Kaddee’s Cairo Chronicles


February 4, 2009

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Filed under: Being There — Kaddee @ 6:16 pm

And even some other adjectives!

I am in rant and ramble mode.  You’ve been forewarned.

The GOOD:
In my previous post about my Core Curriculum/General Education class, I was lamenting the amount of work, the likelihood of backslide in the curriculum, and the feeling of “Why am I doing all this?”.  I have been preparing this curriculum, keeping the faculty informed, and designing pages and pages (11 at current count) of “supporting” documents that contain links, activities, readings etc.  The thought is to try to get everyone on the same page and feeling comfortable (and not totally overwhelmed) with the curricular changes and some of the new topics we are introducing.

I had my first “all-hands” meeting for this semester.  I had girded my virtual loins for a complete blood-bath and evisceration regarding the changes.

It never came.  There were some questions and concerns, but, for the most part, people seemed resigned to getting to work to make the curriculum happen.  WTF!  Who are these people?  I walked out at the end of the meeting feeling relieved and TERRIFIED.  Relieved that I had not been flayed.  Terrified at not knowing when the explosion (or would that be an implosion?) would happen.  Because I am pretty sure it will.

The BAD:

That would still (even after the nice things people said to me after the last post) would be ME.  Or, at least, the impression that, in this case, students have of me.  The reason is because they don’t want to take this course, so they try to find the “easy” professors and avoid professors that they do not have positive (read: cake-walk) peer information about.  What this boils down to is, and I quote a student,

“I want to know what sections are being taught by Egyptians, because I am guaranteed an A in those sections.  I won’t take from Americans, they grade too hard.”

I shit you not.  A student specifically said this to me, the coordinator of the course, as justification to be overloaded into a course that was closed.

Needless to say, I said, “NO”.  I have burst the bubbles of  many students who sign up for sections randomly and then decide that they don’t like the meeting time, or they think another professor is easier, or… or… or… and they come to my office to get permission to get into another section.

I have explained innumerable (yes, I MEAN to use that word) times that MY concern is to get them into A section, ANY section that fits their schedule and the rest of the excuses are honestly not my concern.  They do not like that.  I am mean and insensitive (read: American).  Malesh.

The UGLY:

This occurred today, and nearly had me heading to the airport!  This semester I am teaching an upper-division biology course with lab that is required for all majors.  As we were preparing for registration (last semester – when students were signing up for classes for THIS semester), I changed the meeting time for the lecture so that I had 2 x 1.5 hour lecture blocks instead of 3 x 1 hour lecture blocks.  From a teaching standpoint, as long as the entire 1.5 hours is NOT blahblahblah, more can be introduced, discussed and evaluated in a 1.5 hour block.  I had it changed with the Registrar BEFORE the students began signing up for classes, and, I *thought*, we were good to go.

During registration, some students said that there was a conflict with a Chemistry course.  I tried to work it out.  We could not find a suitable alternative.  I said as much to the students.  Fast forward to today – the semester has begun, and drop-and-add period ends tomorrow.  There is a HUGE hullaballo because students have conflicts between the chemistry and the biology courses.

Loads of angst, hand-wringing and negotiations aside, it has now been presented to me that EITHER I change the course schedule back to a 3 x 1 hour and give it during the earliest possible lecture hour because that is the only time left open in the students schedules OR I am personally responsible for at least one student not graduating on time.

NOW HOLD ON A MINUTE – I used to teach Scientific Thinking, and now I coordinate the course and am responsible for rewriting the curriculum.  The above statement is a PERFECT EXAMPLE of a FALSE DICHOTOMY.  There are virtually NEVER only 2 possible outcomes for a situation.  What are the other possibilities?????

What it boils down to is that the Ethos in my department is that the students rule supreme, and the faculty must give up their lives, families, free time and personal freedoms to make the students happy.  In return, the students are free from all responsibility for their actions, need to plan or consider future implications of current decisions or in any way engage their mental faculties beyond the current moment and themselves.

The INCREDIBLE:

I can’t tell the story as eloquently as my friend.  I will simply preface this link with some background.  “Odd Man Out (OMO)” has been teaching in the Scientific Thinking course as an adjunct for many years.  I have visited his lectures and must concur with the assessments in the link.  Ilhamduli’allah, OMO is not teaching for the course this semester.

Read it and weep: The Arab Mind

And INCREDIBLE on another level – yesterday, coming home on the bus, I saw a scooter!
Doesn’t seem too interesting or incredible… there were 2 men on the scooter.
Still not so interesting or incredible… the man on the back was carrying….

Wait for it…

A FULL-SIZE sheet of plywood!  No kidding.

I *warned* you that I was in ramble mode.  :)

4 Comments

  1. OK, I so miss you guys! And this sounds strangely like SLAC!

    Comment by Another Damned Medievalist — February 5, 2009 @ 6:24 am

  2. On the one hand, this all sounds extremely frustrating.
    On the other hand, it reminds me that some things are the same no matter where you are (co-workers, students/clients, etc…).
    On the gripping hand, a student’s sloppy curriculum planning is not your responsibilty (says the guy who had 8 more science credits than he needed to graduate, just ‘cuz he didn’t read the instructions properly).

    Comment by Steve — February 9, 2009 @ 12:41 am

  3. This is why AUC drives everyone nuts. Logic has no place on that campus.

    Comment by Typ0 — February 17, 2009 @ 11:43 pm

  4. is the grass greener…or a different shade of brown??

    Comment by evil twin — March 17, 2009 @ 8:43 am

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