I’d Rather Do It Myself

I found out today that one of the two people we hired to teach CS this year is quitting at the end of the semester. That’s all I know about it because I didn’t want to pry for the gory details in such a public setting, but my suspicion is that he didn’t really have a clue what teaching at a community college is all about. His perception was what he saw the professors doing at the Large Research University where he earned his Ph.D.

We don’t teach one or two classes per semester; we teach four or five. That is certain to involve at least two preps, more likely three, sometimes four. We don’t do much in the way of research, and what we do is teaching-related, not subject-matter-related. The committee work is something that occurs everywhere, and it’s not going to be much different from one academic institution to the next. And no, you don’t necessarily get to teach what you want, when you want — curriculum is dictated by committees directed by Higher Powers, and scheduled according to the needs and desires of the customers, er, I mean the students.

Anyway, this means another search this year. In fact, I was told that there would be TWO CS searches this year, one for a F2F position and one for an online position. That’s three years running. When The Dean told me that Person was quitting, she grinned and said “you know what that means,” followed by something along the lines that I didn’t HAVE to chair the committee unless I wanted to. It didn’t take much thought to say I didn’t mind chairing it. The alternatives would make me bat-shit crazy — One is disorganized as all get-out, Two won’t do anything unless you tell them exactly what to do and when to do it, and Three, well, let’s just say that Three won’t do for various reasons. So I can either go crazy with someone else chairing the committee or go crazy chairing it myself.

I think I’ll chair it myself. At least then I can control the crazy.

It’s Too Soon To Have Short-Timer’s Syndrome

What I was supposed to do today vis-a-vis attending the CCSC:SE Conference:

  • Drive up to Furman University
  • Attend a digital forensics workshop
  • Network with other presenters over lunch
  • Sit through a keynote address
  • Attend two paper/panel/workshop sessions
  • Have dinner with colleagues at the banquet and enjoy the featured speaker

What I REALLY did today:

  • Drove up to Furman University
  • Attended the digital forensics workshop
  • Returned to my car and found Dee
  • Went ahead & checked in at the motel
  • Drove all over the Greenville area visiting
  • one closed yarn shop out in the ¬†country (at least it was a nice drive)
  • one bead shop (nice but spendy, though I bought a cat & a dog metal stamp for CDD)
  • one yarn shop (nice but no one needed anything)
  • Mast General Store (always fun, always a place to find stuff)
  • various other shops downtown and on Augusta Road, including the local Ten Thousand Villages, where I found a headband to tame my overgrown locks, thank goodness!
  • Earth Fare, the nom-alicious MUST VISIT of the trip
  • Ate dinner from the hot bar at Earth Fare
  • Returned to the motel and collapsed on the beds, spending the next three hours watching TV, knitting, and checking email.
  • So which sounds like more fun? What I should have done, or what I actually did? Ten years ago I would probably have done what I was scheduled to do. But with Dee retired and me quite “over it” with computer science conferences, well, “should do” went out the window.

    Tomorrow I will actually do what I am supposed to, which is get the programming teams situated and put my two pesos’ worth in on our panel¬†presentation. I will try to avoid the conference chair, since I am clearly, and deservedly, on his shit list (and, I must add, don’t really care). I will try to keep my students more or less in line (HA!!). Then after I find out how the programming teams did I will hop in my trusty little vehicle and flee down the highway towards my lair, thankful to return to it.

    After twenty years, a first

    One of my students came up after class this evening and handed me an invitation to this month’s Phi Theta Kappa honor society induction, saying that I and my class meant a great deal to her and she wanted me to know that. When I read the entire thing, I was very touched, and quite honored! Apparently each Phi Theta Kappa inductee is allowed to recognize one professor at the ceremony who has been especially important in their academic career so far — I didn’t know that. So I get a certificate and a really meaningful attagirl (really meaningful because it comes from a student!).

    In twenty-one years at GPC, I’ve never received one of these invitations from a student before. I’m especially pleased that it is from this woman, because she is one of those very special non-traditional students — a older African-American working mother who sets the standard for the rest of the class and is a great example for her children. When I allowed students to get extra credit for attending Maker Faire, she not only came herself, she brought her children and made sure they got something out of it. When a student started giving me a hard time for being behind on grading between over-scheduling and Dad’s death, she had my back — “we women have to stick together!” She’s one of the uncommon ones who cares, and thus pushes me to be a better professor. So I say, Thank YOU!

