Monday, December 2, 2013

K is for Kinetic

This is a long one.  You may want a snack....

Three or four semesters ago, the president (J) and vice president (D) of the Company that owns our school came to make an announcement. 

We all trudged unhappily to the conference room of our school as we knew what was coming.  It was a long time in the works, and we just wanted to hear it and get it over with.

D stood in front of us and told us that after a lot of "soul-searching" and "difficult decision making", the Company has decided to cease admission of new students to our campus.  (They own two other campuses "back East"). 

He went on to tell us that it wasn't fiscally feasible to continue to try and get new students at our campus.  He told us that when our time was up (as in, our allotted time to finish the program), we would have to transfer to the online program and we could continue receiving the quality education we've come to expect from blah, blah, blah, blah.

I was sitting in the front row with my friends/classmates and my hand shot up. 

ME: But none of us here signed up for the online program.  We've all signed up for the on-ground experience.  There have been a lot of changes over the last few semesters and none of them seem for the better.  We keep hearing how these changes are in the interest of making the online classes the same as the on-ground classes.   Much the same as the 1960's attempt at "Separate but Equal", that's simply not possible.  We are not online.  We don't want to BE online.  We signed up for the on-ground experience.  Our classes have been rather consistently forced online.  In fact, pretty much ALL of our academics are online now.  I took a full semester of this online program and it was.... less than ideal.
[Truth in fact, it was a joke.]

D gave me some political answer how if there was a problem, we should contact our school administrators at our campus and how they've been making great strides to improve their program every day.

My hand shot up again...
ME:  And why IS it that we can't get new students?  Last summer, I went to CA to visit family and you couldn't turn on the TV without seeing an ad for a court reporting school.  NO ONE knows this school even exists!!  Why is that?!  Is it some great secret you want to keep? 

D started talking in circles (he'll make a great politician someday) and finally, the president spoke up.  J was standing to the side of all of us.  He told us that when they bought this campus, they hadn't anticipated how very much it would cost for advertising in this region. 

I explained that I appreciated the straight answer, but hadn't they researched that before they bought this campus?  And how the fact that they couldn't afford to advertise was not our fault, but it seems as though now it is our problem as it is adversely affecting OUR education.

As J and I were having this adult, diplomatic, civilized exchange (no exaggeration there, I was doing really well!), I noticed that while J was speaking, D was still standing in front of the lot of us.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him standing there with his arms crossed and he seemed to be looking right at me.  I looked at him and realized I was wrong.  He wasn't looking at me.  He was glaring at me with a look that could kill.  It was really odd.

Me being me, I looked right back at him.  No glare, just meeting his eyes.  He glared more, and we sat there looking at each other.  I think he expected me to look away, but, pretty sure we all know THAT wasn't going to happen.  Finally I tilted my head and raised my eyebrows as if to say, "Got something to say?"  When I did that, he finally looked somewhere else.  (Really, what I wanted to do was say, "What.  WHAT!  You wanna GO, Old Man?" But, as I say, I was really trying to be diplomatic and keep my temper at bay.)

The tedious meeting ended and we all went back to class.

A classmate (we'll call her Betty) immediately posted on Facebook.  She posted in a "let's be uplifting to each other as court reporting students" page.  What she posted was something along the lines that we just got the news that our school was doing a teach-out, and we'd all have to go online.  What online schools were other students going to, and how did they feel about their programs?

Within less than a minute, an administrative person from the home office (back East) responded that, yes, that campus is no longer taking new students, but the school was still available to us through the online program providing the same quality education, blah, blah, blah. 

Keep in mind that Betty hadn't mentioned the school's name, nor did she post anything detrimental or even negative about the school.  The admin guy (let's call him Mark) is the one who said the school's name.

Students from all over gave their opinions about their schools.  One told of a program that was very inexpensive as an option.  They mentioned it was more of a subscription-type thing.  I told how Colorado recently made a regulation that if one wanted to be an "official" (a court reporter for an actual court system, as opposed to a freelancer doing depositions or other things), one had to have graduated from an accredited school.

Ten seconds later - BAM!!  Mark posted that our school IS an accredited school and we still had access to their quality education, blah, blah, blah.

Lurk much??

I said, "No one said the school is not accredited.  No one said we didn't have access to the school.  We are simply exploring our options as is our right."

Mark agreed and backed off.

