May 21, 2013, 3:17 pm
“Dr. Incredible” announced her retirement with plenty of notice, so the department conducted a national search for a successor throughout the academic year. Her academic specialty was not particularly hard to come by, but she had been a terrific colleague and leader on the campus, a super-professor who was a mentor for dozens of students, led significant committees, and produced serious scholarship. She even had prepared baked goods for Monday mornings and had donated financially to the department to enhance faculty travel and student scholarships.
As the search committee began to review applications, it became clear that none of the candidates were the next Dr. Incredible. They were solid but not spectacular, promising but not omni-capable. Committee members began to believe that there was no way to replicate their about-to-depart colleague and said so publicly in the faculty…
May 20, 2013, 1:48 pm
As I read Robert Zaretsky’s recent post, “What’s at Stake with Grade Inflation,” in which he notes how poorly his history students write, I couldn’t help but recall a confrontation I had several years ago with a business professor at the college where I was teaching at the time.
I was walking across campus one bright, sunny day (this was in Florida, where almost all the days are bright and sunny), when I saw this colleague coming toward me on the hedge-lined concrete walkway. He and I had enjoyed a cordial relationship over the years, occasionally stopping to chat about children and vacations and such when we ran into each other on campus, so I smiled as he approached and prepared to greet him.
Then I noticed he wasn’t smiling.
In fact, he looked downright angry. And as he got closer, I could see that he was indeed livid. Before I could ask what was wrong, he stopped directly in…
May 17, 2013, 3:28 pm
As an office-less adjunct, I have traditionally shied away from one-on-one workshops about writing with my students. It takes a huge amount of time to do, especially since I and my students are generally on the campus only at night. I know the value of such personal feedback, though, so in the last two semesters I have experimented with ways to make it work.
So now we lose one week of whole-class instruction to make way for individual time with the final paper, a purple pen, and me. Instead of our usual 2 hours 40 minutes of class time, meeting with everyone who chooses to (about two-thirds) takes about four hours per class.
I’ve got to say, this last round of workshops was highly gratifying. I saw such improvement in my writers. Not perfect papers by any means, but evidence of students ready for English 101 in the fall. They’ll be well equipped for the next step in their education…
May 16, 2013, 11:47 am
Last year at about this time I wrote about my participation as a workshop facilitator at the Council of Independent Colleges’ workshop for department and division chairs in Indianapolis. As I write this, I am sitting in my hotel room in Cincinnati, where I just led another workshop in one of this year’s iterations of the CIC program.
Last year my subject was supporting and developing adjunct faculty. This year, it was “Serving as Department/Division Chair: Beyond the Job Description.” This topic was developed in response to discussions last year at the four regional workshops, during which it became clear that many chairs didn’t have a job description at all, or, if they did, that it was either too vague to be helpful or, in fact, did not cover the actual, if unspoken, core of the job.
In preparation for the workshop, I asked the participants to send me their job descriptions, if…
May 15, 2013, 3:40 pm
Even in a buyer’s market, administrative searches fail more often than you would think. Here are a few tips to keep it from happening to you.
- Don’t assume that conducting a successful search is just a matter of posting an advertisement far and wide. Advertising in multiple venues is important, but having a well-written job description is critical. Explain what’s unique about your campus and the leadership role you’re seeking to fill. Review similar job postings so you have a benchmark. Nominations and referrals are also keys to your recruitment success. Always ask search-committee members and campus leaders to call or write to colleagues in their networks about new leadership roles and career opportunities at your institution.
- Make sure you have the right person chairing the committee. The chair’s excitement for the role should be evident in the first call to the candidates. This…
May 14, 2013, 2:50 pm
When I was a fourth grader, wearing my kelly-green Girl Scout uniform, I got to lead the pledge of allegiance for a naturalization ceremony. I was a shy kid, in front of what seemed to be a huge room of people in an imposing building downtown. Yet I don’t remember being scared at all. I was proud to be a part of something that seemed important.
I’ve given up wearing a sash with badges of my skills, though perhaps it is a look I could bring back into fashion. I hadn’t thought of my brush with citizenship in a lot of years, until a few weeks ago.
A student in my intro-to-composition class came up to talk to me, saying she’d have to miss the next session. The reason? She was getting naturalized, becoming a U.S. citizen after a process that had taken years. She had her appointment paper to prove it and excitedly showed it to me. The ceremony was to be held in the state capital, more…
May 13, 2013, 1:21 pm
(Blogger’s note: Regular readers should consider this the third and final installment in my brief series on using forms of “to be,”
the other two being which also includes “‘To Be’ or Not ‘to Be’?” and “To Be Clear.”)
There’s a conversation I have with my first-year composition classes almost every semester, usually triggered by a student’s question about one of the many things they were warned in high school never to do in an essay: Use first-person pronouns, use second-person pronouns, begin a sentence with “and,” “but,” or “because,” end a sentence with a preposition, and so on.
Can they do that in my class?, they want to know.
My answer is that there’s literally nothing they can’t do in a piece of writing, if they have a good enough reason—although if they’re going to use the F-word, for example, or an ethnic slur, they had better have a darn good reason. The corollary, I …
May 10, 2013, 1:43 pm
Recently I had a conversation with a search-committee chair who was seeking to fill the need for a strong teacher-administrator for an academic unit. The position was administrative in title, but it carried with it a 50-percent teaching load. Having consulted on such searches in the past, I asked a question I’ve learned to ask in conjunction with this kind of position: What are you doing to vet candidates’ teaching abilities?
I have found that search committees consistently interview candidates for teacher-administrator positions based solely on their administrative chops. After all, this is the primary concern for the position, as even a 50-percent teaching load really tends to be less than that in terms of the actual day-to-day functioning of the position. That teaching load, however, is a pretty big role to have detached from the considerations, especially if the position is in…
May 9, 2013, 2:49 pm
On a recent campus interview a friend of mine quickly got the sense that something slightly strange was going on in the department. More than once the mention of “Bill” triggered a series of knowing smiles. My friend knew Bill, or thought he did, from the department’s Web site, which included faculty photos and biographical notes. In fact, he was looking forward to their meeting since it seemed they shared certain specialties, but those smiles scared him away from questions. Toward the end of his visit, though, my friend and his host bumped into Bill in a hallway, and he finally got the joke.
This was not the trim, black-suited Bill from the Web site. This man wore dreadlocks past his shoulders and dressed in shorts and sandals. A cannabis leaf was painted on each of his big toenails. Their research did overlap (or had at some point), but, as my friend discovered, he was interviewing …
May 8, 2013, 1:35 pm
In some of the career-development workshops I offer, I ask attendees to give me their business cards. I choose one card randomly and ask the owner to raise his or her hand. Then I walk over, look the person in the eye, and say, “It’s 2:30 in the morning and I’m returning from a hiking trip in the Grand Canyon. I’m 100 miles from Tucson and my car has just broken down. I really need a ride home. Can you come and get me?”
The typical role-playing response involves significant squirming and a string of excuses. I hear about sleeping children, spouses that wouldn’t understand, challenges with night vision and suggestions that involve calling AAA. Some participants even point out that they don’t really know me. “But I have your card,” I say. “When we met, you said that I should call you anytime, and I really need you.” I end the exchange by expressing profound disappointment at the broken …