June 15, 2008

Ah, Summer Midterms

Posted in teaching revelations tagged , , , at 5:08 am by profart

Midterm approaches, and with it, the usual pile of emails of “do we actually have to take a test?”, “I’m going on vacation this week!” and “What about a review assignment?”

I usually give in on the review thing, since regular semesters have whole review weeks. Why you can’t remember all of four weeks’ worth of material is beyond me, but I think a benefit of the doubt isn’t going to hurt. Here’s a review. 

The problem is the heap of emails that will file in at the end of the semester asking for the review assignments to be counted as extra credit. 

Not a chance. 

Some time ago, I read somewhere- and I wish I could remember where- that extra credit was “an attempt to make up in quantity what was lacking in quality.” It was like being hit with the truth of what you suspected all along. Invariably when I allowed extra credit, when I was a young and hopeful lass of a teacher, what I would get was a pile of steaming junk and a lot of complaining about not getting enough credit for that crap. The folks who did good work didn’t need extra credit, the folks who really needed it didn’t do it, and I was left with useless extra hours of grading poorly done “writing” and answering nasty emails. 

No more. I now know why it was such a waste of time for all concerned, and I leave it be. 

In summer, midterm season has an extra intensity. I think because they have not been in the course as long, it is not yet as routine to them to answer the kinds of questions I am asking. There is a sense of panic, of unfamiliarity, as if students don’t yet have their sea legs. In a regular semester, we would have at least two more weeks of material ahead of us, plus that wonderful review. In summer, we’re already half-way done. 

At least I’m not teaching live. Live summer classes suck, because you have to go to campus and teach for two hours every day. No one has time to process anything before you are on to your next topic. 

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