joshuapalmatier: VacantThrone (Default)
Yesterday, I posted a situation a colleague ran into in the current education system and why I felt it was unfair and it got a rather signficant response from the readers out there. At least significant enough that I decided it would be easier to post a general response than to reply to each comment individually. I apologize for this, but since the majority of you had the same questions or concerns or general thoughts on the subject, I thought this would be quicker.

First of all, this happened fairly recently, so I don't know whether there will be additional fallout from this with either the university in question or the instructor. I did bring up the idea of taking the situation to the appropriate upper level administrator (Dean, Provost, whatever) at the university. The instructor in question has at this point decided not to pursue that, or the idea of filing a lawsuit, or filing a complaint with the local teachers union, if there is one. I honestly don't know if there is one. (There is a union at SUNY Oneonta, and if it had been me, I'd probably be pursuing it through them. But this isn't me, so . . .) I think the general thoughts by the instructor are that a lawsuit or anything done by the union would amount to nothing because the administration did not actually say the instructor was fired because of the two evaluations, merely suggested that certain conditions be met (namely work with the mentor and get a 6 or better average) before they would be hired again. I dont personally believe this. I think the entire situation warrants some type of intervention, but I'm also not going to push this instructor to take that step if that's not what they want to do. My general experience is that people have to really want something badn enough in order for them to withstand the pain it will take to get it. I don't think this instructor wants this bad enough. (This is the pursuit of a writing career in a nutshell by the way.)

Oh, the instructorship in question was not tenure-track or even considered an adjunct position I don't believe. I don't know the specific details of the original contract though.

I have to say I'm not surprised in the slightest that this is going on at the K-12 levels as well. I do know that when I first began teaching as an undergraduate during summer courses oh so long ago that the attitude that I see now in college students wasn't present. It's been over the course of the last . . . fifteen years that I've seen this shift in the student's expectations of and from the instructor in the classroom. And I want to say that this is NOT the attitude that you get from ALL of the students; but it has become the attitude of a majority of them. The shift seems to be all about responsibility: the students no longer accept responsibility for their own grades (as some of you pointed out); instead if they are doing badly in a class it's because the teacher can't teach, or the exams are too hard, or whatever. We need to shift the idea of responsibility back onto the student while at the same time making certain that the teacher understands their own responsibility regarding how they teach and how they make the exams and such fair to the student as well. Responsibility in the classroom is a double-edged sword.

There were a couple of comments about the fact that the administration has begun reacting in this way (catering to the students) because they don't wish to be sued and also because most universities and colleges have become profit-oriented (it's become a customer/client relationship). My only comment on this at the moment is . . . I totally agree.

And finally (I think, I'll do a run-through of the comments to see if I missed something later), I have certainly seen a significant rise in "parent involvement" in the student's college career and the instructor's grading. All I can say about this is that most universities and colleges have a policy in place that states that the student is an adult and that all of their grades and such are considered private. Thus, nothing regarding the student's grade or their activities in class can be discussed with anyone other than the student, unless the student has consented to the parent's involvement in some way. So whenever a parent calls or something, I simply say that I can't discuss it with them, they need to get their child to come into my office to discuss it with me personally.

In a related and "good" story regarding education, while I was working at Bloomsburg University in central PA, I failed a student in one of my classes. The student came to my office and cried and begged me to change the grade because they were supposed to graduate. I handed them a box of tissues and told them they should have thought of that before and worked hard to pass my class. They left (the tears were faked BTW, based on how quickly they stopped crying) . . . but I got a call from their department chair (they weren't math majors) who wanted to come speak with me. I said fine and when the department chair showed up I took out my grade book and pointed out that the student had failed to come to class for half of the quizzes and had received nothing more than a 40% on all of the exams, including the final.

The department chair sat back and said, "Oh," then shook my hand and left. I never heard a word about that student again. (Although based on later experience I probably should have checked to see that the grade had not been changed behind my back. This type of thing hadn't happened to or around me yet, so I wasn't aware it could even be done at that point. I was young and inexperienced.)

As for administration changing an instructor's grade at their whim . . . well, let's say I have my own personal experience with this that I'll explain in a future post.
joshuapalmatier: VacantThrone (Default)
If you've noticed, I've been somewhat quiet around here for the last few days. This is mostly because classes for the Fall semester have started up and I've been busy getting used to the new schedule. In particular, getting used to waking up at 6am so I can hit the road for the hour one-way commute at 7am. I'm not complaining about this--I get to chose my own times for my classes, so early classes are entirely my fault--but going from not waking up until I feel like it to 6am isn't exactly easy. So that's why I've been quiet. I haven't been doing anything in the way of writing. I'll start that up again once the semester settles down a little bit. Also, I don't know what I should be working on yet. I'll be talking to my editor this coming Wednesday, hopefully, and then I'll know if she's interested in any of my projects and that should give me some guidance on what to work on next. (I could be working on a short story that's been bouncing around in my head, but . . .)

In any case, that's what's up with me. However, something else has happened recently that's bothered me quite a bit. Before people start jumping to conclusions, I want to say that this story is NOT about me. I'm not trying to disguise this as one of my problems by saying "my colleague" and such. Similarly, this is not something that happened at my current college, SUNY Oneonta. This happened to someone I know at a different university. BUT, I know that this is happening at many universities and colleges across the country, because I've worked at more than one university or college in my lifetime and I've seen it in action. This particular story only highlights the issue.

I don't normally talk about things like this on my blog, and I don't want this to come across as a rant. Rather, I just want to point out that things like this are going on and that I strongly believe that this is one of the reasons that our education system isn't up to par. Note that I said ONE of the reaons. There are multiple factors that are all contributing to this problem, and if people are open to hearing my thoughts on what these are, then I'll continue posting these types of things.

The Situation and Why I Think It's Wrong )

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April 2010

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