August 31, 2009

Red Alert: Crap Ahead

Posted in student mistakes, student stories, teaching revelations, Uncategorized tagged , at 3:54 am by profart

Stock phrases are all the vogue these days in the world of Standardized Testing and Empty Writing. Generic fluff really annoys me. It annoyed me when I was a student trying to read articles and get to the point. It annoys me that this horrible habit of bad writing is being not only passed to a new generation, but intentionally ingrained into them. Its kind of like the 5-paragraph essay: it is a great little crutch to get kids started in thinking about the structure of writing, but too many of them get stuck there, never to actually understand the purpose of writing and communication.

Here’s some popular red flags for “here comes some empty crap I slapped together to get some credit”:

This is a question that can have many different answers.
(Really? I wonder if that might be why I asked it…)

The threshold problem with this is…
(What is a “threshold problem”? I get this a lot from non-native speakers and students from China and Taiwan. What is this supposed to mean?)

How we consider this question depends upon our point of view.
(Yes. Yes it does.)

In my opinion….
(Unfortunately, this is rarely followed by an actual, original, thoughtful opinion.)

This question isn’t easily answered…
(No kidding…)

I know my idea might be preconceived, but…
(It is. Trying thinking about the material instead of just spouting off at the mouth.)

Defining art would be like defining love…
(Give me a BREAK)

Don’t worry, there are lots more. I’ll add as I get slapped with them.

August 15, 2009

Snarky replies to Grade Emails

Posted in teaching revelations at 5:57 pm by profart

I have a flood of emails this semester, but I usually get a couple of these:

Dear Prof. Art, Why did I get a C? I looked at my grades and worked so hard! I don’t think I deserve a C.

I usually reply with simple numbers. It is really the best way. It makes it a matter of the student being bad at math, rather than me being a bitch. I work hard to keep my standards consistent and clear. I’m not about to change them. Having gone back each and every time and checked every grade, and the gradebook, and my email (in case something got emailed instead of turned in properly, and got missed), etc. etc. etc., there are some snarky comments I would dearly love to smack these students with, especially since the vast majority of these emails imply that the grade is my fault, not their earned feedback. It would just a form like this:

I am sorry you are disappointed by your grade.

Please select the appropriate reason(s) this student has received their grade:

*However, it would have helped immensely if you had turned in your work. I cannot grade what I do not have.

*It is very, very difficult to get in an A in a class when you have failed both the midterm and the final examinations. In fact, just failing one can make that pretty difficult.

*Oh, and by the way, those exam grades? They weren’t out of line with the work you turned in. When you bothered.

*Actually, you failed. I was feeling generous and tried to credit you for demonstrating some level of learning this semester.

August 13, 2009

Bad at Math: Massive Increase

Posted in Semester endcap, student stories, teaching revelations tagged , , , , , , , , , at 3:00 am by profart

You may recall that I have been having trouble students who cannot do math. I have recently had a serious uptick in the number of students who email me at the end of the semester with emails to the effect of, “How can I have gotten an F? All my grades were C’s!” and I rush to check the gradebooks, only to find that they failed their exams, sometimes spectacularly, failed several of the weekly assignments, and have the occasional “0” to really help that grade out.

Do students not realize that anything below a 70 is not a C?

When I was in school- elementary and secondary- our grading scale looked like this:
95-100 A
88-94 B
81-87 C
75-80 D
74 and below F

You read that correctly. A 74 was an F. Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with expecting a student to be able to retain, analyze, and communicate at least 75% of the course material in order to pass a subject. Seriously.

So I think it is a freakin’ GIFT that a 60 is a passing grade in college. A gimme. A break of a lifetime. That a 70 is considered “adequate” is just miraculous. Why students who made it to college can’t get a grasp of 70% of course material, or grasp that below that would be “inadequate”, that’s just unacceptable. This is what happens when you change the secondary school grading scale so that 60 is passing: you are lowering your standards. Why do parents want to pay all this tax money to schools to get less achievement, lower levels of learning for their kids?

As the grading systems in elementary and secondary schools get fluffier, the students at the college level become less capable of doing college-level work. After all, a grade is a simple problem of basic arithmetic. If your kid can’t do a simple equation of add four numbers and divide by four, your school system has some very serious problems. Maybe expecting more from your kids would result in getting more from your kids.

Kids tend to rise to the challenge. Unless you don’t set them one. Then they get to adulthood without any skills to cope with challenge.

August 8, 2009

Incoherent Student Strikes Again

Posted in student stories tagged , , , at 4:13 am by profart

These are the instructions:

Answer one question clearly, concisely, and completely. Use at least three works of art for examples, clarifying how the example is pertinent to your thesis in your writing. Each example must be identified by title, date, and country of origin. You must cover at least three major areas of art history. You must select at least one item from: Prehistoric, Ancient Near Eastern, Egyptian, Ancient Aegean, Greek, Etruscan, or Roman. You must select at least one item from: Early Christian, Byzantine, Islamic, Early Tribal/Early Medieval/Celtic, Carolingian, Ottonian, Romanesque, Gothic.

This is the question:

Light is a common metaphor for the divine. Discuss the use of light and its connection with religious and political art in the ancient and medieval worlds.

Here is the answer:

Light, by all means, is one of the most cherished sources man has worshipped, arranged their lives by and what our planet thrives from.

Since Ancient times man has used light to many of his advantages.

Before the light bulb was invented,
Before our towns, grew into cities, then those cities became even greater, cities OF LIGHT, with a touch of man’s manipulating hand, and the itelligence man is born with, Man mixes these amazing ideas which they come up with

and have brought them to LIFE. Sacrficing and labor intense work, with man hands, some pully’s and a wheel, GREAT STRUCTURES were built. OF course SUNLight, The ball of fire which man awakens with every morning is worshiped, thanked, cherished, and Is mandatory that it be shown In peoples areas of worship, giving thanks to the solar power that keeps motivation in the world Man has taken over with its various species.

