have spent about 20-30 minutes clicking all over their website trying to in any way get it.

Not that I'm trying to apply for it; it should be clear from 5 minutes of knowing me or reading me that there is no way I would "fit."

I'm just trying to wrap my head around it. Is this really a thing? A thing that people pay insanely expensive tuition for and then get a paying job at the other end? Is it woo? Is it a scam? (Dude, SF Art Institute, you are totally a scam. Unless you can produce placement lists of more than half of your graduates straight into Pixar or whatever other high-paying job you've got, you are totally overpriced for your degree field and in one of the most expensive cities ever.)

Anywhoo, at least I get what an art school or a culinary school is. This thing ... Hmm.