I’m not okay with this extra teaching

So I mentioned before how I’m teaching an extra class I’ve never taught. So that means two classes this semester. I’m used to doing one class with the exception of my second year when I chose to use start-up money for my lab instead of buying out of teaching. But I was prepared for that. And I didn’t have to freaking disinfect my whole area before and after class. I’ve decided that I can’t do homework assignments for two classes so I’m trying an optional option for homework. I’ll post optional homework that I don’t grade, and I post the solutions online. And I’m limiting each class to 2 exams/class and only a handful of quizzes. Luckily, we’ve submitted some bigger manuscripts this past summer and we’re in the early stages of the next slew of papers because I don’t have time to edit manuscripts from my students with this higher course load plus manage and prepare for the next grant cycle. I have a couple big renewals coming up and can’t miss the boat on these. Especially since I’m intentionally not pursuing industry funding for the next year-plus. Luckily, I set up in my office with a small play/sleep space for the little one to at least ease my parenting load. I know this isn’t an uncommon occurrence for many faculty out there, but the last-second nature of the class is what’s tripping me up.

So then, in the midst of my panicking, our dean has announced that he wants to pull the postings for the adjuncts and the lecturers for the next semester and put it on us to teach extra. He is saying that we can’t be interviewing people during this pandemic. I call bullshit. I talked to my department head and said I don’t mind picking up slack this semester and next, but I will pull industry funding to buy out my teaching if I have to. And where will the department be then? When I was hired I was shown that it is very rare for faculty to have to teach more than two classes a year if they’re showing an active research program. I’m afraid that they are using this shortage to test the waters of a leaner faculty headcount. This dean came in from some federal agency and they were praised for their lean operation. The best I can do here is threaten a buy-out. But in the meantime, I’ll suck it up, create new lecture material and be a good little soldier for the school. The students deserve a good education and the public that fund my research deserve a dedicated researcher. We’re all used to balancing things, but if there’s a change to the status quo that we’re used to then the school, flush with funds to hire more teachers, needs to improve things. I’ll take a hit if we’re low on cash or if things change last-second (which they did). But I’m not okay with making this the norm.

Open note tests

Since the day I started teaching I decided I would make tests completely open-note. I try and design my exams and quizzes to test how you can apply knowledge rather than how many equations you can pack into your brain. Or sometimes I would straight-up leave the equations on an extra sheet. I have nothing against profs requiring memorization since in the field they will sometimes have to apply their knowledge without access to Google, but for me I learned the equations fluidically: they just committed to memory after I used them enough. This is kind of the same reason I’m against multiple choice tests. Multiple choice doesn’t test knowledge. I know not everyone thinks like me, but I do prefer prioritizing comprehension over memorization. With the university deciding now on split classrooms between online and in-person (the students are having split shifts), students will treat them like open note tests anyway. Tests will be 100% administered at home.

The university wants me to use some software that allegedly uses AI to determine if students are cheating by looking at eyes darting around or something and records their screen. I really don’t like this invasion of privacy for my students. So I’m actively fighting against using it and I’ve been told now twice that I’ve been speaking out of turn. I know that if I were a student I wouldn’t want my screen being recorded and my camera on and tracking my face movements. I don’t know who this company is paying off in my administration, but it always bewilders me when these admins or some teachers can’t think of what the students might think. Why are we treating these students like they’re all just not cheating because they’re being watched? I trust that the students I’ve trained personally are ethical students and researchers because I instill these principles. And rather than watching them all the time and letting ‘AI’ determine if they’re cheating, why don’t we make the tests uncheatable? And this can work in non-math-based courses: I’ve made exams that test biological principles that require a thorough understanding of the topics. Or make the tests so dense that the students don’t have time to look things up. Watching them take a test in their personal home doesn’t seem like the answer to me.