• May 5, 2016

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May 05, 2016, 9:43:16 pm *
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News: Talk online about your experiences as an adjunct, visiting assistant professor, postdoc, or other contract faculty member.
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 on: Today at 09:31:07 pm 
Started by heyproff - Last post by heyproff
Thanks, all.

There could indeed be an undiagnosed or undisclosed problem, either a disability or a major life event, or unpreparedness for college, plain and simple. I believe I have been very open and inviting to have a come-to-Jesus talk, but that it is beyond my station to force it on the student or to suggest counseling, either of an academic or psychiatric nature. Furthermore, I am NTT; I shouldn't even be giving a darn. (I say that ruefully.) The thing that gets under my skin is, this is not an actively problematic student. Not giving me any flak. Not being actively anything. As Arty_ says, just incurious -- about EVERYTHING.

Regarding the curriculum: some of the courses are the established department courses with established methods of evaluation with established grading scale. A clinically deceased person could potentially pass some of those courses. Another was writing-based, with some group projects, collectively graded. On participation the student has never received above a C- (indeed, last time was a D-, after which she wrote me and I clarified why, and she has never tried to improve). That's how these types of students get passed through, in our department. It's a major problem. There is not a benchmark that students must surmount before graduating; the department faculty had a discussion about that very thing and, uh, some of us decided against it.

She sounds very like Egilson's student. She says she "loves" our subject. I suspect that she loves having found a major in which she can essentially do no work, make no progress, and just clock in.

 on: Today at 09:26:33 pm 
Started by heyproff - Last post by arty_
It is hard to watch a person be disengaged, or incurious. This is a case where I would likely choose to be slavish to my metrics. In the examples you put forth, it surprises me that the student was able to consistently earn a C: sounds like "D" level work is being described. At my university, you must earn a C in order for the course to "count" in your major.  After four semesters of work, no more heroism is required on your part. Be scrupulous about marking down the grade the student has earned (whatever it is), and meet us here on the fora for a very stiff drink.

 on: Today at 09:24:55 pm 
Started by fishbrains - Last post by dr_alcott
Jo and I had an errand to run, and Mr. A is teaching tonight, so we left Little Man (13) home alone and in charge of the pets. I told him to feed the dog. He promised he would.

An hour later, we're back home, and this happens:

Me: Did you feed Bronson?
LM: Oh! I forgot! I'm sorry!
Me: OK. Do it now.
[LM leaves room]
[LM comes back a minute later]
Me: So you took care of it?
LM: What?
Me: Bronson! You fed him?
LM! OH! I forgot! I'm sorry!
[leaves room again]
[comes back a minute later]
Me: So you fed him this time, right?
LM: Oh man!
[leaves room]

That kid.

 on: Today at 09:13:17 pm 
Started by quietly - Last post by traductio
We are talking about taking a university course conducted in French though, which presumably also means that the readings will be in it, and papers and exams will have to be written competently in it.  I am not at all surprised to learn most anglophones could not do this-- to reverse the question, how many Quebecois outside of Montreal and maybe Q. City could take a corresponding course in English?  Anything resembling native fluency in a second language is hard to achieve, and academic use is probably amongst the hardest things to use it for anyhow.

Your presumptions are wrong, at least in the case of the U of Ottawa. For one thing, even in a French course, many of the readings are in English. For another, students have the right to write their exams in whichever language they choose. When I teach in French, about a third of the papers I receive are in English. When I teach in English, I'll get a paper or two in French, but the Francophones are considerably more capable in English than vice versa.

It's a strange dynamic, teaching in a bilingual university, and really fascinating. At the undergraduate level, it's like two parallel universities in practice. Students can take classes in the language of their choice, although the crossover from French to English is more common than the reverse. At the graduate level, it differs by department. In my department, students in the master's program are not required to be bilingual. Many Anglophone students never take a French class. At the doctoral level, classes are bilingual -- readings can be in either language, and students can speak whichever language they choose to in class. (There, as everywhere, it's not unusual de commencer dans une langue et de finish dans l'autre. You should hear our assemblées départementales!) Even if an Anglophone student can't speak French, they still have to read it and understand it.

