Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Night Beat: The Case of the Empty Classroom


Where to start?

Rebel Girl teaches Thursday evenings 7:00 - 9:50. She almost always has for the last twenty years or so.

The class meets once a week and is populated by students who are happy to be there and who often are on campus only on that evening. Rebel Girl generally makes herself available after class to talk to students about their work—and she does this in the classroom in which she teaches for obvious reasons: there they are, after all and usually by the time 10:00 has been reached, the A-200 building is already locked down—or sometimes is simply too far across an increasingly dark and deserted campus—especially when, upon arrival, it is locked down. At most, this time after class is 15-20 minutes.

Dissent readers have long endured Rebel Girl plaintive wails about the lack of oversight and resources in the evening at the college. How classes ending early rather than being the exception are the norm. How the place—which should be buzzing until ten and shortly after—is often deserted shortly after 9:00. She's brought it up in department meetings, school meetings—and even, in the distant past, senate meetings. There are issues here related to good teaching practices, curriculum, compensation, safety and liability.

So, since Rebel Girl has already complained ad nauseum about this—why is she at it again?

Here's why.

Increasingly this semester, the building she teaches in becomes empty much, much earlier than 9:50. For example, the classroom next to Rebel Girl's, B-110, regularly empties out at 8:30—about the time when her class is returning from break to prepare for the next hour and twenty minutes of state-mandated instruction. Rebel Girl and her students meet the students and the teacher leaving as they return. That class is supposed to meet until 8:50.

She knows, she knows, what is 20 minutes?

But the other classrooms also empty out early. How early? Early enough for all the classrooms and the hallway to be clean by 9:50—if not earlier.

Since the other classes empty out early rather than later, this allows the single custodian assigned to clean the building to do just that—increasingly more quickly and earlier so that he is waiting, hovering—in the hallway, often noisily because of the nature of his work—for the class to finish and as soon as the first few students do leave, he enters and begins his work before, frankly, their work is fully done. Rebel Girl has tried to talk to him—but he has a job to do. That's what is important to him. She understands this.

But she can no longer talk to or answer student questions as she wishes to do and as they need her to do. The situation has grown increasingly uncomfortable and distracting. Last week most of the class was aware that by talking longer (and they were having an important discussion regarding a very moving student story) they were keeping the custodian from his work. His presence right outside our door was clear as was his repeated and impatient looks inside the door windows which interrupted discussion. This was unfortunate as the subject matter needed special attention and care.

She knows she could complain about him but the real issue that allows this situation to occur is the simple fact that evening classes all too often end early. How else to explain an entire building of clean, dark classrooms at 9:50?

Indeed, as the class leave, the other classrooms are dark, with tied-up trash bags waiting outside the building's doors. Clearly everyone else has been gone for a long, long time—enough time for the custodian to clean every classroom in the building (interior classroom and exterior ones) except Rebel Girl's.

At least a couple other classes should be present until 9:50—but they are not. And haven't been.
So—there's her problem.

As she encountered students from that class this week, she queried them. Their answers were uniform: they feel pressure to leave; they feel their classroom is not theirs. One student (a top student by the way, an award-winning student involved in other campus activities whose name appears in various college press releases) said that she has had problems for weeks after the class is over because the restroom is locked up—and she must track down the custodian to open it, which he does not want to do. She makes him do it.

Again, Rebel Girl thinks the custodian is just doing his job—but the real underlying problem is that enough people are not doing theirs. (For the record, Rebel Girl thinks this is a campus-wide issue—not a specific building issue, not an over-eager custodian issue—but a systemic issue.)

As Rebel Girl taught her day-time classes this week, she asked them about their evening classes: in your experience, do your classes get out early?

The responses suggested a popular pattern.

How early do your 7-10 classes get out? 

8:30, 9:00, 9:15, 9:30. 

There was discussion of the 50 minute "hour" and what that means or doesn't mean.

There was acknowledgement that both teachers and students liked these "brief" classes. Some said they took evening classes because they knew the classes ended early.

Night Beat FilmPoster.jpegOne student said the teacher told them that he taught so well and they were so smart they didn't need to have that "extra" time.

Ouch.

Why should we care? 