Again, this whole exchange happened while we were still at school.  Within five minutes of the start of this online exchange starting, D walked into our classroom and said, "Who is Betty?"

Betty held up her hand (as unintimidated as any rational adult).  D came into our classroom and talked to us about the changes to come.  He was giving us all this political BS and how it was a hard decision and blah, blah, shut up, blah.  He asked me about my bad experience online, and I told him about it.

This school bought a software program that has 40 five-minute dictations in three categories (Lit, Jury Charge, and Q&A).  40 each category, each speed, 40 words per minute all the way up to 225 words per minute (going up ten words per minute each jump in speed).  The software breaks each five-minute into one-minute, goes up and down in speed, etc.  I hope that makes sense.  In any case, this school paid a lot of money for this software, and they feel it is the end all, be all.

I said how with the on-ground program, we get 20+ hours a week of dictations.  Dictations that take in to account what speed we are trying to achieve and what specific issues we are having.  One teacher in particular, (SH), is nearly magical in how you can give her a word, set of words, hell, even a word part, and she can come up with a dictation on the fly that addresses that need.  It's teachers like her that make the on-ground classes our class of choice. 

I explained that the online program speed class I took had ONE hour of synchronous dictation a week.  It was one paragraph of Lit (different every week) read over and over at different speeds and that was it.  I explained that a lot of the people who had been exclusively in this school's online program didn't seem to know the most BASIC of briefs or phrases.  (Briefs and phrases are the bread and butter of court reporting - less strokes means more speed.  More speed means more money.  Some professionals never use them, but they are in the minority.)

I said how our on-ground teachers would record the dictations they gave in class and email them to us.  How another teacher (C), has given us sheaves of handouts with briefs and phrases and how invaluable that information was for us.

I explained how I couldn't fathom why the online teacher did none of that.  No emailed extra dictations, no handouts.  I said, "This school acts like that software program is the end-all, be-all and that should be enough for any student, but it's not.  Not even close." 

I went on: "And why is it that all our academics have gone online?  We  have the teachers here.  They've taught those classes quite competently in the past.  They are here getting paid to teach, why not let them, you know.... teach?"

I got a blah, blah, political-runaround answer.  He was talking about academics in circles until I finally said, "You know.  It's ALL academic, as in moot.  You guys have made your decision, and there's nothing we can do about it.  The rest is just smoke."

I left the room.

A year earlier, the school administrator at the time announced how since the Company bought they school, they were changing the name of the school and making some amazing changes to the program.  They made us all sign a paper saying we agreed to the changes.

I refused to sign it.  The paper said they could change the program at any time and by signing the paper we agreed to that statement.

I remember our orientation when my class first started.  The dean of students held up the school catalog [of classes and rules, etc] and said, "This is your catalog.  When you are in Tran Lab [transcription, not cross-dressing], you have to put "Old Program" or "New Program" on your tests.  You students are New Program.  The Old Program has a different catalog and it would be against [initials/acronym] to change your program after you start a program."  He explained that the school could lose their accreditation if they tried to change programs mid-stream on a student.

So a year later, they try to make us sign this paper.  After avoiding the receptionists for three weeks, they finally corner me and point out the place on that paper that says if we refuse to sign, we can no longer attend the school.  That was the beginning of the end.

I had to sign.

I explained to my other schoolmates that by signing that, we are agreeing to ANY changes they want to make.  We could be DONE with school and they can, on our last day, tell us, "No.  Wait.  We have five new academics you have to complete before we'll graduate you."

What I should have done was call a meeting of my own, make sure everyone understood what they were signing, tell the school I was getting a lawyer, and go call a lawyer. 

What I did was sign.

So now with this new meeting a year later came new paperwork.  It told each of us when our allotted time in the program ended and that we were aware of that time frame and when our time frame was over that we could go online.  It also stated that if students behind us (thus, still in their time frame) needed classes, they would continue to provide those classes on ground.

There were exactly three students who had time left.  The rest of us were WELL past our allotted time.  The program of classes allows for 30 months to completion.  With the exception of one phenom, I've YET to meet someone who has done it in less than three years.   Most have taken three and a half to four years.

This paperwork I flat out refused to sign.  There was no, "sign or you can't go here" stipulation, so it didn't matter.

Surprisingly, they've thrown us a bone by actually having some much-needed classes on ground last quarter!  I took the ones I could and audited the class they gave that I'd previously taken online.  I learned more in one day of that audited class than I did in an entire semester of the same class online.

