Less than two weeks before classes are scheduled to begin, Department Head finally emailed me my teaching assignment. The first line read There’s been a slight change in plans. I’m afraid the hours are not very good, and ideally we’d have you teaching different classes, and… Bear in mind that Department Head is British, and characteristically, prone to understatement, and you can imagine why I was hesitant to scroll down.
The damage: Sixteen hours a week teaching four classes, three preps. Thirteen of those hours are spread over all of two days, and the other three are spread over another two days. If I weren’t teaching the class, I wouldn’t show up for that single hour I have calculus on Mondays. None of my classes start before 11:30 am. On the heavy teaching days, four and a half hours of my teaching are uninterrupted. Four classes, three preps – two sections of statistics, one of precalc (the same one I taught last term), and one of integral calculus. But it’s not so bad, really.
I’m – hesitantly – excited about the stats assignment, as I think I may be able to incorporate some interesting topics from John Allen Paulos’ Innumeracy and A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper – but I don’t know how flexible the curriculum is. The textbook is typical of stats-for-arts-students books: enough mathematics to legitimately file it with the other math books, but definitely on the squishy side of the spectrum. Precalc so far has an enrolment of twelve, touchwood, and none of those twelve are among my flunkies from last term, touchwood. Integral calculus, presumably, will not contain any students who don’t know that fractions are numbers.
All of this, alas, may be a nonissue, because lately my union – without a collective agreement since February, apparently – has been making noises about bargaining, which I know from experience will soon give way to noises about striking. I also know from experience – that’d be the $GRADSCHOOL TA Strike of ‘03 – that noises about ineffective mean that a strike vote is imminent, and we’ll be on the picket lines sometime between mid-January and, well, let’s give the administration one more chance to bargain in good faith…
My prediction: the union executive will give the administration another month, and take a strike vote around beginning of February. Assuming the vote passes, this will put the beginning of the strike right after Spring Break ends, much to the delight of the many instructors who accidentally scheduled their return flights for a week after classes resumed. Picket lines will go up in mid-March, which coincidentally is right as the weather is turning picket-line-friendly, as well as being a few weeks before the end of the term, but not so close to exams that we’d be legislated back to work immediately.
Hey, that’s exactly how the TA Strike of ‘03 unfolded. I’ll be.
This, of course, is contingent upon the faculty voting to strike, which seems somewhat less certain than it was in ‘03, when I was at a big urban school and the administration’s underhandedness was truly beyond the pale – they tried to take away our health benefits and hope we wouldn’t notice; when we did, the president of the university pointed out that TAing wasn’t a career for us, so we couldn’t expect health insurance from this job. This time, the issues are things like academic freedom, wee wage increases, and greater flexibility, none of which are even slightly relevant to us temporary faculty. I reckon many of the adjuncts will be voting as I will – reasoning that they’re only around for a year, and that they sure as hell didn’t move to $ISLANDTOWN so that they could walk picket lines.