Friday, December 9, 2016

End of Semester Musings - or - How I Stay in Friday Nights Because Adjuncts Be Broke Yo!

Welcome back to the blog!  I'm mostly saying this for myself since the cave here is quite dusty from disuse.  As it happens though, being December of 2016 hibernation might be the order of the day.

Where to start?  Let's start with a career...start.  Beginning in Spring of this year I began teaching as an adjunct instructor in philosophy at Illinois Central College (more on the oddities of this later).  Frankly, I was somewhat surprised to be hired but not at all upset.  I had attended the school for my AA in Philosophy years ago and the department head was my old Philosophy of Religion professor.  Finishing now two semesters has allowed me to gauge some elements that carry over from other areas relevant to this post and year.

Additionally, just before Spring semester, I managed to acquire my substitute teaching certificate and once again entered East Peoria Community High School to substitute teach for the time period when I could figure out what I was doing and what doors would open in this transitional period of my life.  How was it?  I will never again enter that school to teach unless I happen to be at gunpoint.  Ten years ago the students could be troublesome but overall were good kids.  Many were concerned with their education and future and many struggled to fit into their social niches.

This year I have seen the transition from high school to college in East Peoria...yes it's a small sample size but it doesn't sound too far afield from the vast majority of the country (dear God I hope not the world).  The issue is not fully the students either...many are still good kids who want to succeed in life and go places with their careers.  The real problem is that there is no leadership, no role models, no discipline, and too much of that damned cell phone.  The cell phone has in my mind created a generation of addicts.  Remove their phone because they aren't to have it in class and they react like a drunk who has had their booze taken away.  This is also the first time I have directly observed a student cheating in college using the cell phone after I asked the students to put them on the floor.

What's missing and what has changed?  I'm not fully sure, but what I can say is that students who took a break of about 5 years between high school and college or who reentered college to change careers were absolutely incredible.  They knew what it was like to pay for their own education.  They understood what was on the line if they didn't do well.  They also even understood many of the references I made in Comparative Religions, including Greco-Roman mythology.  My understanding and experience (which I discovered was in error) was that learning about that subject specifically was required in high school.  This is actually not the case, with that section of world literature being optional in many locations.  In addition, many of the books I had read 15 years ago were no longer read...and they have been replaced by books that I have never even heard of (to be fair, this is not SO bad as each generation produces great literature).

Teaching during the daytime this last semester made sure I had less "second career students" and more direct pipe-liners.  I discovered how even the heavy emphasis on STEM fields in high school is a joke.  Most of the students in math classes I subbed in were upset themselves.  Most had no idea how to do basic algebra problems.  It is awe inspiring to watch students ask to take out phones to take pictures of you demonstrating the FOIL method of multiplying polynomials in order to build off of that and factor them out in reverse.  You'd think I gave them the Gospel with how intensely they studied a simple FOIL problem...unreal.  The students at that level DO seem to want to learn in general, but the new methods in math are failing them.  No, this is not a slam on Common Core...ok that's a lie, I think it's total garbage with semi-recycled New Math from the 1960s...but even in science this has left students dumbfounded by simple questions.  I spend time in my last lecture series focusing on the future of religion as per the textbook, but I emphasize the development of both natural science and the philosophical schools growing out of Kant in the Enlightenment.  When I asked then a simple question about what is the first step in the scientific method...I had answers all over the place, but only after a very long silence.  We did finally get to "observations" so that a hypothesis could be generated, but this also led to a discussion of how fundamental theories and assumptions shape how you see the information and ask one asks questions in a vacuum...well, maybe unless you're Guy Pearce's character in "Memento" and even then he knew what a restaurant was when his short term memory reset.

Solutions?  Please, don't expect them from the DOE.  As it is they made getting your teaching license in IL take 5 years, teach you how not to properly educate children, and you can get a job for only about $30k a year to pay back all those loans as the schools increasingly suffer due to poor behavior and drug use.  Way to win DOE...I'm assuming it's them, but of course I tend to blame the state for being idiotic...which brings up one of the "oddities" I brought up earlier...why I might have been hired.

I had barely finished filling out the adjunct app when I received a call to teach and I think it might be due to the state's budget issues - such as no budget for over a year.  In other words...adjuncts were hired because they are part time and full time profs have a hiring freeze on them...if your state economy sucks and you don't have only a masters degree...or love living on state aid...apply for adjunct work!  Anyway, so I'm in the Philosophy Department...ish.  I guess I don't have "18 credit hours in philosophy" (even though theology HEAVILY uses philosophy), so I'm in the "Religion Department" which of course does not exist.  I'm in limbo XD.

Oh, and even with the local politics if you're expecting an update on the national elections between Donald Trump and Hilary don't deserve that yet.  Besides, I like science and theology...not politics and theology.  Only bit of meat I'll give is that I'm not the biggest fan of America and it's greatness in the past few years ;-).