June 27, 2009

Clues to the Clueless #19

Posted in clues to the clueless, student stories tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 12:50 am by profart

Hint: When you are emailing your professor, it is a good idea to maintain the same decorum you would show when standing in the professor’s office.

Perhaps I really do have an unusually commanding presence in a classroom, I don’t know. Here are some things I get in email that I never get from a student standing in front of me (real emails, slightly modified for privacy):

“This is a really hard class. We have to do stuff every single week. Art, I have a job and three kids and this isn’t my only class. This is the most reading I have to do for any class I’ve ever taken here! You should think about your students!”

I just wrote about this kind of student, and how it annoys me no end, because the majority of my students have jobs, kids, lives, and guess what? The majority of them not only do their work and do it on time, they do it without complaining about it to me in rude, inappropriately casual emails.

“I have to work on participation tonight, so will go back through all of this help you sent me that I asked for when I get a chance and send you a response. We’ve been in class for almost four weeks now, but I just noticed you have given me C’s all along this year. Wow!! What a slap in the face! If you only knew how much time I have been putting into your exercises and discussions! Well I guess it doesn’t matter. It’s my work not meeting your expectations, I guess. I will keep doing my best and if C’s are the reward, so be it. I’ve been on this earth 50 years and lived through a lot. This will have to be one of those times it appears.”

I wrote a rather lengthy announcement about how discussions worked and what to do if you were unhappy with your grade after I graded Week 1. I put it up every year after grading Week 1 so everybody can see the advice and tips for improving their grade. In a nutshell, I tell them to participate more and provide constructive analysis in their posts, just as I instructed them to do in the orientation and syllabus. Really, it isn’t hard.

“I really hate the way you worded question 5 on our assignment this week. You gave us the definition, and then all the choices for the word looked so much alike. I got it wrong because I read the answers wrong. Why do you have to be such a bitch? You could at least give partial credit.”

Yes, they really used the word “bitch.” And yes, the answers were similar-looking. But that doesn’t change the fact that a hipshot posture shifting weight to one foot and creating an s-curve to the body is “contrapposto”, not “contradiction.”

“I am finally getting my financial aid and should have the textbook shortly. Can I please make up the assignments I missed?”

Sent to me at the end of the third week of class. Note the word “shortly”… meaning that it isn’t in hand yet.

“I don’t like to make excuses for myself, but I have been bombarded this week with one event after another. I’ve taken online courses before and consider myself familiar with the environment. I understand that due dates are put in place for timely completion and that you do not accept late work. I submitted my discussion for week two just before contacting you tonight. I understand it was due last night at midnight and it is now considered late. This is my third time taking this course. I didn’t withdraw correctly the first time I took this and received a “D” for the course. Later I signed up for it again, but had more serious issues and withdrew. So this is my third (and final!) time! I’m retaking the course to boost my GPA. I have a complete respect for the arts and plan to pursue a career in some form art- possibly teaching. Well, I will spare you my entire life story and understand if you cannot accept my post, but just wanted to explain my reasons for the late submission. This should be the only conflicts with the course.”

Yeah, I was your professor both previous rounds. Just to keep my readers from being in suspense, I did cave and take her late postings, it was a particularly good life story that included a genuine medical issue. But it’s funny that I don’t get these in person from people intending to pursue a career in art. I’m still not sure why the previous two failures to complete the course had any relevance at all.

“Hey Ms. Art I was curious to what books I would need for Art History One and Two. I haven’t seen anything on blackboard about it. I can’t go to the bookstore because I’m not in town Thanks”

Try the online bookstore. It’s an online class.

“Most professors provide ISBN numbers for their textbooks, and I left your class because I can tell your demeanor. I hope I spelled it right since you achieved your doctorate degree, but you are the ONLY teacher that dfoesnt give isbn numbers. By the way, last semester the bookstore told me all my books were $587, I got them all for under 120 from amazon. You cant fault a student for finding a better and less expensive way. You can fault a teacher who doesnt want to work with her students. Good luck again Dr.”

This was after an email exchange at the end of the first week of class (when the textbook should have already been purchased!), in which the student asked me for the ISBN, and I referred them to the online bookstore, which lists the ISBN in the entry for the textbook, instead of trying hunt my instructor’s copy down to try to fish up the ISBN for the student edition, which I don’t have. Oh, and I asked; none of my colleagues include ISBN numbers, either (if you do, then I think that’s a good thing). They expect students who want to use a source other than the bookstore (and yes, we’re aware Amazon often has textbooks at a discount) to just hop on and check the ISBN number being used by the bookstore. Silly us, expecting our students to be able to do simple online research, especially for an online class.

