What Your Dean Will Hate

… and so will your students!

(First let me say that, no, I am not ignoring you. It’s been pretty hectic this semester.)

One of the worst things you can do is ……. I think you know this …. anything that will cause studenta to come to him or her with an emphatic, demanding, negatively emotional, even argumentative student complaint. That happened to me earlier this week.

I hope to learn something from this experience that I can share with you in an upcoming article. For now, let me remind you of the importance of:

  1. arriving at class on time, but ideally a bit early;
  2. being prepared to teach;
  3. sticking to your syllabus, especially where assignments and grades are concerned;
  4. treating every student with respect whether they treat you that way or not;
  5. never saying or doing anything that you would not want others to hear or see (you dean, your college president, your spouse, your child, any one!)
  6. giving students the full amount of instruction they paid for (a.k.a. not dismissing class early);
  7. looking yourself in the mirror and asking yourself if you are proud of what you are doing; and
  8. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER display disregard for your students.

I didn’t mean to suggest that you, one of my readers, would not know all of this.  Sadly, however, there are some adjuncts who apparently don’t. What is so sadly disturbing to me is that this instructor has gotten good evaluations in the past and always been extremely congenial in all his dealings with me. What happened? Perhaps he is struggling with personal issues. But my job is to see that our students get good instruction. No excuses! 🙁

Why Good College Instructors go Bad

Based on my speculation, one lesson comes to mind.  While I don’t know it for a fact, I am concerned that my adjunct may be struggling with things that don’t relate to his class.  The lesson would be that if you are having problems in your personal life, don’t let them spill over into the classroom.  But the reality is that personal issues may need take priority over your part-time teaching position, and justifiably so.

If you cannot give your teaching position your best effort, don’t ignore the matter or try to hide it.  These approaches never work. Go to the person to whom you report – the dean, the associate dean, the department chair, the curriculum coordinator, whomever.  Seek help for getting through the situation.  You may not want to divulge specifically what it is in your personal life that is keeping you from doing your best.  That is your choice, but the facts you share may have a profound influence on whether you are hired again.  Your supervisor may be able to help, or together you may come to the conclusion that someone else needs to take over your course. It is all about doing what is best for the students.  If you are unable to give them the quality education they paid for, so beit.

One thing is for sure.  If this situation proves to be as bad as students portray it, this man will never teach for our college again.  Sad!  He had been a valued resource. 🙁

P.s. I have phoned and emailed my adjunct, but have yet to hear back from him.  When we do speak, and we will speak even it it means showing up at his next class unannounced, how should I approach this?  “How are you doing?”  “How are things going in class?” “Tell me what’s going on.”  “We need to talk.  Here are things your students are saying.  Are they true?”  Or should I use a quote attributed to several people including early 20th century French philosophy Simone Weil and ask, “What are you going through?”

© 2010 Paul A. Hummel, Ed.D.

Revised February 26, 2011

About Dr. Paul A. Hummel, Ed.D.

My name is Paul Hummel, and I often introduce myself to others as a recovering engineer. If you are familiar with the Dilbert cartoons, let me simply say that I lived all of that. I started my college saga at Illinois Institute of Technology. Eventually, I earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering and a Master’s Degree in Engineering Management. I worked for many years in industry, and during this time I did some college adjunct teaching. During my career I held several managerial positions in industry, the last as Director of Technology of a division of a Fortune 500 corporation. Then, in 1996, with minimal planning or forethought, I found myself working as a manufacturing consultant on behalf of Elgin Community College (ECC). My career in higher education began to take shape. I fell in love with ECC and with the mission of community colleges in general. I worked fulltime and occasionally taught college courses for my institution and two other colleges. After a couple years I set a goal to move over to the “credit side of the college” and eventually become a college administrator. In 2006, having earned my doctorate in education, I achieved that goal. I was hired by Waubonsee Community College as Dean for Technology, Mathematics and Physical Sciences. I have had the great fortune of working at two excellent colleges. The insights I want to share are drawn from the various college positions I have held. At ECC, in addition to my consulting role, I coordinated non-credit professional development training programs for three years and spent four years advising students in the TRiO Student Support Services program. That position helped me understand college education from the perspective of today’s college students. After seven years at Waubonsee, I retired April 30, 2013. I now devote my knowledge and skills to upgrading and expanding the websites I created beginning with Adjunct Assistance. I have three other websites: College Teaching Tips, Keys for College Success and Lighthouse for Learning. A lot of work lies ahead for me in terms of upgrading and expanding each of these websites, but I could not be more excited about fulfilling the vision I have for helping college instructors and their students succeed.

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