Archive for the ‘Employment’ Category

Restructuring

August 22, 2013

The community college where I work is going to restructure. If I go by the comments of the faculty, most of the faculty objects to what is being done. I certainly have misgivings about the department chair covering all three campuses and not someone who is in the department. I like having easy access to the chair and having someone who still teaches being the one who makes the decisions as the chair.

I haven’t paid much attention to the arguments in favor of this structure, although they were available online. In the opening meeting, the college president said we were going with this structure. Over the next couple of days, I heard quite a number of people saying very vague things in support of it. There is only one argument that I heard repeated: Good people will make any structure work.

Huh?

I am pretty sure that I didn’t hear the same message that the people who were supposed to support restructuring were trying to send. I heard that there is little justification for the changes, but we can make it work. Maybe I’ll retire before it does too much damage.

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Why do they keep asking me?

July 13, 2013

I know someone who kept being asked to do volunteer work connected with her children’s school. She made the assumption that people spread the work among the parents and she was asked when it was her turn. Eventually, she realized she was asked because she agreed to do the work.

I’m near retirement. I’m old enough to retire, and could retire immediately. I’ve been trying to cut back on my non teaching duties. For the last two years, I was on a committee which was time consuming. I’m finished with that committee and thought I would have an easier time this coming school year. I got an email from my department chair asking me to take another job. This is the third time she’s asked me to take on a major time-consuming project.

I realize she keeps asking me because I say yes.

Job Security

June 4, 2013

I believe my job is secure.  This doesn’t mean I can’t be fired, but short of gross misconduct, I couldn’t be fired immediately. If they fired me for mild incompetence it would take a while, because the next time I will have a performance review will be in more than a year. Since the community college is funded by the government it is unlikely that it will fail and have mass layoffs, but it happens.

I don’t think I work less hard because my job is secure, but of course I can’t be sure.

I don’t know how much job performance is based on job security. But I find it interesting that students who are not secure about passing a course do not work harder than those who have solid A’s. I want all students to work hard. Of course, part of it is because students who work harder learn more. They are also more likely to pass. But perhaps it is more important for them to get in the habit of working hard.

Because if they learn to work hard in the course I’ve taught, they’ve learned something more important than the subject I’m teaching. (Don’t tell them I said there is something more important than math.)

There is a pattern

July 26, 2012

One of my colleagues cut in front of me in line. Circumstances may have made this accidental, but he must have realized he did it, afterward. If I had done it accidentally, I would have apologized. He didn’t and acted like he didn’t realize I was offended, partially because I pretended I didn’t notice it. I would ignore this behavior, but I’ve heard of two cases where his interactions with female colleagues led to bad feelings. None of these incidents were significant, but the pattern is. I will try to avoid working with him.

A student was having trouble with me as a teacher and dropped my class the first week. I found out he was making a formal complaint against another teacher. I am very glad he dropped my class. His pattern makes me leery.

I would like to get across to my students that patterns of behavior matter. If a student has many withdrawals on his record, a potential employer may wonder if he often attempts more than he can complete. A student who is routinely late will create a bad first impression immediately. I heard of a case where several new employees were required to come to an orientation meeting. One man came twenty minutes late with a Starbuck’s coffee, and was fired on the spot. I suspect he had a pattern of coming late and was never in real trouble over it.

It is easy to feel that minor bad behavior doesn’t matter when it is only seen by strangers, but there is another issue. Patterns matter in how people are perceived, but they also become habits, which can be hard to break. Students who learn to take classes casually, not paying much attention to assignments, coming late, and just putting in a minimum amount of work are obviously hurting themselves, since they won’t learn much. They are learning one thing: a pattern which will hurt them later in life.

Greece’s problems

June 18, 2012

We visited Greece recently, and two tour guides gave me a clue as to why the country is in trouble.

The first one was happy that she bought a lot of clothes before all the trouble started, because it means she doesn’t need to worry about having enough clothes while she has a reduced income. Wouldn’t she be better off with money? I can understand her saying she is glad she bought clothes rather than something else, but I suspect that she would be better off with more money than with more clothes.

The second guide told me the following:

1. He chooses whom he works for and will not work for some companies. The implication was that he could work more if he chose to do so.

2. He has three or four tours a week. Our tour was a four hour tour.

3. He does not work when it is not the tourist season.

4. He considers himself to be working full time.

5. He was required to take three years of school (presumably after high school) to be a tour guide. His attitude suggested that he felt he put a lot of work into qualifying for the job.

The guides both were knowledgeable and spoke excellent English. But between the two of them, they gave a picture of a country that doesn’t work very hard and doesn’t believe in saving for the future.

How Should Social Security Be Improved?

April 29, 2012

First, make the social security tax be on all income, not just salary. This would add to the revenue stream immediately.

