Friday, February 15, 2013

Thank goodness, Friday

....even if I don't get much of a weekend this weekend, what with Honor's Day.

I did go grocery shopping yesterday afternoon; it wasn't so bad except that with the self-checkout lanes, they HAVE reduced the number of cashiers, even at busy times. (And apparently 1/2 to 3/4 of the self-check lanes were down for maintenance).

In addition, anyone hoping for half-priced Valentine candy today will be disappointed. They had already swept it off the shelves (I don't know where they took it) and replaced it with Easter candy. (Wow, Lent just STARTED. I am not a fan of the "let's promote some holiday for which we can sell stuff a long time before it's come." Especially something like Easter.)


And ugh, I forgot what else I was going to say. I had major problems logging in. My e-mail is supposedly linked to gmail, but I use a different password for it, and I use a different password for Blogger....and for about 10 minutes I was not able to get into Blogger and was all "oh no, what will I do if I can't get back in?"

If there are ever a few days when I don't post (and I'm not on break), it's probably that. But it irritates me: why shouldn't I be allowed to use different passwords for my e-mail and for Blogger? They lecture at us about password security and all that, and then Google goes, "Oh, those several accounts you have? I'm just gonna take them and mash them up into one big account. Too bad if something conflicts, try my vague help screens"

I figure some day Google will flip the wrong switch and my access to the blog will be gone forever, zap. I suppose I can put on Ravelry and Twitter if I make a new one somewhere elkse....and hopefully everyone will find me, but, ugh. I thought Google's slogan was "don't be evil."

(ETA: apparently I can still get access to my e-mail. I was worried about that. But I don't like how Google jerks me around on this on a regular basis. E-ETA: no, no I can't, not now. Grr.)

E-ETA: On further thought, this is probably my ISP being an idiot. I NEVER had these problems before Communicomm was bought out by Mediastream. Communicomm was pretty awesome as cable/internet companies go. Mediastream has much poorer customer service. (And their prices have gone up). They also have had a few periodic EPIC FAILS when it comes to connectivity or their "product" working - allegedly, our e-mail addresses are administered through a Gmail interface BUT the address is still the old netcommander address....and now it is looking like they want us to just dump that address and fold into a gmail account. Ugh. I'd drop the service except I really like having home internet access - and I feel like part of the reason I pay for it is to have a separate e-mail account. Oh well. Maybe this is just another EPIC FAIL and they'll clear it up  sooner or later. If you really have to get in touch with me, you can email same first initial, same last name and I'll get it - provided my campus spam-catcher doesn't scoop it up.


Wait, now I remembered. This is probably evidence of how I tend to see things as being too "symbolic" but in the past couple days I had a couple instances of feeling like I/we are being set up to fail, and it frustrates me. I hate games that you can't "win" by playing by the rules; it makes me crazy.

Instance #1: in the new Cooking Light, they were talking about sodium. (FINALLY. Maybe now they won't have most of their recipes having more than the amount of sodium I'm allowed in a whole meal). And they noted that you can't always trust food labels; a spaghetti sauce they tested had something like twice the sodium in it than it said. And when they called, they said, "Oh, we changed suppliers and I guess they use more salt in their tomatoes. We can't be bothered to re-test every time we change suppliers."

And that there just makes me want to throw up my hands. So labels are LYING to me. So that means either I can't eat ANYTHING but single-ingredient foods. ("Contains: frozen green beans") or else I should just give up totally trying to limit sodium, because unless, as I said, I eat nothing but single-ingredient foods, I'm screwed.

I hate having to be a food crank and be that person who asks to see the "special" menu with the nutritional information, or who takes twice as long in the grocery because she's reading labels, and it makes me crazy to think I was just wasting my time doing that.

Instance #2: I can't go into too many details because it's work-related, but I will say it's a case where part of our mission is being totally misunderstood by some in the legislature, and so we're getting hit with complaints that our "persistence" numbers (the new buzzword for retention, and DEAR CELESTIA HOW I HATE GIVING OLD CONCEPTS NEW BUZZWORDS) are not as high as they could be. And apparently the students of ours who transfer to a nursing program - which we are a feeder school for -are still counted as drop outs. So it's all the same to the big-bosses whether someone leaves our program because we have prepared them as far as we can and they are going on to bigger things, or if someone just flunks out. And of course, the people who flunk out are never broken down into "was insufficiently prepared in high school," "was diagnosed late in their career with an LD" or "just didn't put in effort." No, it's all our fault if we have "insufficient persistence."

I love teaching. I enjoy many of the students that I have. But the bureaucratic stuff makes me crazy, because it makes me feel paranoid and scared like all of a sudden my job is going to evaporate because some legislator decides we're not graduating enough people from our campus - and my skill as a teacher or my hard work will have NO bearing on my keeping my job. And that makes me sad and crazy and just wanting to give up.

actually, that's more detail than I intended, but whatever.

And I find myself thinking back to the time when some "issues" (mostly: kids making a mess without my knowledge of it) came up in Youth Group a number of years back, and I got called in for a surprise meeting where I was told all the things I was doing that were wrong without warning. And in the middle of all the hurt and the frustration and confusion, someone said to me, in reference to the fact that some of the kids in the group were kids without much of a "home life" and with no background in how to behave in church: "You are being asked to do something that is impossible."

And I just looked at them. And I'm way too meek for my own good, but I would have liked to have said: "If I am trying to do the impossible, why am I being criticized so heavily for not being perfect at it?" Because it is largely an impossible task, at a university with largely open enrollment, to have simultaneous high rigor in classes and have high retention (I am sorry, I REFUSE to call it "persistence.") We can have one but not both. Or we can have some middle ground. But if it's being implied we need to simplify things down to keep people happy: that's wrong. We're a feeder school for a nursing program. We send students to med school, dental school, and pharmacy school. We have a DAMN (sorry) good record of both placement and student success once they move on to professional school. It feels to me like trying to increase retention at the cost of rigor would jeopardize one of the best and most important things about us.

So, I don't know. I once joked that if I had a tagline it could be "converting glucose to carbon dioxide since 1969" but maybe now it could be "cheerfully doing the impossible since 1999." Except some days it's not so cheerful, at least when I'm outside of the classroom and not working with students.


However, as they say "some faith in humanity has been restored" - the student who was suing Lehigh over earning a C+ (because, allegedly, she had some ugly outbursts in class, and she cursed, and she refused to do something, and therefore earned a low participation grade*). She claimed that the $1.3 million was "lost income" because that's what she would have earned with the greater certification as a counselor she was going for.

(I will refrain from sharing how I feel about someone prone to "ugly outbursts" acting as a counselor)

The thing is: lots of people who have commented on this story presented it as "oh, poor girl, the professor GAVE her a C+." While there's some possibility of bias (allegedly she is in favor of gay marriage and the professor was not), in most cases on most campuses? That kind of thing gets ironed out in disciplinary hearings, and if something goes to court, something's gone really wrong. In the vast majority of cases, professors do not GIVE grades; they ASSIGN the grades students earn. That's how I do it: I keep a tally of points earned, and at the end of the semester, I compute a percentage. 90% and above? They earn As. 80-89%? They earn Bs. And so on.

And I won't lie: I've had some students I really disliked. Either they were openly rude in class, or they acted like victims every time they did poorly on an assignment, or they were prone to outbursts in class. But I'd never assign a grade less than what someone earned, because of how I felt about them. If anything, I really WANT the difficult people to do well enough in my class so I won't have to work with them again.

And I've had the few students I disagreed with strongly on certain issues. They still get the grade they earned. Now, if they write snide non-answers (for example, someone who disbelieves in the threat posed by invasive species writing snarky responses to questions on invasive species, that don't really answer the question), they will earn a lower grade because they did not answer the question. But much as I'd like to, I don't dock points for being rude.

(*I kind of hate the concept of participation points and I do not assign them. Points in my classes come from correctly completing lab write ups or writing the papers or doing well on exams. If someone is on a borderline, like their grade is an 89.3%, and they're someone who was always there, always took part, and asked good questions, I will "bump" them to a 90% - but that's the only participation grades I do, and my students know that. Assigning points for class participation is very subjective and I don't want to open myself up to those complaints. But then again, in a science class, you can count lab participation as a sort of participation grade)

1 comment:

purlewe said...

what do you think about how some universities are only allowing a percentage of As Bs Cs being given out in a class. I was reading this week that several of the eastern universities were informing their professors that they could only give out a certain percentage of grades in any given class. That no class could earn all As. even if all the students did the A work. This seems "off" to me. And makes me wonder if legislature is at it again. ARGH!