Keep in mind that the U of Ottawa has service to Ontario's Francophone communities as part of its historical mandate. (Keep in mind, too, that Franco-Ontarians don't always like Quebeckers, whom many see as myopic and unduly privileged.) Thus it makes sense in the political science department to require that students take at least one class in French -- the linguistic dimension of politics is unavoidable. (This mandate shows up in other places, too. For instance, we're required to speak French first when recording our voicemail message, then English, and official emails are always bilingual and always begin with French.)

I hope that clarifies some of the dynamics of the university, which is unique in North America in its implementation of bilingualism. There are other bilingual Canadian universities, but none are as large and none (as far as I know) have institutionalized equality between English and French so thoroughly.

 on: Today at 09:05:38 pm 
Started by tinyzombie - Last post by 2much2do
Elsie, I'm so sorry.  I'll keep you in my thoughts and prayers. 

 on: Today at 09:02:35 pm 
Started by heyproff - Last post by quasihumanist
I'm going to go with undiagnosed learning disability, where I'm considering general low level of overall intelligence as one of the possible learning disabilities.

I'd guess they are checked out because they already know they can't do the work at the required level (with a reasonable amount of effort) and don't really want to keep facing their failure.  (They aren't trying to switch majors because they'd do just as badly in another major.)  At the same time, they feel pressure to get a college degree, whether it's from family or from a general feeling that they need a college degree in life.  Unfortunately, you're not in a position to give them permission to drop out of college.

If your conscience permits, give them the lowest grade that will let them graduate and let them get on with their life.  If your institution has a reputation anything like mine, employers who look at their transcript will infer accurately that they are a reliable student (they do come to class) who unfortunately was born with a deficit of brain cells.

Our department gets one or two of these every year.  We simply don't have either the resources or the expertise to do better.

 on: Today at 08:55:33 pm 
Started by heyproff - Last post by zuzu_
If this student is earning passing grades in your courses, then maybe there is a problem with course design. I don't mean to be insulting, but if she's really this bad, how has she passed courses.

I agree that this student needs counseling. It could be depression or a cognitive problem. It seems odd that s/he would invest so much time into something that s/he doesn't like.

 on: Today at 08:52:58 pm 
Started by heyproff - Last post by tuxedo_cat
I find that when students dramatically underperform in whatever fashion (disengaged, showing up late, not following guidelines, checked out...) that 9 times out of 10 (or 95x out of 100), there is something genuinely wrong.  There is actual struggle or distress in that student's life and not just stubborn recalcitrance.  Students are also certainly waaay more overmedicated now than they were when I first started teaching 20+ years ago.  I met a student today who has been caring (pretty much on his own) for a mother in her 50s who has developed severe dementia.  I'll bet none of his professors know that -- why would they?  He's pretty introverted and just. . . exhausted by life.  Way too exhausted for a 20-something college student.  I can see him coming across in class as a student who simply doesn't care about school.

You don't really have much to lose by simply doing what you have been doing, being supportive, being compassionate, and just grading the work as it is submitted.  If she has chosen not to come to you for further guidance or support (which it sounds like you are willing to offer), then you let her float through.  The professional consequences of all that are fortunately not something you have to be concerned about.

But my general sense is that students like this who are in a fog not of their making *do* notice when a faculty member, especially one they know well, expresses concern -- even if they don't want to or can't engage with that concern.  Because plenty of other faculty will make very ungenerous assumptions about that kind of behavior and shame and punish them.  Why not be the exception?

 on: Today at 08:52:03 pm 
Started by mickeymantle - Last post by modre_oci3
Damning words from a USC student:
"For now, we can only hope that we don’t end up working for our alma mater when we graduate. "
in http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marina-pena/academia-made-adjuncts-th_b_9823228.html

More from NYC:

 on: Today at 08:51:43 pm 
Started by voxprincipalis - Last post by cc_alan
I think there's a pretty good chance that merino does *not* need new glasses and is merely too witty for her own good.

Oh no.  I just saw the optician today. She barely noticed my wit, but she did say, "You need new glasses. They're for your own good."

Once she bills you it will also be for her own good!

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