Let Rebel Girl count the reasons (she thinks she did so above)—but perhaps the college might consider the bottom line issue of liability. Some of these evening students are part of our specially recruited sector—high school students. What do they do during the 30 minutes, hour, hour and a half when the instructor lets the class out—and their parents pick them up? Who knows?

*

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is a pervasive problem related to the fact that there is no accountability at all during the evening. None. Who visits evening classes? If they do, do they stay for the entire time? no? Is there an evening administrator who walks the halls? No.

Anonymous said...

I take a night class from 6-9:50 and sometimes we get out at 9:30, 9:20, 9 (once before 8)... but now we have come to DEMAND it. We get shocked and antsy if we have to stay any later, so much so that we will be given another break. Then everyone packs up by 9:40 anyways, so any information that is said, might as well not be.
Can we demand the same during morning or afternoon classes? Is it expected or granted to get out 30 minutes before the scheduled time? No. There is some underlining agreement between a student and professor when attending a night class: hey we're both tired, why not just waste both our time and be excused.
And although you stress that it is not the custodian's fault, I only hope that the heads of IVC constantly refreshing this site doesn't use him as a quick scapegoat/band-aid and negatively harm his work, or worse, fire him.

Anonymous said...

The custodian is not the problem - it it the culture on campus -and he isn't the only custodian who closes empty buildings early - just stay late and take a look. And the buidlings are EMPTY - so why not?

Anonymous said...

The custodian is doing his job - but other people are not - the instructors, their supervisors - and a college administration that is out of the parking lot by 5:00 most days.

Anonymous said...

I taught night classes here for years and always kept my classes until 950 - I could hardly get through all material with ALL the class time, let alone letting them out early. I agree- this is not okay.

Anonymous said...

At another college where I taught, one administrator (President, VPs and/or deans) was assigned to be present each evening - on that day, they arrived late (2 PM) and stayed until 10 or so, making rounds, being present. It helped in so many ways. Here at IVC, there's a real sense of abandonment in the evenings. And yes, plenty of people turn in early - that is an open secret.

Anonymous said...

Yes, 20 minutes is 20 minutes - but added up over the course of the semester - well, let's just say that the teacher leaving 20 minutes early every evening, twice a week is getting paid more that the teacher who actually honors his or her contract. And the students are being cheated - about which they probably don't care - but someone should. This wouldn't happen in the daytime - at least not as much.

Anonymous said...

It's rather embarrassing and insulting to send out emails to evening staff reminding them of their obligation to teach the full time they have been hired to teach - but clearly someone should - the deans, the VP, the President. One of those - "It has come to our attention" kind of emails.

Anonymous said...

In my experience this happens at every institution to some degree - buts some places are better than other with dealing with it when it's brought to their attention.

Anonymous said...

One factor is the pressure on custodians like the person here. His work load has doubled recently.

Anonymous said...

Yes, but the issue here is also instructors who are lazy and do not fulfill their responsibilities. It is prevalent at IVC. Many instructors do the bare minimum. I see it in my department. Those who tenured are apathetic and the part timers are busy trying to survive.

Anonymous said...

I think it would be great to see the college president on campus in the evening walking around.

Anonymous said...

You talk to these people and they will explain the concept of the "50 minute hour" and how this means they are not supposed to teach to the time announced int eh schedule but some 30 minutes less - plus time for a break which they do not take which means they can skeddale out an hour or so early. They tell you this with a straight face.

Anonymous said...

ah, the famous 50 minute hour! I thought that's why our schedule at IVC was adjusted awhile back to reflect this - hence classes run until 8:50, 9:50, etc. Some vocal leadership would be nice here. My students confirm the rampant early dismissal of evening classes - that's why they take them! The complete absence of any administration on campus is the evening contributes to this.

Anonymous said...

A good parent can tell you that if there are no consequences for this kind of behavior, there is likely to be little compliance or change. Since there has never been any consequences except int eh most egregious circumstances, and yes, since the college is abandoned around 5:30 every evening, this is likely to continue. It's nice of you to write about this from time to time, but no one really cares enough to make a difference. it has to come form the top and the top, well...don't hold your breath.

Anonymous said...

