Monday, January 14, 2008

A semi-embarrassing first

So over the weekend I got an email from my Chair asking if I could stop by her office for a chat on Monday. You know when you're called into your boss' office for unstated reasons that something is up. (My guess was that, when my Dean emailed me last week asking me to be on Important Committee, and I told him I was over-busy with service commitments and wasn't getting to my research*, he had called her up and told her to order me back onto the Research Track. (I know, I know, why am I compulsively honest?? Who tells their - notoriously paranoid and micro-managerial - Dean that they aren't getting any research done??))

But no. I was called into my Chair's office today to account for why the enrolments in my classes this year have been so low. And not low from the beginning - why there have been significant drops out of my classes.


How embarrassing. I admit that I had been aware of this, especially this term. I knew it didn't look good, but the fact that I currently have only 35 students (+ 2 grad students) made me happy, I must say.

Chair wanted to know why I thought the enrolments had dropped so much. My best guess is that it is because the workloads are very demanding - in fact, my fall term 1st year course was, by any standards, too demanding. I see that now. I had a hard time adjusting to this 90 minutes, twice a week schedule. I over-assigned reading and assignments. I know better now.

It's just that I've always been a very popular instructor, not one who drives students away. That's rather embarrassing. As my charmingly frank father noted on the phone tonight, "It doesn't make me look very good to my superiors." Nope, it doesn't. Oops.

The good thing about the state of apathy I'm in these days? It means I'm not taking this on, feeling like a failure. I am not internalizing failure. What I do feel squirmy about is the external perception of failure.** Eep.

* I realized, after I wrote this to him, how untrue it is. I have gotten a list as long as my arm of reaearch-related work done - and some of it published - in the six months since I began this job. My perception that I'm still not doing anything is a problem (to be addressed in another post).
** Theoretically, I also feel squirmy about the fact that this will make it next to impossible to hire even a sessional for next year, much less a TT person, much less grow the program. Theoretically.


Psychgrad said...

I think your experience teaching mirrors your daily life at the moment. I think when one improves, the other will quickly follow.

Your frank father sounds like my mother. Aren't they helpful?

Dr. Crazy said...

Um... can I just say that I think it's sort of screwed up that your chair called you in to scold you for this after just ONE semester? I mean, yes, it's good to have it brought to your attention that people are watching if in fact they are, but it takes time to transition into a new institution. My enrollments didn't become stable where I work for 3 or 4 semesters. And even then if I teach something that seems wacky to the students I can still face some woes in getting particular classes to where they should be. At any rate, my point here is that it seems a bit early for them to be truly concerned about enrollment numbers in your case, concerned enough to call you in specially to ask about it. Hmmm.

Hilaire said...

Psychgrad - That's what I keep thinking. Even though I actually don't think the content of my teaching has changed, and I have had good feedback from individual students, it just seems to me like more evidence of the bad fit between myself and the institution.

Crazy, you're quite right - they need to give it time. If it is, as I suspected, about workload, well, then, I will fix that next year, and I expect the numbers will be much better. My Chair, thank goodness, wasn't angry. It's just that she needs to argue for adjuncts for next year - like, right now - and she wants to understand what's going on.