Semester Endarhhbleurgh

The spring semester is coming to an end, and it’s a cause for terror, not celebration, because I have to teach in the summer again. I didn’t want to, I said I wouldn’t, and then the person who was supposed to wasn’t able to, and now I’m on the hook again. I also have teaching overload in the fall. This calendar year, like last calendar year, I will end up teaching 2x more than a faculty member with my group size and amount of grant money is supposed to teach. I am getting seriously pissed. Granted, there will be some extra money in it for me because of summer teaching, but it’s not enough. I would really like it if I could get out of some damn service, too.

I $#^%@#$& hate service. Why is everyone constantly being evaluated? JFC, like we’re all some lowlifes in perpetual danger of getting in trouble. Leave people alone to do their job and don’t waste their time with frequent paperwork. It’s enough we’re all our own administrative assistants now and no help is coming (only oversight and restrictions and scolding) in regards to purchasing and travel.

I gave up some of my external service. The demands on my time and sanity could no longer be justified.

Is it me, or is there more bullshit and busy work that’s part of this job than even five years ago, let alone ten? Is it the ballooning administration, mowing down everything in its path? Just more more more more more of mindless work.

Teaching has been less rewarding of late. Since the pandemic, students have been expecting ever more permissible classrooms, boundless flexibility with no questions asked, and all the higher ups do is tell us we should accommodate. Nobody says how, or God forbid offers some resources to aid with all these accommodations, it’s just dumped on faculty. Versions upon versions of the same test for all the people who are supposedly last-minute (the morning of the midterm exam) sick. That was not much of an issue before the pandemic, but is now widespread because many students expect us to take everything at face value, and actually get peeved when an instructor calls them on it, for example, by requiring a doctor’s note for repeated last-minute illnesses in a semester.

Students are also performing notably worse, on average. When compared to even just 5-10 years ago, the averages have dropped significantly, and now there are long tails below 50% on exams, whereas similar-difficulty exams never showed such trends before. We are admitting more students, but most of them seem to be students who really shouldn’t be in this major, yet here they are and we’re all supposed to help them hobble to graduation.

There are persistent issues many students have with math, and this is a math-heavy major. I’m sorry, but a student cannot be successful if they can’t do high-school algebra. Pulling out a common factor from a polynomial. Manipulating fractions, such as figuring out a common denominator or canceling terms on different sides of the fraction line. In this major, students cannot just sort-of know simple stuff like that; they need to be completely fluent, because math of a much higher level underpins the courses in the major.

Many kids show up with gaps in knowledge in subjects other than math. I don’t know if this is also an effect of the pandemic, and  we now have cohort upon cohort whose preparation is deficient in this subject or that.

OK, writing this down is making me feel all murdery (oh, by the way, watch the show “Beef” on Netflix!). Maybe I should stop here and instead ask the academic blogosphere: What have you been up to, bloggy readers? Have you noticed a change in student preparation, and, if yes, what do you think the cause is?

As a treat, some Twitter levity.


  1. We are definitely seeing a perceptible decline in mathematical preparation of students in sciences, even those entering the graduate school.

    I believe the cohorts which did majority of their high-school or undergraduate education via zoom classes are significantly less prepared and some of them “don’t even know that they know” (since due to generous grading practices, which were further slackened during pandemic lockdown, this lack of preparation does not reflect in their transcripts!).

    I just sincerely hope this is a short-term transient and not a long-term trend towards permanent decline.

  2. Getting rid of standardized tests? STEM kids with math chops going to computer science which is now 2x more competitive than pretty much any other major?

    I do wonder how things are different at colleges as a whole– most of what I know and hear about are large public R1 and not-top-10 SLACs. What’s happening at the truly elite schools?

    I am not looking forward to going back to service. I did get a teaching reduction in exchange for extra service load this year. But it is going to be difficult. There is a lot going on and much too quickly.

    I should enjoy my remaining three months of freedom now instead of surfing the internet. Gotta make progress on research now. (It’s hard because I just got two R&R back in and now I have to go back to a project that’s less close to being finished but also not exciting and new.)

  3. I’m nodding my head at all you said and am sorry about your extra teaching and service load. Also, how can students go into the sciences without knowing (or thinking they don’t have to know) basic math? My humanities field doesn’t have this problem, but I’m dreading all the AI generated generalizations I may (but hope I don’t have to) call out this fall in their writing.

    P. S. If this posts: why does WP allow me to post here but not at nicole&maggie’s?

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