Sunday, October 26, 2014

Well, I survived that.

Mostly, anyway --- just like most other activities at the community college level, scheduling conferences was a bit complicated by the large number of students who happen to not be there on that day, don't check email, or just plain do not sign up. I also had probably about 10 or so miss their conference time. Surprisingly, most of them went fine and without incident.

Ooh, spoke too soon --- I have a pretty full day tomorrow and I notice that quite a few of the people I need to have stern talks with put it off until the last moment. But two of the people who were especially snotty to me the other day haven't shown up to class since, as if they are afraid or penitent. The third had a pretty quiet session with me and I didn't even bring up the attitude ---- that one skedaddled out right quick and didn't make much eye contact. Interestingly, from the comments this person made, I might have been totally off base ---- I think this person was being a little snot not because what we were doing in class was too hard, but too easy, too babyish. But since the writing I have seen is around the C+ range (though this person claims not to have put much effort into it), I don't have any evidence that this person is mis-placed in the class or that the class has been dumbed down too much. Ugh. People. I can't handle this much face-to-face time. And I hate saying the same damn thing, just individually, over and over again. Conference meetings are just not my thing.

Also, for many of my students, we didn't have much to go over ---- they already knew where they stood, grade wise, so my handing out their grade report and going line-by-line over the individual remaining points didn't really do much for them, and if their second essay was a big improvement over their first, they didn't necessarily have questions in relation to my comments. Now, I did get to make some important interventions with some of my confused-looking students (whose response to not being able to log in to their student portal, which covers everything, not just the CMS for my class, is to just shrug and wonder about it, I ask you? How did they pay their fees?) and I got some of the ones who were doing poorly to ask lots of good questions and act like they were penitent and really wanted to turn things around... but, yeah, it was a bit dumbed down from my usual methods. But I guess that is the price of community college ---- if you are smart and studious and hardworking you pay for that low tuition by being in a very diversely-prepared classroom and have your instructor spend a lot of time and energy and discipline on the less-prepared students.

And several of the students who I sent a stern email about them missing major assignments showed up and brought them to me late (and now I feel like I have to accept it) and swore up and down that they would turn over a new leaf and anxiously asked me if I thought they had a solid chance of passing --- and how can I be blunt and honest one-on-one? It's usually my offhand comments in front of the whole class that get me in trouble; I'm blunt and impatient and curt when I don't mean to be; when I'm facing someone in my office, all anxious about whether a student is going to go ballistic on me (all interpersonal communication is a defensive maneuver with me) I am too conciliatory and kind and soft-pedal the truth. What this means is that I had a bunch of students I hadn't seen in a while back in my classes, and they look so lost and tuned out compared to their classmates, who are starting to behave like college students and have expressions on their faces like they are thinking, and they are starting to turn to each other before class starts and tell each other why they hated the reading (which is often because they want to argue against a major or minor premise and not because it was some sort of knee-jerk angry reaction), and in comparison, my second-chancers zone out or pull out their phones.

I should be more sympathetic, since it is hard to change a bunch of habits at once, but maybe I should have not let them back in or been more forceful about how they are in deep deep trouble. All of them missed a lot of homework and didn't do the reading for the quiz the first day post-conference and have trouble reading and are very poor writers, and if I didn't see much change in attitude I probably won't see much change in the results either. Hmph. I did these conferences (mostly because of mentor nagging) to get my student eval scores up and to get rid of the repeated "I don't understand how she grades" comment on the evals. The side effect seems to be that besides creating a lot more work for myself I have a big stack of papers that were due a month ago and a big pile of students who were on their way out the door are back in my classroom. Yay?

Monday, October 20, 2014

I hate my life. My Week? Life? Sleep.

Hooorarghflaglfhooh. Getting ready to completely revamp my intro course to a series of one-on-one student conferences and a portfolio grading system this week. But I'm not cancelling class time; that's bullshit. It says 72 contact hours in the course outline and goddammit kids, that is what you are going to have to put in. But I might end up eating one or more of my students, or colleagues, by the end of the week, with all that face-to-face time. And I still have 12 more essays to grade tonight. Gak.

