Wednesday, September 19, 2007

More stupid forms

I start back at work tomorrow, but something is wrong. I should have reached the 'needs chemical adjustment' level of panic by now, but I haven't. It must have been a good holiday, because I feel, instead, calm and . . . resigned.

Also, I have not prepared. This is not because I am a completely slack teacher (I'm only completely slack SOME of the time), but because I have finally realized there is no point in preparing a lot of materials I will not be able to use. Tomorrow I will be spending the entire first class sorting out administrative problems and doing the office people's work for them. This is always the case at this particular university. There is no point in even THINKING of starting to teach until the second or third week.

My plan is to get the students writing something, which I will collect to check later. During class I will be far too busy with paperwork to oversee anything more than that. When you get over thirty students turning up, which I do in most of my classes there, just getting them to write their names and student numbers without too many spelling mistakes takes up most of the class time, and I have also learned to send the form around again and get them to double-check their student numbers, because they so often get those wrong too. (The university does not give us the official registration forms until the first third of the semester has already finished, so we make our own.)

I have had three emails from the university already. The latest thing is that the office wants to know, after the first class, how many registered students did not turn up. They have created a special, complicated form for just this purpose, which we are required to fill in right after the first class meeting.

There are two problems with this, but if I point them out I will be told I am being a difficult gaijin part-timer who doesn't know anything, so I will not point them out. Except here.

The first problem is that, as I mentioned, the office does not give us the class registration lists until well into the semester, so we cannot actually tell them how many enrolled students did not turn up because we do not know how many were enrolled. (I have tried to find out enrollment numbers in previous years, for purposes of lesson planning, but have always been told the lists are 'not available yet.' When I plead for 'just an approximate number,' I am told that nobody knows the numbers yet. This is a mystery to me, because if I ask students when they registered for class it was so long ago they can't remember. This means it was AT LEAST a week previously, and it all goes onto computer. I can only guess that right after the information goes onto the computer it goes into a black hole to mature for a few weeks.)

The second problem is that class numbers in the first week are extremely unreliable. A lot of students miss the first class. There are always a few who go to the wrong class, and don't notice until the next week. And the ones who drop out usually drop out AFTER the first week, in any case.

The reason given for this new form is that the university is getting strict about the 'five student' rule. Previously, if there were fewer than five students enrolled in a class, that class was cancelled (and the teacher was not paid). Now they have apparently decided that they will take care of the problem of students who enroll but do not come to class, by making sure that all classes with fewer than five students ATTENDING are cancelled, rather than all classes with fewer than five students ENROLLED.

So the administration is creating a yet another useless form for the teachers to fill in, and destroying another forest in the process. We will not be able to fill in the column under 'number of students registered,' and I am guessing most teachers will fill in the column under 'number of students attending' by making up an approximate number equalling more than five.

I know I will.

In the meantime, I'd better get some sleep. I have a lot of form-filling to do tomorrow.