Thoughts by Richard Bleil
This has been an odd semester. Enrollment must be down because I was only offered to teach one course, but what’s truly odd is that it’s a junior level course. As if that’s not odd enough, these students (a vast majority of whom I had taught in a previous lab course) apparently pushed specifically for me to teach it.
That’s an amazing feeling, knowing there is a group of students who like you so much that they (according to them) literally threatened to take the course at another institution if I didn’t teach it. I had previously built a rapport with these students, and walked into the course excited to be working with them.
Today I was fired.
These same students who demanded I teach the course have apparently been complaining about me. Last week I had a “talk” with the department head. The reality is that I don’t need this course. With what they pay (I’m only an adjunct professor) I certainly am not teaching for the money. I have been teaching for the joy, but it has become clear that education is no longer a good fit for me. While the department head sang my praises for my skill and knowledge while continuing to chew me out, it occurred to me that I was only teaching because it was fun and, frankly, it’s not fun anymore. Because of privacy laws I’m not allowed to know who complained, and because of the possibility of putting it together, I’m not even allowed to know what the complaints were.
Today was an exam day. I give my students the entire period to take exams, but they usually only use a fraction. Since I don’t know how long it will take, of course, I can’t really plan on presenting new material so, when they’re done, they can leave. The first big surprise today was finding a member of the administration sitting in my classroom when I arrived. I knew why she was there, but I honestly offered the advice that she would not be able to get much from today’s class since they have an exam. She opted to stay anyway. Then, this afternoon, I was told that my services were no longer required.
I do not know with whom I will be replaced, but here’s another bit of oddity. One of the few things that I was told is that, even as they were complaining about me, apparently the students were also saying that I was the best professor they had.
Holy Hannah. If this is how they treat the best professor (in their own words), I can’t even imagine how they must treat the rest. Apparently they said they didn’t want action taken against me, and yet, whatever their complaint, they chose to take it to the administration rather than giving me the common courtesy of talking with me directly first. No head’s up, no warning, just complaints.
Now, this class is only taught on Mondays and Wednesdays (for over ninety minutes to make up for the fewer days), so Monday they will come to class to find a new professor, whomever that may be. I feel sorry for the person who does take over the course. After complaining to get me in there, and then complaining about me, these students are about to get a harsh lesson in the old adage, “be careful what you wish for, or you might get it.” I have no way of knowing if the students who were complaining were the same or different from those who wanted me in the course, but either way I suspect it will be a mess.
Ultimately, I guess it’s not my concern anymore. I did my best while I was teaching and now it is in somebody else’s hands. I just closed my school email for the very last time, and frankly, I won’t be returning to the classroom. I’m not sure what I’ll be doing now, but I’ve also set myself up so I don’t need a lot of income to survive until I start getting retirement income. Maybe I’ll see if a hardware store is hiring. And this class? At this point I’m nothing if not conflicted. Should I still be flattered that they wanted me initially, or disappointed that they elected to get me fired? I do know that these students are, for the most part, months away from being in professional medical programs, and the college is teaching them intolerance and that complaints work. What will they do when they have to deal with hostile and inappropriate comments from patients?
Ugh. I’m done.