Second, eliminate the cap on the income. As income goes beyond the maximum to contribute, which is about $110,000 per year, Social Security is still collected. No matter how much income someone has, social security is taken from all of the income.  However, a person who contributes twice as much to social security doesn’t get twice as much income. He gets one and a half times the income, and further contributions would lead to a lower rate of return.  People would still get something from the additional money, but not a proportional amount. This would mean the NFL player who goes broke later in life can still look forward to a reasonable amount of income.

I have no idea as to whether this would solve the problem, but it would help.

When Teachers Cheat

March 29, 2012

Last time when I was evaluated, the dean commented that in one of my classes, the students thought I was unclear. My own reaction was that it was the worst class I ever had in that particular course. Obviously, I was unclear, since  I wasn’t reaching them. The evaluations were realistic. I knew they would be low, but sometimes that happens.

If someone’s job depended on these evaluations, the way they are given where I work is a joke. The teacher is responsible for giving them and for seeing that they are brought to the office. There are many ways to cheat. For a teacher in danger of being fired, the temptation must be high.

In primary and secondary education there is a a great deal of evidence saying that teachers cheat. The evidence also suggests that honest teachers get fired, because they don’t improve the scores of students whose tests were artificially inflated the previous year. The way the system is set up, honesty is punished.

It may be insulting for someone else to come into my classroom and give the evaluations to my students, but I prefer being in a system where people are not trusted to being in a system where cheating is rewarded, particularly when it is so easy to cheat.

How much help should be given?

January 27, 2012

Students with disabilities are given special accommodations in classes. Most of the time, I completely approve of what is being done. A student with a vision problem should be given tests in a larger font, and if the font is sufficiently large, be given extra time, since a large font takes longer to read. One of my students needed a 44 point font. Other disabilities require extra time, and that’s fine with me. I will leave the judgment of what students need the extra time to the experts.

Yet I wonder if we are being fair to the students. I know of a case where a speech teacher, not where I teach, was required to give a student the opportunity to take speech without actually giving any speeches. How realistic is that?

Do the students who get degrees with these accommodations think that they should be considered as equal to the students who don’t? The law might say yes, but would a boss say yes? Should someone who takes twice as long to do something be paid the same as someone who is faster? Can the nearly blind student do the same work as a sighted person? Sometimes the answer is yes, but often it is no.

In an attempt to make things fair, are we making things unrealistic? The student who is used to double time on a test will still have to rush to make a deadline on a job. I am not trying to fight the system, but I wonder if the students who are in the system are able to cope when they leave school.

“Jobs that help other people the most”

September 18, 2011

Sadly, the degrees in least demand — and that pay the least — lead to jobs that help other people the most. Counseling, psychology and social work are among these. from the Washington post, 9/18/11

This article is advocating staying in college and states that petroleum engineers make $120,000 and guidance counselors make $40,000. Counseling helps people more than petroleum? If a community had no counselors at all, would it be better off than if it had no gasoline? Please understand that I am not trying to say that social workers, psychologists, and counselors don’t do good. I believe they do, but they do it one person at a time.

A petroleum engineer might ultimately be responsible for bringing energy to millions of people. They wouldn’t receive that kind of salary if they didn’t. I’ll limit myself to part of a paragraph to explain how our lives are enriched by transportation. Just briefly, bananas are cheap and plentiful and grown in another country. I routinely buy things from Amazon and they are shipped from all over the place. Most people are not limited to living within a walking distance of work. It is not unusual for couples to commute in opposite directions. If I don’t like the local grocery store, there’s another one within an easy drive that is happy to have my business. And petroleum is used to create electricity and make plastics as well.

Our society is rich enough to afford petroleum engineers and social workers, and I am happy that the ones that benefit people more are paid more.

Tenure

April 29, 2011

I don’t have tenure. Most of the people who do have tenure where I work will be retiring soon, but they haven’t offered tenure for many years. I am on what’s called a rolling term contract. What does that mean? It means unless something drastic happens, I can’t be fired for six years.

No other job gives that kind of security. Indeed, in the private sector, most people would be happy to be guaranteed a job for six months. There is a logic to giving people in education more than a year of security. Many jobs have application deadlines nine months or more before the job starts. Firing someone in March means the person can’t even apply for a job for the following fall at many colleges.

But six years? So much can change in six years. The eager, innovative teacher who is spending many extra hours trying to find the perfect way to teach can become lazy or embittered. I’m not either, but I am slowing down. I don’t have as much energy as I used to have, and I don’t expect that to get better. I’m typing this with arthritis gloves on my hands and I have more trouble every semester learning the names of the hundred or so new students I get. I see retirement coming. It’s not here yet, but when I stop enjoying it, I will retire. I expect that to occur before six years from now.

Tenure may give security, but I think the rolling term is better for the education system. A little insecurity is probably good for job performance. I would even make it shorter than six years. But I can afford to retire.