Thursday, April 17, 2014

Colleague Smackdown

Seriously, people??? We have an in-service workshop on a topic you all enthusiastically endorsed and requested, and you all behave like untrained chimps at a buffet.

Water-logged Walter: Do you have a bladder infection, or does the siren song of the bathroom just lure you every 15 minutes when we have special invited guests?

Texting Tania: We know that no one within a five-foot radius is as important as whoever is texting you throughout a two-hour meeting. My, how important you must feel.

Sick Sarah: Thanks for coughing and sneezing all over our snacks. And for being the first one to go near them. You effectively put a kibosh on anyone else who wanted home-baked lemon scones and Snicker-doodles. Thankfully, the mandarin oranges were washable.

Doodling Daria: Given that you were sitting right next to the presenter, I am really curious why it seemed especially important to you to not raise your head ONCE to look up at the screen or at the handout in front of you, or to acknowledge that you were at a presentation and to instead fill in all of the holes in the vowels on the student paper you were studiously NOT grading. When the presenter commented on this, you were so engrossed in filling in that "e" that you didn't even get his less-than-subtle joke about OCD.

Grading Garry: Really? The "stack" of 18 quizzes that just HAD TO be graded at top speed in a rustling fashion at the beginning of the presentation was more important than learning how to cut your work load in half? Missing the irony here?

Perfect-Posture Perry: Your posture creeps me and the students out. You behaved admirably during the presentation by still managing to look down on the presenter who was standing above you.

Participating Patty: I'm sure the presenter did not want you to emphatically agree with and applaud absolutely every single word he shared. Nodding is one thing, but repeating what he said and adding, "That's what I'm talkin' about!" was a little much. Just a little. My favorite moment of yours was when he said, "According to the most recent studies..." and you interrupted him to gush, "OH, yes, recent studies!!"

Insecure Inez: Thank you for confirming for everyone how very insecure you are by challenging the presenter on every single item he presented on a topic about which you know next to nothing. I'm sure he thought you were most persuasive when you said in your condescending tone: "Well, in MY teaching experience..." and then proceeded to tell him why his life's work is less credible than your two years of teaching experience. You'll likely feel right at home at MLA.

Not everyone behaved so abominably. otherwise I might quit my job today. How in the world have I gone so long without detesting these people? They're usually pleasant, rational, thoughtful colleagues. And yet this past week, I was embarrassed to be one of them. It didn't stop me from eating all the mandarin oranges. I'm sure someone somewhere is posting a complaint about Greedy Cynic who hoarded the oranges... In my defense, they're good luck to my people, and given that I might now want to leave this department, I need all the luck I can get.

-- Contemplative Cynic



  1. I went to a college job fair not too long ago and the Texting Tanias were everywhere. The job fair personnel and the job vendors there were more interested in their cellphones than the dressed-up desperate job seekers trying to hand them resumes. The fair itself was slim pickings for the job vendors and the job seekers, but at least the job seekers gave the appearance of giving a damn and showing respect. The college professors there to promote the college's programs were very professional, though, yet sad that no one was looking as their exhibits. I should have asked the electronics professor there to make a localized EMP pulse go off!

  2. I have to admit I'm a bit skeptical of people who claim to know how I can cut my work load in half. They never seem to have much experience actually holding down my work load (or at least not any time recently, or in my field, or. . .). Maybe that makes me Inez, except that I was much more open to such suggestions (and to believing that the core problem was that I was doing something wrong) when I only had two years' teaching experience. My skepticism has increased with age and experience.

    Nevertheless, inquiring minds want to know: did he have a solution? If so, have you tested it, and does it work?

    1. Actually, we had requested that this presenter come in to do a study of our practices in our program as part of our Program Review, because at our last Program Review, one of the items someone wanted to make sure was that we were working smarter rather than harder. He was a recently retired professor who has taught the same content as we teach, and was able to show where we could change curriculum to not have as much overlap (for example, combing certain classes into one, to open us up to teach other things) and, most importantly, how to more efficiently use our LMS and streamline the grading system that we currently have in place (which is to cross grade every final exam for our GE course sequences). His suggestions of cross grading a random sampling, or representative number, or only the problematic ones, was one we have considered, but he also showed how using the LMS to organize e-portfolios can be more efficient for us.

      He also presented research on grading essays and how to look at grading differently when it comes to GE courses versus our departmental major courses to relieve some of the load of grading those mass quantities of comp, in particular. I am testing this out this weekend as I go through research portfolios, and it's taking some getting used to for me to not mark things I would have marked in the past and to instead rely on coming up with 3-4 things for improvement and use the rubric more effectively.

      While much of what he said made logical sense, it was useful to have an outside person come in to recommend these changes since a person in the department wouldn't be scapegoated for wanting to implement change (although, you can guess who that person would have been).

  3. For crying out loud, I thought this was another diatribe about students. :-(

  4. I must confess I am a doodler. I pay attention better when I do so, but sitting next to the presenter I would have taken copious notes instead.

    Tania was probably playing Candy Crush and not texting. She spends too many hours on her phone to have friend's to text!

    1. I, too am a doodler. I always have been. But if I am within eyesight of a presenter, I engage with them to make sure they realize that my doodling is not blocking my ability to hear their message, but is actually enhancing my concentration skills.

  5. An advantage of physics still being such a male-dominated field is that whenever my colleagues act like this, I can STAPLE THEIR DICKS TO THE FLOOR!!! Or at least I can make an example of one of them, whenever I serve as department Chair, and they cut this shit right out.