When first hired at IVC in 1986, I taught courses @ one hour, three times a week. That hour, we were told, was actually 50 minutes--the remaining 10 minutes being "passage time," i.e., time necessary for students to get to their next classes. For obvious reasons, passage time continues to be an important concept and it is calculated at the same rate: 10 minutes per hour. --RB

Anonymous said...

I thought that the 50 minute hour had become 40 minutes.

Anonymous said...

the other issue here is whether or not we should be able to stay a few minutes in our classrooms (especially at night when no other class is about to enter) to talk with students. I do this as needed to address instructional issues and also because by the time I get back to my office building is often already locked up tight - which means that I must discuss issues with a student (often needy, sometimes in distress)- in the dark cold. I don't think it is outrageous to have access to our classrooms at the end of the evening - or if it is, we should be able to have access to our office buildings without having to call campus security to unlock them perhaps all buildings should remain open until 10:15? 10:30? Just a thought - if anyone out there is thinking.

And by the way, IVC: poorly lit campus at night. Way too spooky. Especially when everyone leaves early.

Anonymous said...

I thought we did have an administrator assigned to evenings at IVC? We don't? Who is in charge then? What happens if something happens?

Anonymous said...

If SOMETHING happens and no one important is there to see it or respond to it, than NOTHING happens, see?

Anonymous said...

Until a few years ago, we had "night deans"--people given the responsibility to deal with any issues that arose. This duty was taken pretty seriously.
That was fazed out. Not sure why. Ever since, the inevitable nightime irregularities and excesses have increased in frequency, and no amount of squawking about them has done any good. Half of our teaching occurs in the evening, and we have no one around to take responsibility when things go wrong. And there's no oversight.

Anonymous said...

Saddleback still has night deans.

Anonymous said...

I have never heard of an institution that doesn't have a designated adminisrator on campus at night, with an open office door and advertised measn of communication. Unless it's a one-room schoolhouse.

Anonymous said...

One would hope that some conscientious students--the ones who actually enrolled with the idea of learning something--would complain to administrators about not getting what they are owed. (I don't mean just owed because of what they've paid, but what they're owed by people who profess to be teachers.) This situation may be common with night classes at many institutions, but it is deeply wrong. How do these teachers live with themselves? It's disheartening that they could be cynical enough just not to care. Thanks for raising the issue, RG.

Roy Bauer said...

Years ago, I taught night classes, usually
Thursday nights. (I traded in the horror of night teaching for the supposed horror of Friday morning teaching. Actually, neither is horrible.)
One of the pluses of teaching a night class was the relative likelihood of talking with students after class--a result, I suppose, of the odd pressures created by once-a-week sessions. These yapping sessions would occasionally go on for hours. It was nice. Informal, friendly.
I guess that sort of thing doesn't happen much anymore. Not at IVC, a place run by an administrator (Mr. Rock) who think that Kiddie Day is the very height of public relations excellence for a college.

Anonymous said...

I still do not understand the absence of an evening go-to person/administrator - though the sense of "you're on your own" is very clear when teaching a night class at IVC. I guess we're supposed to call the cops?

Anonymous said...

Our dean sent out a strongly worded announcement about this issue but I don't know if anyone else did. I agree, the absence of real oversight in the evening contributes to many issues and potential problems. I am concerned about the kind of decidedly un-academic activities some students engage in in so-called "lounges," study rooms and dedicated classrooms. Just sayin'.

Anonymous said...

I was talking with a faculty member who teaches the 5-7 shift and she reports some of this early dismissal behavior as well. Just FYI. She gets it from her students who complain that she keeps them longer than all the rest. You'd think they would have someone on camp[us at night - do these people get evaluated?

Anonymous said...

How about a groups of teachers in a certain department that teaches transfer classes that all must take (GE) - where classes regularly end an about an hour or so early, with the announcement that the teachers will be there if students "need help," and then the teachers disappear? I hear about this from students who "do need' help - but more important they need the instruction they paid for and the teachers are getting paid to teach. I have been here long enough to know that this is an open secret, tolerated by many, above and below with the shake of ahead and a wink of an eye. But does it serve our student, especially the neediest? NO.

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