Monday, August 30, 2004

Summer is over, here in Vancouver

There's something about summer that makes me not want to post, or feel like writing. It's too beautiful here...there's too much to do. We've had an amazing, third-year-in-a-row, global-warming, summer. Vancouver is always incredible in the summer. All of our city is out, on the beaches, in the streets cruising, going for coffees, hiking, camping, and mountain climbing. I bought a fan for the first time because it was so hot and humid. I'd take a shower, and drip sweat within moments of drying myself off. This is highly unusual - it's more like Toronto's weather.

It's luscious, sexy (seeing all the beautiful men, shirtless and in shorts) and having outdoor lunches with friends, or going camping on the Gulf Islands.

My idealistic summer was cut short by a phone call, from the assistant dean, of the college I work at, last week Thursday. I was about to start a new term on the following Monday. He had his secretary call me to arrange a meeting.

I asked her to forward me to the assistant dean, to ask, "Why?" The AD (assistant dean) said that there were two student complaints about me from the following year, and wanted to meet with me. Pleasantly, I asked, "why, what happened?"

The AD refused to tell me.

I said, "Yes, I did return the student final marks two weeks late... is this the problem?"

He said, "No, it's worse than that."

I asked, "What could be worse than that?"

He refused to tell me.

Over the last two years, I've had a personality conflict with the new AD. He took over two years ago. He has no educational background, and has no idea of what it's like to work with students or in an educational institution. He comes from Toronto, from a corporate/financial/managerial position. Ever since he's taken over, he's created a very negative working situation - not only for myself - but for other instructors. He does everything by the book, according to union guidelines. At least 14 instructors have quit, in the past two years. Some of the instructors have been at the college for 15 years. I have been there 5 years.

In the past 2 years since he's taken over, I've found working at the college very difficult. No one seems to be helpful. This includes long-term employees, as well as computer staff, and secretarial staff. I have problems booking rooms, getting rooms, getting the support staff to help me, getting my office set up with NOTES and computer access, etc. Before the AD came into his position, I never had any problems.

In fact, due to the AD's incompetence, I taught a course without booked computer rooms for 4 weeks. Can you imagine how pissed the students were? They had no where to go for their lab times!

I decided in the second year, that I didn't want to go through the horror of teaching students at the college, due to this new AD's control. I decided to take a term off - I refused the contract. He ended up hiring a totally incompetent teacher. He hired a previous colleague (who had no teaching experience), who had a panic attack for the first three classes. During his first class, he froze, started hyperventilating, and ran outside the classroom to find another instructor in the college for help.

The poor guy who was hired also wasn't knowledgeable in the areas that I taught, so he made up things. The worst aspect is that he never gave the college students any handouts, or gave examples.

So what happened, in the middle of the term, is that the AD ended up calling me, begging me to return. I did and saved the day!

After finishing the first term, to great success, I taught the second course in the spring, and I thought things were going well between myself and the AD. Until the phone call before the Monday (recently) I was supposed to start teaching.

I refused the AD. I said, "I want you to tell me what problems other students have told you about, so I can look up my records, and be prepared when I meet you."

The AD said "No."

The AD was playing things according to union rules (which can be a good thing, but not in this case). So I told him, "Suppose you were being accused of things, without any information, and are asked to go to a meeting without any would you respond?"

The AD said, "I would show up to the meeting."

In part, he's right. He's right, if I wanted to play the whole paternalistic, unionistic and bureaucrastic game, I would go to the meeting. But the thing is, I don't. In the first three years at the college, I was run by an assistant dean who believed in me, who gave me the benefit of the doubt. He never asked me to follow union rules because he believed in me as an instructor. This previous AD had teaching experience and umpteem years in being a manager. This horrible new AD does NOT!

I told him, "I won't meet with you under these conditions. I won't be put into the position of defense, without knowing what you want to meet me about."

Anyway, there's so much more I could talk about. A couple of things: three highly inflammatory e-mails that I shared with a union representative from the new AD, and they were concerned about - they were willing to take action against this rude AD.

So I told this new AD that I would not return to teach this term. Now he has to find someone new to teach.

I feel like I made the right decision. I will never be controlled, by someone who is not upholding me as an excellent teacher.

And plus, I can make so much more money by doing my own gig.