Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Horror! The Horror!

Looks like people are noticing and talking about (whining, lamenting, bemoaning) the heavy teaching loads at community colleges. Scott Jaschik's Inside Higher Ed piece is interesting to me in that I see from it I'm at the shocking edges of the shock zone of out-lying difficult-to-believe statistics. Now I know why people always gasp when I say how many sections and students I teach each semester.

Not only has the norm started to greatly exceed desirable levels, but
significant numbers of instructors are teaching well above the mean. The
survey found that more than 20 percent of writing instructors
at community colleges teach between 111 and 130 students each semester.
And 9 percent report teaching 131 to 150 students a semester.


These numbers sound just plain easy to me.

Of course this is a travesty. Of course the students are not getting the best instruction they could. Of course we need to all be fighting to bring the course loads and class sizes down.

Yet.

It's also interesting to me that the very people who teach argument are often the first to address an issue from only one perspective.

There are factors beyond the ideals of the best possible instruction. This is also an economic issue. Who/how/where do the funds come in to accomplish reducing work loads for instructors? We're not talking about chump change. Not only would my school need to hire more people to bring down class sizes, we'd also need new facilities. Lots of expensive new facilities, buildings which would in turn necessitate the aquisition of new property.

Of course that money should be invested in our community colleges. Of course it's worth it to build new buildings and hire new teachers and adopt more technologies and bring our numbers closer to ideal or even to average.

Yet.

It's a poor area, a rural area in which many students struggle just for gas money to get to class.

Do we want to increase tuition? Do we want to reduce salaries? Do we want to increase taxes?

Out of which turnip do we extract the blood to make our preferred move?

Part of the mission of the community college is to bring education to the home grown, to those who might not otherwise be able to afford a college degree. We have to consider the economy of this reality even as we reach to improve the circumstances through which we teach.

Community college teachers for the most part, I believe, are very grounded in their realities, and they work very hard to give their students the best education they can in the conditions they have. Like my colleagues, I too like to vent about my lot in life, but I am constantly reminded that this is the life I chose. I serve my purpose, and I do my job, and I do the best I can where I am and with what I have to work with. It's hard work. It's often frustrating because I know I can't always do things the way I think they ought to be done, and I don't always have control over decisions that I think ought to be made one way or another.

It's also very rewarding, though, and people who don't see it that way should probably choose to do something else.

Work for change. Work to raise awareness. Work to promote proper funding for our community colleges. Just don't whine about the stupid administrators who don't understand how they ought to be staffing our classes without stopping to consider the financial difficulties involved.

6 comments:

sharon said...

You are so right. We need to be sure to provide context to show the importance of the layers of concerns behind (around, under?) this information.

I'm hoping that the information from the TYCA National Survey will provide us all with the hard data we need to work with our state legislators. We need to talk with the people who make financial decisions for our state supported institutions.

And by-the-by....It was great to see you in New York!

Sharon Gerald said...

It was great to see you too!

I think the survey is a wonderful and useful thing. It should serve as a real conversation-builder in the coming years. We know we need that if we are going to make any progress.

joanna said...

This is why I feel like a dork complaining about my lot in life where I teach. But I agree with Sharon M that the data will help in working with the government. And Sharon G, I think you speak volumes when you say that the problem is more than administrative pique. Your state needs to find a revenue- making venture that will bring money to the state (I know, like that's never been thought of before). Have there been any such proposals either pre- or post-Katrina?

Sharon Gerald said...

Joanna, there are constant proposals about raising tax revenues for the schools. Still, there's never enough money. It's all hugely political, and people in power make big promises (especially during election years) that usually turn out to be such small gains that they are actually losses when inflation and other factors are considered.

joanna said...

I figured as much, Sharon, but I'm always willing to say it, though I know that I'm preaching to the choir.

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