Corollary: If these emails are showing the same decorum you would use in a professor’s office, you need to grow up (I don’t care how old you are now) and get some manners and professionalism, because not every professor is as professional as I am about having outside influences to your grade.

June 13, 2009

Summer Semester: The World In Brief

Posted in student stories, teaching revelations, Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 3:09 am by profart

Folks have the impression that summer classes are easier than regular-semester classes. I can see where the impression comes from. For one, you only need to take one class to have a full load. After taking 4-5 classes during the regular semester, this may sound great. Also, there are two kinds of classes offered in most college summer sessions: classes that are also offered during the regular semester, and classes that aren’t. Often classes that aren’t offered during regular term are experimental or elective type classes, offered with lighter tone or narrower focus than regular-term classes (such as Underwater Basket Weaving or Seminar on Why Frodo Wears Brown Clothes in The Lord of The Rings and the Social Significance of Color Imagery.) In other words, you have either 16-week classes being squeezed into 10 weeks, or classes taking advantage of the 5- or 10-week formats to offer students something new and different to think about.

Neither of these types of courses are “easy.” That’s why you only take one.

My summer sessions are of the first type, the 16-week class offered in 10 weeks. Every year, I get a handful of students who complain about how much reading they have to do and how much work is involved, because after all, this is a summer class. I now have a pat answer: of course there are double reading weeks. I am putting 16 weeks’ of material and work into a 10 week session. But hey, you’re only taking one class, so what’s the problem?

This year, I have multiple students who are (according to their emails) working 50-60 hour weeks, plus trying to raise kids, as single parents, with sick parents/grandparents/siblings/children, oh, and a couple are also in ROTC or weekend warrior types, and why am I making them do all this work in a summer class?

So I have added in that they also need to consult their academic advisor about appropriate class loads. because folks, these are the types of people who shouldn’t be taking full-time loads in a regular term, so they should definitely not be taking a full-load during the summer, when the classes are more intensive. Because it really pisses off the folks who are working 50-60 hours a week, raising kids, taking care of relatives, are also in the military, and do their fucking work.

I assure you, there are many such students in my classes, and I admire each and every one of them.

June 9, 2009

Oh boy, new cheating scam!

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:23 pm by profart

I am so glad I have set in protections against this form of cheating already. When a student emails me a paper or assignment, I instantly open it. If it is corrupted, i email them and tell them I can’t open it. I require that the assignment be turned in on time, and in a form I can read- corrupted files do not count as a turned-in assignment! Until they get the confirmation from me, the assignment is not turned in!

June 6, 2009

Bad at Math: Update

Posted in clues to the clueless, student mistakes, student stories tagged , , , at 2:59 am by profart

The email reply to my sending of the numerical grades and calculations of said grade, complete with noting that the actual number at the end of said crunch was actually a failing one, was a bit pathetic. It was to the effect of, “I thought my grades averaged higher than that.”

The only thing I can figure is not only did the student originally leave out the zeros for the assignments not completed, but continues to attempt to ignore those zeros, even when I clearly showed them in the tally and crunching.

Munch munch munch. I actually changed my grading formula a few years back, because I had loud complaints from students that reached admin ears that they couldn’t figure out their grades using my stated formula. This told me that many of my students could not handle basic arithmetic, which is a bit frightening. I stumbled on my original formula, which was midterm 30%, final 30%, quizzes 15%, writing assignment 15%, participation and attendance 10%. Then I changed it up a little later, Midterm 30%, final 30%, assignments 25%, participation and attendance 15%. Nope, that was too hard. Now I just smack it down: midterm, final, assignments, participation, 25% each.

And they still can’t do the math.

June 5, 2009

Can I make these required reading?

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:38 am by profart

Ten Things Students Need to Know About College (but Don’t)
Top Ten Things You’ll Discover at College
Ten More Things You’ll Discover at College
Getting the Most out of the Library
Nine Ways To Get on Your Professor’s Bad Side
16 Secrets to Going to See Your Professor

Bad at Math

Posted in clues to the clueless, Semester endcap, student mistakes, student stories tagged , , , , , , at 3:00 am by profart

From a student:

Hi Prof. Art. I was in your class and I just now looked at my grades and I am really not understanding my D in the class. I did all of the assignments and participation and my grades dont look bad. I averaged them and it looks like a C to me. The only thing I dont see on there is my Final exam part 1 grade but all else looks right. I am just a little confused, I thought that class was going well and I was doing well.


So I went back and crunched the numbers. Hey, I ain’t perfect, I’ve missed a number before. But the facts remained:

In fact, Confused had missed one weeks’ worth of participation, and one assignment. Part One of the final was never opened, nor attempted, according to BlackBoard.

And in fact, the numbers crunched to a 57.

Which is an F.