Monday, December 12, 2005

Finals Week Is Here

8:00 am marked the beginning of finals week here at the college. Of course, one of my finals was scheduled at that time. God, I'll be glad to get this semester behind me. It's been a the roller-coaster from hell semester. One day things are looking pretty good, I'm in the groove teaching, sharing my expertise during clinical rounds, advising prospective students and then all hell breaks loose.

A student starts coming to class when they want to, dragging in their portable library with them in the middle of my presentation. Not that this isn't bad enough, they then proceed to get out all of their books from the suitcase, flip through their notebook looking for their place and then decide to get up and sharpen a few pencils while I'm talking. This is the same student that has pulled this a few times in the past so it was like it's something new. So I basically tell her to repack her books and leave. I told her that this display showed a total lack of respect for me and all the other students who decided to come to class on time. She quickly told me that she had paid her tuition and she wasn't leaving. Okay, what's a professor to do now. Well, I had had my quota of bran that morning so I called the campus police and had her escorted out of the classroom. I think she was pretty shocked when I picked up the campus emergency phone and called for back-up. After the doors closed as she exited, the entire class got up and applauded. Seems she's been doing this in all the other classes but had just worked up enough courage to try it in mine. Can't say that I didn't smile and give the front row a big hi-five.

Of course, I got the inevitable call from the VP for Student Affairs later that day. The student was in her office sobbing saying she didn't understand why I was so mean to her. The VP asked for an explanation. I gave her a 30-second response. "Please read page so-and-so in the college handbook about removing disruptive students from the classroom. She was and I did." There was a long pause on the other end of the line and finally I heard the VP mumble that she would get back to me later. The "later" conversation bears out what I have been noticing for the past 10 years - students are becoming ruder; administration is worrying about "numbers" and the faculty are caught right in the middle.

When I began college teaching so 28 years ago, the classroom was the professor's turf and anything short of shagging the college president's daughter on the overhead projector was left to that faculty member's discretion. In addition, I never remember a faculty meeting having an agenda item about attrition/retention/persistence to graduation. It was assumed that not everyone was cut out to either attend or complete college. Now, faculty get detailed reports about attrition in their classes, how many students are enrolled in the college, did we make out "enrollment number", how we have to cater to each student's individual learning style so as to increase retention.

I swear to God an administrator told us last week that we should investigate ways to improve our courses so as to find out each student's learning style, personal expectations and class schedule, so as to keep them enrolled. What was going on was a prelude to saying that we need to modify the courses and the times the course is offered to better meet the students' own learning schedule. That's great, how many students would like us to offer their class only on Tuesdays from 9:30 to 2:30. Never more than once a week, never over lunch, no studying on the weekends/holidays. But make sure I get that diploma in four years or less. Our new motto here is "Let Anarchy Reign." We have noticed that for a few years it's the tail that's wagging the dog, students know that they have a lot of control because faculty promotion/tenure/raises depend on student evaluations only. That's the community college way. They also know that to receive state funding we need to have a certain number of students enrolled so that means we can't flunk out too many or our budget gets cut.

The old concept of higher education is being left in the dust. I told an academic dean last month that we, the faculty, ought to record all of our lectures/discussions and broadcast them over the internet to each of the students so we can meet their expectations and give them all an "A" for viewing the material so they will be happy and stay enrolled so we can get more state funding next year. For a minute I truly think she thought I was serious because I saw her eyes get bright and a smile broke out before I started laughing.

Oh well, I'll write a little about the other challenges that occur during finals week tomorrow.

Friday, December 09, 2005

The Week Before Finals

I've been putting off starting a blog for months now. Every since I read a few blogs months ago, I wanted to start my own. So first a quick session on my background.

I'm a college professor of respiratory care at a community college in the not-so deep South. I've been here for 15 years ever since I was recruited to develop a respiratory therapy program. In those 15 years I've come to have a love-hate relationship with the state's community college system, the college's administration and a few of the other "in-the-trenches" faculty members. Since I was hired, I've been promoted to associate professor, gotten tenure (for all that counts at the community college level), been president of the faculty senate for a few years, heard about every student sob story that could be rendered and generally headed toward the burned-out bin.

I'm married with no children. My wife and I have been together for 22 years now, a second marriage for both of us. More on that later. She's been a respiratory therapist also for 20 years but now has decided to go to nursing school. I am sure many of my future blogs with enlighten you about this development. Things weren't stressful enough around our house so she goes and decides to enter the nursing program at the college where I teach. Of course, I know all of the nursing faculty so things could get pretty interesting while my wife is enrolled.

Finally, I need this blog to get a few things out of my system. Future ramblings will be on today's college students, the process of faculty burnout, how higher education is funded, why is society becoming so uncivilized, should we be allowed to execute "obliviots" in the grocery line ahead of us, is looking at a woman with a great rack the "unproductive sin," is Calvinism a true theological issue or a cult, and so on.

So things ought to be fun until I turn morose and get up in a tall building with a high-powered rifle.