Humans, being able to comprehend this precious power the Earth shares with all of its lusture of life, TO all creatures that live on it, has made Humans expand more complex subjects : politics, Science, GOD? or No GOD? greed, POWER and the urge to want more and more,

Buildings of great height,areas people gathered for worship, give thanks or some may call it, being one with yourself and communicating with a higher power, The guy that put them here for a reason? or mayne not a reason,

No one has the answer too that question, but that is the question we will keep on asking, and keep on trying to prove, and all life will one day die.

A person’s religion and faith is Sacred and Personable. Amazingly humans have been in deep thought and have been questioning their faith and will do so til they die and This place in each persons soul and their faith or whatever mindset one may have, Is shown in people who have taking their beliefs and constructed massive Buildings, Scultures, cities of architecture and paintings by people of any time is amazing to look deep into and see their

and with whatever media a person could find ,stone, marble, clay, metal…ANYTHING destructable could be reconstructed and is a piece of our history.

Sunlight, from the first day, was a important factor of our ancient relatives. Naturally human’s sleep at night, so the sun was what people woke up for, during the day was when it was safe getting around and finding food during the day. For the predators that come out at night and without all the little gadgets we have created for ourselves in this day of age, sunlight was their friend, God? It was just very important to them!
That bright glowing ball in the sky and the warmth it shoots from its rays is like a natural Euphoria, Humans and animals, like, (cats for example)a wonderful sensation awakening us as the sun rises in the early AM was a sighn for life to get up and get the day started!

It was important that man did comprehend quickly that Sunlight is one major nessecities in order for their speicies to survive. All things work with sunlight, and (darkness is just as important) in order to establish growth and flowering to take place in plants and such.

Differently and much more complex than any other life on earth, Humans took these feelings they got from the sun and other natural resources from the Earth and came up with these… intense feelings, ideas and it was a process that started with such simplicity, but has grown to be such an amazing process of how we have evolved as people.

Sunlight inspired the Art of humans and humans art is filled with complex but simple random composiitions

It was a divine and giving object that glowed high in the sky, providing all life to sprout, flourish and give to the creatures that used the nutrients as well in order to live.

Humans went from stick figure drawings to , of course want and do better, so as humans developed and learned more and more things, their ideas grew to what was UNIMAGINABLE at the time, but the strive for power, woman, understanding of what the world may be? All led to Amazing works people Thought of…decided to put it into action, and make their ideas Come true.

Light, being a single source of flame, or a big ball in the sky is a major contributer to human emotions, beauty that is so amazing it has to be captured by human eye and then recreated because beauty is eye candy. Being the source of life and the foods we eat to nourish ourselves, schedualing our lives by the time the light goes up to when it goes down, is a work of science and art not made by human, but is Admired and loved by them and is symbolized in the works people do, in whatever they are building, painting, Art history is a deep, interesting subject, and it has brought us to the type of society today, under the same sun ancient ancestors and dinosaus sunned themselves under!

Sun, light, fire, all the same substance, but has so many functions it does for everything and anything that our world maintains its Life.

Am I playing the Dada game*?

*[Dada is an art movement searching for subconscious thought and emotion through choice and chance. In the Dada game, a person thinks of a question. A second person thinks of an “answer”. The Answer person tells the group the answer. Then the first person tells the group the question. You then spend a lot of time and drink a lot of alcohol while trying to connect the answer to the question.]

August 7, 2009

Here comes Fall

Posted in teaching revelations tagged , , , at 1:47 am by profart

I haven’t actually ended the summer semester yet; this is finals week. But here comes Fall. I’m working on the new syllabus, with the new sections required by the college as well as things that need to be changed and updated based on issues with my students the last few semesters.

I’m up to 11 frickin’ pages. Not including the outline of the weekly topics and reading.

Seriously, WTF? When I was in school, if the syllabus was 3 pages before the outline, we cussed about how nitpicky the professor was. Two pages was standard. Here’s a paragraph about the class, buy these books, here’s the dates your assignments are due, here’s how much they are worth in your final grade, here’s the contact info for the professor. Sometimes a “show up, you idiot” was tossed on. Have a paper for the class? Here’s what you got:

10-20 page paper due, April 20. Topic of your choice. Discuss topic with Prof. Art by March 1 for approval. Bring Bibliography.

And that was it. Everybody knew the drill: that meant it was double-spaced, a normal-sized font, it had to be fully notated, and it had to be somehow connected to the class. You had to go to the library and do real research, not just browse a few webpages. Its pretty hard to write a real paper without a few sources; the general rule-of-thumb was 3-4 sources per page, but it depended on the assignment, what you were doing with it, and what kinds of sources you found. If you were a first-year who didn’t know the drill, that wasn’t a syllabus issue; that got straightened out when you had your topic approved.

Academic honestly policies? That was part of the student handbook. Attendance policy? Ditto. (Besides, if you don’t show up, WTF are you paying for?) You only included in the syllabus the ways you differed from general college policy.

Now? Each and every fine detail has to be outlined in the syllabus. It has become a legal contract, complete with legalese. Each assignment must be presented in exquisite detail, down to font size, margins, and they scream if you don’t give a list of “sample topics” to choose from (which I still refuse to do). If everything isn’t finely micromanaged, the student complain that they have no idea what is expected of them.

How about, I expect you to show up, read these books, and be able to demonstrate actual learning at a college level. Or get out. So there.