    A Followup Letter

    Following up with My Latest Special Snowflake:

    Dear Student,

    Rest assured, the grade you saw this week on your semester grade report was the grade you EARNED in my class. Let me repeat that. I did not GIVE you that grade, you EARNED it. As far as discussing that grade with you, I do not discuss grades via email, via phone, or in any other way than in person. I will not be back in my office until the beginning of next semester’s registration, therefore I won’t be having any discussion with you until then. Not that there is really anything to discuss, mind you — the calculations don’t lie.

    Furthermore, let me remind you: I am on vacation,a vacation which I have earned, in no small part thanks to you. If you continue to insist that I interrupt my vacation to deal with your dissatisfaction, I have two simple words for you. HELL. NO.

    Sincerely,

    Professor _________

    My Latest Special Snowflake

    Received via email tonight (personal data changed to protect the student’s identity):

    hello professor

    this is ********** in your ********** class, according to a friend in the class that you gave back the exam 2 grades in class which i asked you for it before i left the class on monday, you told me you didnt have them graded yet and do not know when you will, may i please know my first exam grade(after corrections) and the 2nd exam grade please?
    if possible, i would like to know my average up to this point before the final exam so i can estimate how much i need to get on final in order to get an A in your class, since i do not know any assignment grades after the midterm drop point. it was very hard for me with school work this semester. Regardless of my (medical condition), i kept up with the assignment due days (except ch9 hw, my (medical treatment) prevented me to do them on time).

    greatly appreciated if i could get my average in the class.

    Dear Student,

    You are correct. Your class’s tests were not yet graded when you asked on Monday. They were graded and returned on Wednesday in class. However, you chose to not come to class on Wednesday. Your test, along with those of the other students who were not in class, is in my office.

    It is Friday night, I am at home, and I am not going back to my office until Monday. I do not have a copy of my gradebook at home, nor do I memorize each student’s test grade as I enter them. Therefore, I will not be able to inform you of your grade until Monday.

    As for giving you your average in the class, there is no such thing as an “average” in my classes. Your grade is calculated with a rather complex formula which weights assignments, tests, and the final exam differently, and at this point would only tell you your grade for the class if you made a zero on the final.

    Rather than worry about “how much you need to get on the final,” I suggest you worry about making sure you have completely mastered the material that will be on the final exam. That way, you can ensure that if it is mathematically possible for you to earn a grade of 90 or above in the class, you will do so.

    Sincerely,

    Your Professor

    Oh well, NaBloPoMo Fail

    In case you didn’t notice it, there was no blog post last night. It was a crazy but fun day, but at the end both Dee and I were wiped out.

    I got up yesterday and got on over to Roanoke College to make sure my programming team was ready to compete and to answer any questions they might have. Once I’d done what I could there, I went back to the hotel, picked up Dee, and checked out. We then headed for the yarn store near the airport that Linda Davis (the Roanoke CS department secretary, a FABULOUS and woefully underpaid person) had highly recommended. We shopped a bit and then went back to the college to hang out, schmooze, have lunch, and wait for the contest to end.

    As for the contest outcome, this wasn’t one of GPC’s more stellar performances…in fact it was a bit abysmal in that they tied for last place. The guys appeared to have a good time, though, and they certainly made an, ah, impression on the other teams and coaches ::wince::.

    Once the prizes & such were awarded, we got on the road. Our initial plan had been to head for the Blue Ridge Parkway and take that over to I-77, but when Dee found that I had never been to Floyd, VA, she stated that we MUST go there on the way, as Floyd is apparently the Artsy Hippie Center of Virginia. We did get our bucolic country backroads drive, just on U.S. 220 instead.

    Floyd is a lovely little one-stoplight town, worthy of a full day of exploring instead of the hour and a half we spent. Dee introduced me to the WinterSun outlet, where I bought two batik tops, and we visited the Floyd Country Store and the local natural foods store.

    Once they started rolling up the sidewalks at 5 p.m., we got back on U.S. 220 headed for Hillsville and I-77. Driving two-lane country highways after dark is not my favorite thing to do, but I definitely see better in the dark than Dee so I was the D.D. Heading south on I-77 down that lovely steep eight-mile grade into North Carolina and on towards Charlotte, past the bazillion billboards advertising JR Discount Whatever, it grew darker and darker.

    Around Mooresville we finally decided that, it being 8 p.m., enough was enough, and found a Sleep Inn next door to a Carrabba’s. It was a good thing we walked to the Carrabba’s, because a single glass of Italian Sangria with our tasty (albeit delayed due to a wait) dinner was enough to put us both out like lightbulbs when we got back up to our room. Even if I had remembered about blogging in my fuzzy brain, my eyes weren’t focusing and my eyelids felt like forty pound weights.

    So that’s my story, and I AM sticking to it!

