Monday, January 6, 2014

Papitas: Bad Day at Black Rock

Scene 1, Exterior: Cold morning, but crystal clear and beautiful. Temperature: 9F.  Time: 8:15 Place: empty-ish parking lot. Action: Woman with Boot crosses parking lot, shivering and smiling, upbeat and nearly bouncing with energy. Woman enters building.

Scene 2, Interior, 5 minutes later. Action: Woman with Boot talking with Dino1.

Dino1: But I don't remember you saying that! I'm not saying you didn't say it, I'm just saying I don't remember that.
WwB: Well, we have to deal with that now. I am reluctant to open another survey section at the same time MsM and I are doing overloads; this kind of response to the repeated problem of your classes not making (i.e. having sufficient enrollment) simply isn't sustainable. We have no choice right now, but we simply can't justify doing this again and again.
D1: I understand.
WwB: I can't give you a World History, because you said you won't do it any way but narrative.
D1: Had you told me that it would put us, as a department, into this kind of situation, I would have reconsidered. I didn't realize the implications. If you... if the response to my decision had been "you might want to reconsider that in light of the implications of that decision" I would have done so.
WwB: (frustrated) Well, we can't retract it now, or pretend the consequences don't exist. Here is the situation: at the moment, I've got two professors who can't do any upper division classes - that is, junior and senior level classes - because they aren't willing or able to teach research methods. And that is what junior and senior level classes are - research and methods. That puts all of those classes on me and whoever we hire. That is not fair to our students, or to me or the new hire.
D1: I agree. I am willing - very willing - to learn the history part of it.
WwB: Good, but it is more than that. To teach methods, you have to know, understand and be able to use those methods, and those are rather different than either one of us learned in the pre-digital age. You have to learn the current methods of historical research, and teach those - which means that if a student is using a digital archive, you have to know enough to get in and help them figure out the issues and problems of the archive as well as the document itself. If they can now access a handwritten letter by George Washington, but it's handwritten and they're having trouble with the writing - we have to be able to help them with the orthography and epigraphy as well. Even at a freshman level - they need to encounter and work with those documents.
D1: (stone-faced, anger and rejection clear in expression) Ah. I do that.
WwB: Good. So even in survey classes, we have to change the way we teach, the way the students encounter history. And in the junior/senior level classes, they have to do the bulk of the interpretation - we can't just give them a narrative and not show them how to deconstruct it, challenge it, explore alternative interpretations.
D1: (more stone-faced, anger and rejection clear in expression) Oh.
WwB: That's why I gave you those books, asked you to be ready to teach Methods in the fall. And when you said you hadn't even looked at them - that meant I have to do it.
Dino1: But I don't remember you saying that! I'm not saying you didn't say it, I'm just saying I don't remember that. I'm willing to learn the history for that, and ... well, I don't even know where to begin to do the other. You gave me a book?
WwB: Two, actually. One was The Information Literate Historian? Remember?
D1: Not really. I remember a green book; was that it?
WwB: No, that was about American sources; Info Literate Historian was about x, y and z. I gave them to you at the same time.
D1: Well, I've looked at the green one....
WwB: See if you can find the other one. It is really an introduction to the new sources and methods, so read it, and then the 'green one' will make more sense. We need you to be able to step up, teach Methods, get back to teaching those upper division classes. We have to make sure that - for our students sake - what I'm teaching as Methods and what you teach as Methods are the same kinds of things. Right now, we'll open up another US survey, but we've got to look beyond this immediate problem. Have you contacted MsB about doing Thing B? (NB: Thing B was requested 3 months prior; D1 misheard that instruction as well.)
D1: I found her office, but I haven't met her yet.
WwB: Well, I know she's been on e-mail, so you need to get in touch with her.
D1: (stone faced, anger and rejection clear in expression). Oh. Well, I'll let you get on with your day.

Ten minutes later, D1 knocks gently on interior door. WwB invites entry.
D1: I'm ready to send my syllabus and stuff to the printer; did you want to look at it?
WwB: Yes, please. Just to make sure everything is there. Did you get your rubric figured out?
D1: I think so. It's there.
WwB: (leafing through 30 page syllabus/workbook) I'm not seeing Learning Objectives; the Provost's handout says they have to be here.
D1: They're there.
WwB: (finds rubric) Ah. I see here that you ask your students to put their objective in the first paragraph of their paper; your objectives aren't in your first paragraph, did you realize that?
D1, bristling: So? They're at the bottom of the first page!
WwB: That's fine, I just wanted to point it out - you're requiring them to do something you aren't doing.... and here, where you list the objectives, they're really vague. Next fall, you might want to make the criteria clearer - (repeats mantra of matching objectives to assignments clearly, blah, blah, blah).
D1: (stone-faced, locked down, disbelieving) Isn't that all there? I do all that.
WwB: I have no doubt you do it in class - but no, it is not here in the syllabus....

Scene 3: Interior. WwB is tense, angry, frustrated and locked into her office, with door closed. Smile, energy and enthusiasm are noticeably absent. So is D1.

Zoom to clock: 10AM

Yeah. Lovely way to start term.... as the AssDean notes: and I'm not even 'officially' back at work yet!

1 comment:

Susan said...

This is painful, but you did a good job. Really. As for Dino 1, it must be galling to have a woman telling him what to do, and showing him up. Even though that was not your goal.