I'll talk about the faculty observation I underwent later, when I feel up to it. Ditto the "friendly lunch with a colleague" I just underwent. Not happy. Sounded like a threat. No clue how to interpret it or what specifically I would need to change. I wonder when I will find time and energy to look at job listings?

Thursday, October 16, 2014


I don't know, people. I just don't know.

I am ... feeling some pressures I don't like here. I am not used to being constantly evaluated and monitored in my teaching like I am here, true, but I also feel I am getting a lot of pressures to have happy passing students, in a way that I think is affecting the actual rigor of these as college classes. And I don't like it.

Sure, Postdoc U went way too far over into the not-supporting-students side, and didn't do it well. But after painstakingly simplifying and clarifying and breaking everything down into steps last year, I still got a fair amount of pushback into the direction of actually dumbing things down. And after being observed in the new simplified, cut back version, the response was that this was too hard for the students and I should be dumbing it down even further. Ehhhh. No. I don't like that. And I am already on the fence about whether the students I *have* passed could actually hack it in a four-year college classroom at our state systems. If they can't do it without me basically doing it all for them, how will they hack it when they get to upper-division courses in their four-year majors?

I get to teach a developmental writing class next semester and fellow instructors have helpfully let me look at their books. Some of them are ok and I think I am deciding between a couple. One is this massive brick of a workbook that just made me want to cry when I flipped through it. It does and has absolutely everything the learning support people claim helps students succeed, but there is almost no writing and no variety in vocabulary. In bullet points, it tells the reader that this is a book, and what a page is. It breaks concepts down to a point that just makes me want to cry. No wonder people from that dev class can't pass my freshman comp class on the first try. They don't read anything longer than a paragraph and they fill in bubbles and blank spots for verbs.

And in response to student complaints they switched around my classes, took the special thing off my hands for this year (which, right now while buried in grading, I appreciate) and made me go through the mentoring process a second year. Theoretically I like that. Practically, I have a mentor whose teaching style is so different from mine that the advice I get doesn't really seem to help. And since the only tips the mentor has to offer are from this very different toolbox, I keep getting the same suggestions, diametrically opposed to my style, and constant nudges and questions about how have I changed up my syllabus and classroom teaching practices to use this totally different system yet. I'm also really inflexible in my scheduling, and work out the whole syllabus and schedule and even the assignment sheets and handouts all in a big blast before the semester starts so that I can focus on classroom management and grading, which alone is eating me alive this semester. I don't want to scrap and re-do stuff in the middle of the semester. My back is up, my heels are digging in.

I am not only tired, and grumpy, and taking it out on my students, and confused, but I feel like I am compromising my integrity.

So I don't like it. I don't want to do it. But I opened up the job lists and started looking.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Embarrassing financial related post

Last week --- or was it really already two weeks ago? Dang, time is getting away from me here --- I did my laundry. And like a stupid person, I decided I should separate out and hand wash all my bras like they tell you to, to save the underwires. And instead of taking them back to the apartment with me, I must have left them there, in our complex's laundry room --- and when I went back for them they were gone. 

Arrrgh argh.  I have been trying to make do with what I had on, which was back, and thus really tough to figure out my work wardrobe. So today I bit the bullet and went to Macy's for their sale and got a bunch of bras. Except I had to try at least three ranges of sizes and got up to the checkout and discovered that none of those bras were on sale. Fuckit then. I got them anyway. But talk about annoying expenditures --- the lost bras were only a few months old!!! And these are for work, so no one *should* see them and they are supposed to be boring. Stupid money. I have a lot of wearing out clothes that I should replace instead, so it is all very frustrating. 

So, still no closer to having a house payment or a kayak/rack payment. 