    Insanity is Hereditary…

    …mostly you get it from your children, but if you are a college professor who is also a programming team advisor, you can also get it from your students, especially when they call you on their travels to share with you their more, ah, interesting adventures and observations.

    Apparently one of those observations included a Honda Civic hatchback, with a gunrack in the hatchback. Not an empty gunrack, either, a gunrack with two shotguns and a rifle (or maybe the other way around) in it.

    According to their latest Tweet, said students are busily studying in preparation for tomorrow’s contest. Not that I am going to check up on them, because they are at a different hotel. That is partly economics and partly an attempt to save my sanity and allow me to get some sleep tonight.

    Truth be told, though they may make me want to bang my head against a wall on some occasions, and make me long for a large, potent Adult Beverage on other occasions, it is actually nice to have some enthusiasm and humor among my students for once…

    One Reason to Love Ubuntu

    A lot of my co-workers don’t understand why I loathe Windows (or anything Microsoft) so much. Nor would they “get” why the news today that the faculty are getting new laptop computers running Windows 7 to replace our desktop computers made me bang my head on the desk. Several times.

    My current desktop computer is set up to allow me to boot into either Windows XP or Ubuntu Linux. I NEVER boot into Windows. That computer much more stable and useable for me with Ubuntu, and managing it is a breeze, even though I have to do all the tech support on it myself.

    Did you ever have to upgrade or reinstall your version of Windows? Remember what a pain it almost certainly was? Contrast that with yesterday’s Ubuntu Linux upgrade. Ubuntu released version 9.10, aka “Karmic Koala,” this weekend. It’s one of their every-eighteen-months “Long-Term Support” releases as opposed to the every-six-months regular releases, so it has to be in primo condition when it hits the Internet. So…

    I logged into my computer yesterday morning and saw that the new version was ready. I clicked on the “Upgrade” button, and checked email & such while the computer did the preliminary info-gathering and prep work. When it told me what would be needed as far as downloading & upgrading components, I clicked on the “Continue” button.

    Once I saw that everything had downloaded successfully and the actual install had started, I headed for class. Four hours later I came back to see a message that a number of components were no longer needed and could be removed if I wanted. I did, so I clicked “Remove,” waited another couple of minutes, and was then informed that the system was ready for the end-of-upgrade reboot. Two minutes later, I’m rebooted, logged in, and everything is pretty much WORKING CORRECTLY!!!

    Let’s see. Click, click, go away, click, ONE reboot, DONE. Perfectly painless, even on the flakey computer, and no out-of-pocket cost. I still have two more machines (my netbook & DH’s computer) to do and I bet it’ll be the same thing.

    Still wonder why I’m a Linux gal?

    If I can manage to “legally” make the new laptop into a dual-boot computer like my current one, I will not whine too much. If not that laptop is going to become a very expensive paperweight on my desk, most likely!

    Catching Up Is Hard To Do

    So I go away for three and a half days with highly limited computer access (just a brief chance on Friday to check email). I come back to over a hundred personal emails, not quite that many work emails, various and sundry forum postings at the Glass Haven, bunches of Tweets, and over 350 things in Google Reader. The emails are caught up, as are the forum postings, but Google Reader is only down to 217 entries. Of course, when you get 150-200 postings to Google Reader on many days, it’s no wonder that’s taking a while to catch up.

    It doesn’t help that I came back tired from not enough sleep in a strange bed. That led to essential naps both yesterday and today. Nor does it help that my fabulous purple suede ankle boots were never meant to be worn for a sixteen hour day spent mostly on my feet on hard floors or walking back and forth across a college campus. My feet are still trying to recover from the resulting blisters and major swelling.

    Then there’s the grading. Let’s not even talk about that, ok?

    How do you eat an elephant?? One bite at a time, my friends, one bite at a time.

    Major Karma Points…

    …I haz earned dem today.

    Since my lovely colleague showed up to attend the state curriculum meeting, I was free to be Dee’s flunky and go-fer for the morning. The conference registrar was not there by registration time (second time in three years this has happened), so I was handling as much as I could of registration.? At lunch we got an email from him that there was a “crisis” on campus and he wasn’t coming. So I stayed at the registration desk most of the afternoon to handle everything possible rather than attending the keynote and paper sessions.? Shoot, I can read the papers in the proceedings anyway, can’t I?

    I think after tonight’s Steering Committee meeting I may have his job for real. Well, I did volunteer to replace him if K decides to fire him. I might as well.

    So I get in good with the Karma Fairy for being my usual self and filling in where I was needed, plus I got some exercise running back and forth across campus doing some fetching and carrying.

    I think a glass of wine will be definitely in order once we get back to Dee’s, though.