Thursday, December 15, 2011

I admit it: I'm crazy

It's a seasonal thing. Perhaps if My U had trimesters instead of semesters, the entire November-to-January holiday season wouldn't bring on a fit of vapors and waves of resentment, but it does.


My own fault: I overscheduled meetings with grading and evaluations and reading plays and friends. Every year I wonder why I don't learn, but I never do. Or... one friend suggested I was too conscientious: just buzz through the exams. Just whiz through the plays and papers. Just whip out the end-of-semester evals.

On some level I know she's right: students barely read and register their written evals at this stage: they're too tired, burnt-out, or hyped for exams to log the very real suggestions made about their attitude or growth, unless it is unequivocally positive. Even then, their internal self-critique suggests we're a/ lying, b/ stupid, or 3/ whizzing thru the writing... It is a challenge to get them to take positive criticism gracefully.

On another level: people in administration (above our individual chairs) seriously do not get what we do during this period--and by "do" I mean giving exams and all that goes with it but even the varying nature of the coursework that demands different methods of evaluation. For example: in the theatre history course, it is appropriate to give a 3-hour final to test their knowledge of terms as well as their synthesis of concepts. In playwriting, however, it is appropriate to ask them to write or revise previous exercises in writing (beginning: ten-minute plays, advanced: full-length plays). In neither case, can an electronic Scan-tron test be given: so the notion that 48 hours after an exam period is enough time to evaluate, grade, and post grades for all comers is, well, stupid.

But there you are: the divide between faculty and administrators.

It is also ridiculous to ask professors--who do not choose the time of their final and cannot change it--to grade finals under the duress of time, which only leads to stress. When grading finals, the fact is that one should read no more than 5 essays or papers or short plays in a  row before taking a break...  because if you're asking students to think, you cannot grade their work like a short-answer true/false exam.

The conundrum is that we professors are asked to address students with rigor--high expectations, complex concepts and skills, prepare them for the professional and adult world--but not at the expense of timely posting of grades.


Makes me realize that, again, I'll have to adjust my timetable next semester to avoid the Maytime frustration of this same deal. Final plays due earlier. Final papers (in my drama lit course) due earlier. Plan for others' parties, final meetings, and so forth by avoiding the crush of time... And makes me realize--again--that faculty are now operating in a consumer culture where the administration is most interested in the customers' happiness--and not, in fact, any of the things they say they are interested in. But in this economy, when the customer is paying $50K per annum for the product, one can see why their complaints might be louder, their voices might be heeded, and we might just be becoming a service industry.

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