Remind me to never let these bras out of my bedroom unless they are on my body, ok? 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The problem with a cold

Is that it takes up all your energy on a 4-4. The problem with a cold, and NyQuil, and a ridiculously early class, is that you end up swimming through the days, not even sure of when or where you are. Working out and going places/walking, even taking the time to put on jewelry or makeup before teaching have all gone by the wayside. 

Luckily I am coming out of it and finally feeling better ... Just in time to get more papers. Sigh. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Brain Fog

The problem with super early classes is that going to bed early doesn't necessarily help me get enough sleep --- I can just toss and turn until it is closer to a "normal" bedtime --- and then when the alarm goes off I am exhausted and in deep in the middle of my sleep cycle.

Sidebar: I don't know if you have been reading up on all those fit tracker things and how monitoring and recording your own sleep cycles is now A Thing, because it is better to wake up at one of the points where you are already very close to being awake rather than in deep sleep, but I can't ever hear about one's sleep cycle without visualizing it as the equivalent of the spin cycle on a washing machine. Does your brain whirr softly in circles until you lift the lid? Is there a little green light somewhere that lights when you move from the spin cycle to second rinse? Do I feel foggy because I wake up with my brain still covered in suds? Maybe it's best I don't know.

Anyway, right now I am in a state where I get home and need to immediately eat my body weight in snack-dinner (also known as sninner) even though it is only about 3 pm, and then collapse on the couch in a weird, ugly fog-state where I am too tired to keep my eyes open but not tired enough to fall into a nap. And of course, grading homework sucks at the best of times, so there is no way I want to do that while feeling yucky and mostly asleep. This is all exacerbated by the fact that late evening is always a pretty alert point in my circadian rhythm (no clue where that is on the sleep/wash cycle) and if I go back to grade or prepare or, god forbid, check my email at this point, I will be roused into a state it is almost impossible to wind down from in time to go to bed ... and if I have managed to sleep at 3, I'm not tired enough to go to bed and sleep anyway.

And ironically, this makes me hate weekends and holidays, like the one we just had, because sheer exhaustion can eventually re-set me to the new schedule by the end of the week, but then it all pops back again --- sproing! --- if I don't have some absolutely imperative reason for getting out of bed over the weekend. And we're talking 5:30 or 6 here, so there is pretty much no imperative reason on the weekend short of an alien attack.

We're also actually doing all our department and division meetings this year (previous chair stepped down suddenly because of illness so last year was an oddly-meeting-free year) and I get to do committee work and other project type things this year while pretending I know what I'm doing, which entails late-afternoon meetings. Everyone has been very good about keeping things to a fairly decent length and getting us out at 5 (despite all sorts of crazy budget crap we need to deal with and other crises), which is great for everyone who needs to get home and feed kids, but I am suffering, teaching all early morning classes and then slogging about trying to stay conscious for a 3:30 or 4 pm meeting! And last year our last big combined meeting was around Halloween and they gave us candy. I think we need candy at every meeting, stapled to the agendas they hand out. And a coffee bar. That reminds me: one of my projects is to get a taco truck on campus near our building.

You think I'm kidding.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Money Game --- No-Spend September Challenge

I'm going to play a little game with myself this month, because I went ahead and decorated my office yay!!!! Now it is shiny and beautiful. Too bad I bought lots of expensive things on the first. 

Hence my challenge as a way to get back to my goal of paying off those credit cards: how long can I go without spending any money* this month? Could I make it the whole way? I keep waffling on my food, which brings up the good point that I have a lot of food around here but I like to think that because I am out of one thing, I "have nothing to eat." I could work on my planning and my using up things and on not wasting food. And even though I just broke my sandals, I have a bazillion other shoes and am just fine not getting any more this month. I have 2 3rds a tank of gas. The cats are all stocked up. How far will I get?

Uh oh. How much Diet Coke do I have? This might get ugly.

* I'm not counting rent and my regular bills, student loan, credit card payment.