Thursday, August 22, 2013

Down Time

I've been crazy busy with my current class lately (to the point where my hourly pay- yes, this teaching job is hourly- may actually be lower than minimum wage).  It's an interesting set-up, accelerating an entire semester into one month.  I'm not a stranger to long work hours and abbreviated time tables, but this one takes the cake.  A four credit hour general education class for non-majors, and it's possibly the most exhausting class I've taught.  Each day of class is the equivalent of more than the typical week in a standard semester, so there's very little time to relax and evaluate a lesson before jumping straight into the next one.  Not for the faint of heart, that's for sure.

I'm not usually one to enjoy relaxing or vacation.  I tend to be the one that takes their laptop on a night out to keep working.  On the bright side, I'm learning from this experience how important it is to let the mind process material during breaks.  Switching gears and letting the brain just soak in what it's been working on makes the learning process more efficient, and effective. 

I know it's not a new observation.  I know there's plenty of research documenting this same effect.  But you know what?  Having a reminder of what you already know is a great lesson.  And slowing down and enjoying the moment is a lesson I need reminders of from time to time. 

No matter how bad a situation is, there's also something to be learned from it.  Or so I keep telling myself. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Passing of a Folk Hero

It's no secret that I'm a die-hard music fan; it soothes my savage soul, so to speak.  Since before we moved to Kent, I've enjoyed the musical contributions made to Ohio airwaves by WKSU, the National Public Radio station run by Kent State University.  For over 30 years, the station has brought folk, classical, and news to Northeast Ohio and farther if you had a good antenna.  They've also helped to host the annual Kent State Folk Festival, and more recently spawned Folk Alley- a 24/7 streaming online all-folk station.  Folk Alley has since made the switch to not just internet, but having an HD channel of its own as well.  While at this point in time classical music is a bit easier to find on the dial, stations that play both older and current folk hits are few and far between, and classical is slipping away slowly but steadily.  It's within this atmosphere of radio-wave homogenization and declining cultural arts investment, that I reflect with a heavy heart on the station changes at WKSU. 

New management to any organization invariably brings some changes.  That's no surprise, and everyone expected that having a new station manager would bring some new ways of doing things and maybe some differences to the old line-up.  I don't know that anyone was expecting quite the wholesale re-ordering that we've experienced.  And I definitely didn't expect the dismissive tone to any opposition to the new format.  Obviously, there are great places like Ear to the Ground Music (from the Shameless Self Promotion department) to find new folk tunes, but typically speaking surfing on the radio is where we are first introduced to new music.  Searching the internet to find something requires that a certain level of interest is already there, and that takes away a particular serendipity. 

There's a certain irony in all this.  Folk music- by its very name, music for the masses- moving off of the standard radio format, currently analog, onto the newer less common radio format which requires additional equipment for most people.  This move is taking folk away from us regular folks, and the same with classical music.  Sure, there are a couple of hours on the weekend, but not like what Kent and the other WKSU listeners are used to.  This, alongside the recent downtown redevelopment with expensive high end shops, and the loss of community green space, has me very much disliking gentrification in my neck of the woods.  You can hear the inequality growing.  But that's what our city council has decided needs to happen, so that's what's going to happen.  Maybe November's off-year elections will be more interesting than I had expected.

On the bright side, us little folks are working together and getting some cool stuff done on our own terms, like the new Edible Kent endeavor and pARTy and Snack-nic outdoor art extravaganza to help replace our community green space.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Corporate Conundrum

It's Moral Dilemma Time, kids!  All right, so the answer is already decided (us teachers gotta eat, you know), but I've been thinking a lot lately on corporate colleges and their impact on the higher education landscape.  This is mainly because I've been hired by one, so I feel the need to at least cogitate on the matter.

On the plus side, they can seem to have some innovative structures (one month-one class systems; social support systems like child care connections; flexible class delivery modes).  On the negative side (and it's a big negative side), they rely heavily on part-time adjuncts and may not have any tenure.  Where I'm working currently has about half of the pay of a typical class that I teach, and is hourly not salary (and only pays for contact hours, not prep or grading time).  Frankly, what bugs me even more than the pay is the bureaucracy.  There are a million and a half "Thou shalts" and "Thou shalt nots."  Oddly, with all the rigamarole, there's no time-sheet.

All of the metrics for this private, for-profit school are horrendous as is typical for PFPS, whether you look at graduation rate, retention rate, employment after graduation, etc.  The classes are a joke.  The instructors are a mixed bag, but without any time to plan or grade lessons, even the best instructor is going to face challenges.  The resources offered are there to help keep students coming back, not moving forward; help with getting financial aid and government assistance, not help with actually getting an education.

It's despicable, the way these companies profit off of failing students.  It's worse than I had ever thought these places could possibly be.  But you know what?  I have a family to take care of, so I'm doing it.  Now if you don't mind, I need to go bleach my eyeballs and scrub half of my skin off for taking part in this fleecing.

Thank goodness for neo-liberal education de-formers, at all levels of education.