Resetting Work Expectations


Well, the semester is over…except, of course, it’s really not yet.

Classes may be over but the grading has only just begun.  I teach six courses in the fall semester — three basic composition courses and three orientation courses best described as “welcome to the university, here’s how to not screw up” classes.  Despite instructions to the contrary, some still are.  Between now and some point next week, I must complete three sections’ worth of portfolios containing four major essays (plus drafts) and at least 10 items of short writing at 2 pages apiece on average.  The “how not to screw up” courses involve online quizzes as well as a final reflective essay, attendance points, event points and other material entered into an online website that we had very little training on before we were shoved into using it.  It seems to be doing some interesting calculations of its own on the grades that are in the system so far, so that will also be a problem to solve by some time next week.

On top of that is the administrivia that I always seem to forget about.  The planning for next semester, for example.  Or the report writing so that I can continue to hope for a continued job next year.  At this point, though, I think sacrificing a bull would be just as effective.  All these things have to be done before the semester is truly over, and I always forget this every stinking year.

Still, this year I’m trying to be kinder to myself and adjust my expectations of what should be expected to completed and when.  Energy is always at its lowest during this point in the semester, corresponding with the point in the semester where the most energy is required to see things through to the end.  Naturally.

I’m setting reasonable limits on how many portfolios I will complete in a day.  I am not even going to bother touching the online grade book mess until the middle of next week.  I’m not running myself ragged to finish things before I have to.  Much of this I now recognize is driven by being surrounded by student expectations of when things should be available to them (right now).  I’m steeped in their culture all semester long, so it was no wonder it was beginning to rub off on me.  So sorry that you’re going home on Tuesday, kiddo, but I have ALL WEEK to get my job done.  Not busting my ass for you by Monday just because you’re checking out early.

Or, as I put it to my students the week before classes concluded, just because you decided to cram at the last minute does NOT mean I am going to as well.

I am not going to hang on the internet hoping to intercept your 11:25 p.m. email asking how to get started on a project due at 9:30 a.m. the following morning.  I am not going to refresh the page every 20 minutes to see if you’ve updated me on your latest excuse.  And I’m not going to hunt you down and take your hands and make you put the required drafts into the portfolio.  I’m not going to send yet another email reminder telling you that the things listed in the syllabus as part of the course requirements are, in fact, REQUIRED.

I’m not going to borrow trouble this time.  Trouble is not very glamorous at all.



5 responses »

  1. Six courses! You must be adjunct. The orientation things sound like the annoying UNI 101 course the Great Desert University decided to require of all the wretches who enroll in its dank environs. Students hate them, faculty hate them, the administration loves them as another tool with which to extract money from freshmen. Pobrecita!

    Check out Grumpy Rumblings of the Untenured (mwa ha hah!) and Frugal Scholar, if you haven’t run across them before this. 😉

  2. Close! I’m one of those new hybrid positions that is a step between an adjunct and respect. (No offense whatsoever to adjuncts; we both know they work far harder than they are given credit for.) It’s still underpaid, but it’s slightly better funded. I’m considered FTNTT, I have benefits and (gasp!) access to faculty meetings and a vote. Not that it seems to matter. Admin gets away with a six course load by virtue of the fact that the orientation courses are one hour apiece — so technically, still a 4/4 load. But it’s still three extra classes. It’s not like I’m seeing only 20 students — I’m seeing another 60! It is exactly U101, though we’ve name changed it several times over the years.. And it is wretched. I like to think I’ve done the best job with what I have to work with. Unfortunately, the “best job” might not matter. Since I’m in the fourth year of what was supposed to be a pilot project, as I said in the post, I’m convinced sacrificing a bull would be just as good as writing that report explaining the value of my job!

    I’ve been reading Grumpy and FS as well. Gotta have *some* outlet for work related stress!

    • OMG! You are in exactly the position I was in for TEN LONG YEARS, before I escaped to an administrative position. Hereabouts they called the incumbent a “lecturer” (if you survive long enough, they’ll call you a “senior lecturer” and give you a teensy raise). As FTNTT we were considered adjunct, though, on year-to-year contracts (these were dubbed “three-year renewable” but in fact the university could can you at the end of any year).

      I started at the same pay rate as an assistant professor, and when I escaped was earning as much as some associates in my college and more than those in the College of Ed. I taught 4 & 4; now from what friends say lecturers are teaching 5 & 5, for half to two-thirds of what f/t faculty in the community colleges are paid for the same workload. AND the university is pushing to put as many scutwork courses as possible online…AND they’ve eliminated caps for online courses! One woman showed up at the beginning of a semester and found 400 students enrolled in an online Writing for the Professions course (a.k.a. “freshman comp for juniors and seniors”).

      We also were expected to show up at faculty meetings and perform service. While we weren’t expected to publish, one was wise to do so.

      LOL! Sacrificing a bull — that’s about it. The value of your job is that you’re shouldering the teaching load of two T/T faculty for a fraction of what they’d have to pay those people, and at accreditation time they can claim your classes are taught by full-time faculty. The risk of your job is that replacing you with P/T adjuncts would cost the university a third of what they’re paying you, without the expensive benefits.

      Administrative jobs are much preferable. You not only get paid better per paycheck, you get paid for 12 months. And the work is infinitely easier.

  3. What is even worse, I’ve been essentially running the “administration” on this project since it started. I’ve tracked my own retention numbers as best I can with the information I’m allowed to have about students, which is limited (the upper echelons of the university cannot seem to do this from year to year), I’ve been responsible for enrolling my own courses, making contact with other departments who can possibly send over students who meet the demographic requirement all for no extra pay as a lecturer. They’re trying to rope me into going to freshmen orientation to pitch the program as well (it’s a retention program for first generation college students). In the first year, there was a committee I sat on that included the Dean of the college and the Assoc. VP of Student Affairs did my enrollment. Four years later, there is no committee to track this program and I do my own enrollment with the help of the department secretary.

    I love my job. It is one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever done. But I’ve slowly watched people bail on it. It’s a strange position to be in. I’ve been a nine month appointment for four years now. They won’t declare the pilot a success yet because they say they have no numbers. They have no numbers because they won’t run them. LOL. My request for a three year appointment instead of a nine month one was rejected last year because upper admin wasn’t yet sure of the University’s goals and direction — so they weren’t sure my appointment would meet those goals.

    It’s a sit-and-spin situation I get into every year. Next week I’ll write an amazing report that gets forwarded to the Dean of the college who has to make the pitch to keep me for next year. I’ll find out about mid-March whether I have this job (again) or whether I’ll be an adjunct.

    I have a lot of stray deer wandering through my town and yard. I wonder if they’ll make an acceptable sacrificial substitute?

  4. Deer, eh? Probably be fairly tasty to whatever gods and goddesses are waiting, and less likely to gore one than a bull..besides, it’s them or the roses, right?

    All that stuff is just academia. It goes on and on and on, everywhere the same. Have you read The Lecturer’s Tale? LOL! If you haven’t, you should try to get your hands on it. As fiction it’s so ridiculous it’s almost postmodern…as art imitating life, it’s kinda spooky. You’ll think you’re reading about your own department.

    Along those lines, I edited a detective novel set in in the ivied halls, and actually did think the author was one of my colleagues! It was creepy: she was describing the very people who inhabited my department. And their antics? Yep, that was them. The administration’s outrages: had to be GDU; no way the president could be anyone other than Michael Crow.

    Eventually I tracked her down and discovered she was working in the Midwest. All of which goes to show, I suppose, that you can make this stuff up!

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