I researched an online school my mentor's other mentee attended. 

It costs more per semester, and my current school still had speed classes on-ground, so I put it off.

As soon as the announcement was made about the teach-out, people started jumping ship.  Most went to the current school's online program, stating they were going to have to eventually anyway, so they wanted to do it on their own terms.

I said, "The minute this school forces me completely online is the same minute they stop getting my money."

Two close classmates (Betty and M) jumped ship last quarter.  They both signed up at the new school (new to us - been in business forever).  The new school is CCR.

By this time, we only have SIX students in the entire school  Four teachers.  Four faculty.  It's a big-ass building full of empty classrooms.

Flash forward to now....

About week three of this quarter, my teacher C said, "I need to start looking for a new job."  It was just she and I in the classroom, and I said, "Is there something we should know about?"  She said, no.

That was Thursday.  On Mondays, this quarter, I have SH.  The following Monday with just SH and I in the classroom, I mentioned the comment C made and what I said.  SH said, "Yeah, there's something you should know."

SH said that she and C were going to be made adjunct teachers next quarter.  The only teachers left on salary would be the other two teachers.  L because she is head of the program, and CH because she is in charge of the internships.

Making SH and C adjunct means their pay gets cut by 75%, and they lose their benefits.  What it means for the Company is the Company doesn't have to pay them severance.  Hell, they would even have a tough time getting unemployment.

After telling me this information, she said, "Well, they didn't say we couldn't tell."

SH has worked at that school for 26 years.  TWENTY-SIX YEARS.  The Company is basically telling her, "Thank you, drive through."

This Company took a school that has been in business and respected throughout the CR community for 40 years and drove it into the ground in less than four years.  Nice.

I use all these initials and such since the Company is the main company in our industry, and they can completely sabotage me after I graduate.  Even with the initials, I expect the Lurker to be all over this as soon as I post it. 

I will NOT be graduating from their school.

After finding out how they are treating the teachers even worse than they are treating us, the students, I set up a lunch for the remaining students to meet with Betty and M and see how it was going at the new school.

After talking to them and talking to the admin chick at the new school, I decided to make the switch.  The new school has a webinar for prospective students.  I couldn't make it, but the admin person recorded it and sent me the video.  After watching the one-hour video showing how their school operates, I am literally nauseous thinking of how much time and money I've wasted on this dying school.

I've signed up at the new school already (had the receptionist at the current school fax my admissions forms for me!). 

The thing is, psychologically, I've already left this old school.  For the last two quarters, I've made school my job.  I was doing 20 hours of school at school and another 15 hours of homework EVERY week!  I was passing tests and moving up.

Since I've made my decision, I'm barely doing six hours a week of homework.

With this change, NONE of the tests I've passed so far mean anything.  I've got to test in to the new school so they can see for themselves where my speeds are.  I know I'll be nervous about those tests and will likely get knocked back at least one speed.

I had hoped to be finished by next April.  That seems terribly unlikely at this point.

A body at rest tends to stay at rest. 

I need to pull my head out of my ass and practice even MORE so that I won't get knocked back.  As of January, I'll have access to the new school's program for speed-building.  I need to keep up my hard work, but it's SO hard.  I'm so fucking DONE with this school and all it's bullshit. 

The two academics I'm being forced to take online (like I said, last quarters on-ground academics seem to have been a fluke) are a joke again.  The one courtroom procedures class?  I took deposition procedures two quarters ago.  Apparently, the teachers "back East" don't even want to speak with our teachers.  Our teacher CH taught the depo class.  This teacher back East has so far covered five of the same chapters we had already covered in the depo class.  Seriously??

And she gives us these little articles to read and then we have to short-answer questions about the article.  At least three times, one of the five answers I've given in these little exercises has been, "I can't find the answer for this.  The article doesn't seem to have any information on this question."  The teacher hasn't once contacted me or sent me the correct answer for those questions.  Again, if we were in a classroom, I could simply raise my hand, say the same thing, and my ON-GROUND teacher would answer me.  Separate but NOT equal.

By the way, that video of the way this school conducts their online program?  The comparison between the two schools is this....
My current school is Fresno Community College.  The new school is Yale.

Next quarter, there will be three or four students in that big-ass building.  There will be more faculty than students.

I'm going to miss the students and teachers.

Won't miss the commute, Ruth!

No comments: