Wednesday, September 4, 2013

It Starts at the Top

So I checked my college mail yesterday morning, and I've been assigned a mentor. For a class I am no longer teaching.

This is the message I received (bear with me, or skip ahead. You decide):
Hey Christina,

I have been assigned to be your mentor, specifically for your courses of instruction that you teach for us here at X. Beginning this semester, all adjuncts now have an specifically assigned, full-time faculty member to assist you with content or course-related issues – this mentoring program effort includes every full and part-time member of the department – and it is my privilege to support you in that role. I realize that in the past I have not worked with you in this capacity, but let me assure you that the only purpose is to help make sure that all BIO course sections are taught and conducted in similar manner, particularly regarding course content, instructional pedagogy (lecture & lab), exam content (coverage and level of difficulty), as well as “extra credit” (if you indeed offer such).

As a part of this process, all Department mentor faculty are requesting electronic copies of their mentee’s impending lecture exams for the classes they are currently teaching this semester. I will be reviewing them to make sure they are level-appropriate. Remember, we are all tasked to participate – please do not feel I (nor the department [is-]) am singling you out! If it is easier, you may leave a hard copy of the exams in my mailbox.

The final course grades are to be assigned according to a (A)90%, (B)80%, (C)70%, (D)60%, (F)<60. Rounding-up a borderline percentage in favor of the student is reasonable and acceptable, but the addition of large numbers of points to inflate a grade is not. For BIO ZZZ/AAA you may offer not more than 25 extra credit points in the lecture portion of the course. If and how you choose to offer such is entirely up to you, but I would ask that you let me know your approach and “across the board” application to all your students. No extra credit can be offered in the lab portion of the courses.
The mentoring program will require very little extra meeting time; however, I would like to come to one lecture or lab in September and October (this will only be for 30 minutes).  Believe me, I realize how nervous I become when our chair, Dr. Y, visits my classroom to observe my instructional deportment.  Relax!  If it suits you, I would prefer to observe at the beginning of class (not on a test day, of course), wherein I could meet with you about 20 minutes before you begin so that we can talk about any concerns, difficulties or challenges you may have with your class, content and/or students.  Also, if you should need to speak with me prior to the dates and times you will provide me to observe your class, please don’t hesitate to email or call me (I have provided both my office and cell phone numbers).  Should you need or desire to, I am happy to meet with or talk further with you concerning any issue.
Thank you, and keep up the good work!  
What is so funny about this message?

Well, I've been teaching there almost 10 years. Over the course of that time, the department has never had a problem with the degree of difficulty of my exams, nor do I give out too much extra credit. I can appreciate that the department might need to have a certain standard, but in the process, they are most likely offending all of their long-standing adjunct faculty.

But that isn't what made me laugh. The message was carbon copied to the department chair, the same chair that I spoke with the day I handed over my course. The same chair that I spoke to, at length, about my goal to publish my story. The same chair that spent 15 minutes harassing me about how little he really knew about me, despite the fact that he'd been at the college almost five years (five fewer than I have been).

By golly, he really does know so very little about me; he doesn't even know that I'm not teaching the course.

And therein lies the problem with the college. I've always said that the students can be a handful, and not in a good way. They can be lazy and snide and clueless in many ways. Perhaps I see why now. They are simply mimicking the actions of their fearless leader.

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