Thursday, March 19, 2009

Targeted Tutoring

So I took a meeting yesterday. Which I seldom do, of course. The shiny silver lining of the cloudy state we'll call "contingency" is the right to refuse a mission. But they're starting up this experimental-status thing here in the Math department where I'll work with a Regular Faculty and one of his classes... essentially as a "section man" (to stir up a vanishing piece of academese)—but with, of course, weird rules for the "section" that I'm to run.

Most of all, so put it up front and mention its obviousness, is extra paperwork. Because, naturally, the experiment is being run by the Law of Bureaucrat Gravity: pander to money. Evidently it pleases somebody somewhere to say: apply this-or-that new buzzword and prove you're doing it: look, here's a grant for an "experiment". Just make sure everything gets turned into meaningless unreadable lies every week or we'll cut you off (at the knees).

Well, probably I should've run like hell but... you know... whatever my project in the Barracks (as I've taken to calling the big Group Office over in MadPOV) is, keeping up with what the Adjunct Pool are up to is sure part of it... and, dammit, this is how departments are run and these poor souls running it are doing the best they can just like (I have to assume) my colleagues of the Adjunct Pool are doing. It's just a rule of social life: you don't question how the other party makes their living. And that'll have to apply even though my project here, if I understand it at all, is to some extent about flying under the paperwork radar to avoid the twin corruptions of Grades and Money.

So anyway, this Section gig pairs me with... let's call him Ira... and a 148 class. The weakest students will be assigned time with me and the whole class will be invited... but, again, the whole point looks to be this Big-Brother-is-watching project: tracking progress of individual students. As far as this meeting is concerned, anyway. Obviously mostly I'll be doing math problems with 'em in practice. And meeting with Ira will be a hoot. I love talking to math teachers about The Art.

Some faculty are better at administration than the Art; it was ever thus and ever must be thus. As I've mentioned before (in my old math-ed blog), scheduling the tutors is service to the profession and one wants to be collegial. The on-line sign-in interface the current underboss imposed on the tutoring process is cosmically bad but hasn't been much of an actual pain in my particular flesh. So I think the thing here is I'm supposed to try to sort of forgive her in advance for the whole clueless waste of time aspect of things that she's sort of necessarily going to be associated with. A "human face of the institution" thing. OK. We'll see how it goes.

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