Monday, March 29, 2021

Trending...downward.

I started teaching back in '03.  I'd applied, and been accepted to, grad school, and applied for several types of financial aid (but not loans, because I'm not stupid).  I was offered a teaching assistantship, on the recommendation of my advisor for my bachelors' degree.  She said, when I thanked her for that recommendation the following spring when I visited my alma mater, that she watched me teach, when I was in her composition classes, and thought I'd do well in front of a classroom.  

Well.  I like to think I didn't do badly, in any case.  And I did manage to teach my first classes that writing wasn't something to fear.  

Those first classes...well, it was a Big 10 school.  Town population of 30K permanent residents; school population of 25K.  I had 22 students in my class.  

Three of them didn't know that there was such a concept as a complete sentence.  Three of them wrote on a higher level than I taught.  I arranged with the bottom three to come to my office hours and work with me as well as enroll in the tutoring program.  The top three I worked with to keep them from getting bored.  

My class--Freshman Composition 1--was the lowest level English class that the university offered.  There was no bone-head English for students who weren't at Freshman Composition 1-level of competence.  There was an advanced class, but it had extremely limited slots, and they were already full.  To bursting.  Because there was only one or two sections, capped at 22 students, for a university that had 25K students overall.  

I taught for that university for the two years I was in graduate school.  

Then, I came home.  Back to where I started.  With the same professors who taught me, and the same department head.  I started teaching in fall of '05 for that school. 

It was...well.  Different.  First of all, I wasn't told that I would teach these papers in that order.  (I used a few of the assignments I'd used for the big school, but wound up designing my own types of papers.)  I wasn't told that I'd use this textbook, that workbook, and the other supplemental reader.  Since I took the sections of someone who'd abruptly quit after she'd gotten her sections assigned and gotten her book ordered, I just...kept her book.  It wasn't any more utter shit than the textbooks I'd been working from, after all.  

The biggest differences...well, my alma mater had something like 4-5,000 students.  It varied by semester.  All the classes were small.  The university (which had been a college when I'd graduated, three years earlier) had not-for-credit below-level classes for people deficient in math and English.  I didn't get students who were wildly unprepared.  The university also had six sections of the advanced class that doubled for both sections of freshman composition, for a far smaller student population.  I also didn't get those who were so far beyond the work level that they were bored into cutting up. 

I taught there for several years--both in person, and online.  During that time, I saw...changes.  

Not one of them were good changes.  

First, the university president was fired.  It was found that he'd actually lied about finishing his doctorate...fifteen or twenty years earlier.  They only found it out because they'd gone looking for something to put him in breach of contract, because he was running the university into the ground, financially.   The guy they brought in to replace him was never going to be popular, because he was brought in for the sole purpose of bringing the spending back under control.  

Most of the things he did were incredibly good ideas, and excellent policy.  Some weren't, but overall, he was an excellent university president...

...who was chased out by his support staff refusing to support him, and his faculty actively campaigning against him, making his life utter hell.  

There was a succession of utter morons for a short time, as "temporary presidents"--none of which made an impression.  And then, they hired someone who was utterly unfit for the position.  

One of the first things he did was undo about half of the cost-saving measures the hatchet man had put in: the roses and perennials were torn out, and the budget for groundskeeping staff was expected to put in seasonal annuals and change them every month or so.  And the groundskeeping staff was expanded for that purpose.  That was the stupidest thing.  

This guy also started "the Great Game of Education."  He...didn't realize, despite having been English faculty while he was still teaching, that Kipling was not at all flattering about the Great Game of Nations.  And that most of the faculty on campus mocked the fuck out of his idiocy.  Until he realized it, and decided to get petty.  

He decided to step on his classroom professors.  Who were too busy teaching to play his "Game."  He decided to set stupid, campus-wide policies that dumped more busy-work onto all of the teachers, and set financial rewards for playing along...and punishments for not...without keeping in mind all his stupidity took time out of the teachers' schedules...time away from teaching, grading, planning, and their families.  

And the department heads were, one by one, forced out of their positions because they stood up for their teachers.  

Next, he decided the placement testing wasn't worth the cost (minimal), and that the bonehead and advanced courses weren't worth the cost, and that...well, bigger universities put everyone in the same classes...

And then, he decided that the classes had to be more uniform, and he'd start with teplate courses for the distance learning classes.  And hired utter morons to design them.  

It was at that point I quit teaching online--I'd had kids, and rather than quit teaching when I went into labor, I'd switched my last on-campus class to an online course, and kept going for five years while raising babies.  My youngest was three, at that point, and was at the age for pre-school.  So, I arranged things to put both kids in a good private school, and went back to campus.  

The second department head was a good one, the third one less good but competent.  And then, we got to the current twat.  

During the time in question--twelve years--I'd seen most of the department turn over.  Most of the good professors, the ones that did a damn good job, and were student-focused, had retired.  Instead of staying for forty years (like a couple had), they jumped at twenty because they wanted out of the increasingly-toxic environment.  The ones that were still there, still student-focused...well, none of them wanted the department head position.  Not even the newer hires wanted it.  So, they went out and looked for somebody they could jack into the slot.  

He...wasn't prepared for it.  Nor was he competent.  But the upper administration loved him because he also had no spine.  

And then, I noted that the adjuncts were turning over, too.  I noted that when I had to go to the actual department for something--I forget what--there was maybe one or two names on the adjunct roster that I recognized.  

They were dumping the longer-time adjuncts that they had to pay more (policy stated that after five years' teaching, adjuncts got an extra thousand per semester).  

By that time, I'd gotten hit with something.  Something that it took a year to get diagnosed.  I was less and less able to teach and care for my family.  By the time it was my turn on the chopping block, I was ready to go.  

I do not hold a grudge for the puff that fired me.  He was only doing as directed by higher up.  

I do hold one hell of a grudge for the absolute fucktard that ran my university into the ground, trying to pretend that we could do the same things in the same way as a Big 10 school...when we had always turned out better educated students than that big 10 school, because we didn't do the same things in the same way.  

The sad and scary thing is, I'm seeing the same trend playing out on the national level, at this point.  And I worry for my children. 

6 comments:

  1. Interesting comparison there as I recently moved from a Big 10 School (UIUC) to a smaller University in Texas... Seeing a lot of differences in the way things are run, and the "one size fits all" approach is not one that will likely work at our level. HOPING to keep things running in that way of course as it seems to be successful...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'll keep my fingers crossed on your behalf. It's nowhere near as fun teaching when the crazies take over running the asylum.

      Delete
  2. I don't think we've seen the half of what they are going to do... sigh

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And that is what scares me...

      Delete
    2. Yeah, the wheels are coming of of their little red wagon, though. I'm not scared so much as wincing and going "Oh, this is gonna hurt..."

      Oh, and I'm angry. Really angry.

      Delete