Thursday, April 10, 2008

No, dammit! Where do such people get off running down the industry like this? The letter writer may have been well-meaning, pointing out the flaws in our system, but his whiny tone grates on my nerves as he casually devalues everything we do as teachers, especially when he suggests that we spend most of our time and energy "padding our portfolios" instead of teaching. And if he is one of our own, I recommend he check his attitude at the door.

He's right about the marking. Barely into the second term and the leading edge of a tsunami of assignments has just struck the beachhead. I foresee the red-ink blood of innocent ball-points being spilled over the panicked chicken scratched foolscap sheets turning the ocean crimson, but that's exactly how we devise our "individualized instruction". Every assignment gets our full attention; every sarcastic comment we scrawl in the margin a personalized chastisement for merely whiffling at rather than actually hitting perfection.

But that's just the marking. My colleagues are out there in the corridors after hours consulting individual and small groups of students. How dare you insinuate that they aren't genuine in their concern for their students' efforts to learn as much as they can before the impending exams? We could be making a little extra on the side giving private tuition, but we're expending our time to teach our kids for free. If our kids get great results, our kids stand a better chance at aiming for better opportunities in life, so at the end of it, who is the happier for the time spent? A happy kid is worth way more than a fat portfolio... and the beauty of it is, they're not necessarily mutually exclusive.

The appraisal routine may be a structural flaw in the system, but it does not get in the way of the job. Neither does it invalidate the work we do. Who asked anybody to attend courses that are irrelevant to them either professionally or personally? Who asked anybody to initiate ideas they don't believe in or put forward just for show? If we don't have an interest to learn new tricks or try new ideas then what the heck are we teaching our kids? That knowledge is finite and conformity is the way to go? If that's the case, when we shudder every time we encounter instances of "padding" while vetting their graduation certs, we can't blame them at all. They were just following our example.

And such efforts ring so hollow, anyway. Who's going to believe a portfolio so full of such glaring holes? No wonder there are such disgruntled people as the letter writer. If I directed most of my efforts building this empty vacuum of nothingness, I'd be grabbing the nearest assault rifle and going postal too.

No doubt the job is tough. Every other job is too. And I know I'm not the hardest worker on campus (I have an award to prove it -- thanks, Taily and Que!). So many of my colleagues are slogging at it every day, and I will not tolerate without a response anyone disrespecting their committment with such impunity.

If the job's too tough, make yourselves happy and go. If you're simply concerned about stuffing your own portfolio, you're a bad example to our kids, so go. Please.

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