Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Back to teaching

Classes don't start for me quite yet, but it's time to start thinking about teaching again.

Luckily, the class I was afraid was going to be cancelled for lack of enrollment (an 8 am section of a majors' class) wasn't. So instead of having a non-majors class shoehorned in at what would be a bad time for me (right in my only break on a busy day), I get a more open, relaxed schedule. Most importantly, I get a lunch break on Thursdays. Otherwise, I'd be going from 9:30 to 3 pm with about a 10 minute break between two classes, which really wouldn't be enough to eat a proper lunch. (Especially not NOW, when I am having to do stuff like cook veggies in the microwave for my lunch, rather than just eating a ham sandwich on the go)

I guess people don't like 8 am classes any more? I always liked them when I was a student - I liked being able to get the lecture classes over by noon if I at all could, and that left the afternoon open for labs, or, on days I didn't have labs, studying or working on projects. I vastly preferred doing my studying during the afternoon to doing it in the evenings (though I wasn't really a social person - it wasn't that I went "out," as we all called it - as in "You going out tonight?" meaning, "Are you going to one of the bars?"). But I liked having the evenings opening to read or, if there was a concert or something I wanted to go to, going to that.

But now, I guess people don't like 8 am classes. Heck, people don't even like 9 am classes. I've had complaints that my stats class meets "too early" and that's after I moved it from 8 to 9.

The problem is, there are only so many hours in the day. If you won't take classes before 10 am, and you're in lab classes, you're going to have a bad time scheduling things. But I have counseled students who have told me "Nothing before 10 am." And okay, I get that in some instances people work nights or have small children they have to get off to school - but for the typical 18 to 20 year old, ESPECIALLY if they are living in the dorm, it does seem a little unreasonable to demand that you have nothing before 10 am.

(I wonder how many people try to find jobs where they don't have to be present before 10 am. I know such jobs exist but for me would have the undesirable trade-off of having to stay late into the evening. I am still someone who prefers to get all the lecture classes out of the way before noon. If I could work it so I could teach a lab or two before noon, I'd like that too.)

Lately, the administration has floated the trial balloon of "night classes." We have a few - our graduate level "distribution" classes (things like Experimental Design) are 5 or 6 pm classes. And every other year I teach an advanced conservation class that meets from 5 to 7. But I don't like it, even once a week, I find it a drag. And I'd really dislike teaching a lecture three nights a week, which is what the administration is hinting at.

In the past, we've not done it, on the basis of, "Anything you agree to do, you may be forced to do in the future." Also on the basis of the fact that several of the faculty had (or still have) young children at home, and it is suboptimal for a parent to be away teaching nights when their kids are young. (My family did that. My dad often got stuck with night classes when I was a primary-school student, as he was junior faculty and the low man in the pecking order. But I still say it's suboptimal, especially when that parent has to leave the house at 8 am as my dad did). And it seems unfair to tell the childless faculty (or those with grown children) that they are getting stuck with the night classes because of their "family status." (It's one thing to volunteer to do it. It's another to be told you will.)

Also, I often have evening meetings - several times a month I have something at church, and I'm in a couple other groups that meet one or two evenings a month. I'd have to drop out of all of those if I were expected to teach nights.

There's also another factor - probably not a big issue on my campus, and not for me given that I pay extra for "faculty only" parking, which means I get a spot less than 100 feet from my building - but for a woman (or, for that matter, a small man) walking out alone at night can be a bit of a concern. (And yes, I know there's a potential solution to my being accosted by a bad guy in the parking lot, but I'd not be allowed to bring it on campus. Well, maybe I could have a high-powered whistle and pepper spray, but I'm not sure how effective pepper spray is). And that could be an issue for students as well.

But beyond all those things: if the powers that be want to "take student schedules into account" or whatever they say - and one of the reasons some have talked about night classes is "some of the students just aren't 'morning people'" - they also need to take faculty schedules into account. Some of us aren't NIGHT people. I know I am not. I'm up at 4:30 am and that means I'm ready to wind down for the day around 5 or 6 pm. And it would be painful to me to teach a class that didn't end until 9 pm - as some night classes do - because that's the time I'm going to bed. And teaching college, despite the "study" that claimed that tenured professors have the lowest-stress job ever, hypes me up and I probably wouldn't sleep for a couple hours after teaching. (I am not one of those people who falls asleep as soon as their head hits the pillow, no matter how tired I am). 

So, I don't know. I get that night classes "work better" for some students, and that 8 am classes "don't work" for some students - but I'd much rather teach 8 am classes than night classes.

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