April 28, 2010
My classroom opens up about 15 minutes prior to class, and I go ahead and let the students in and settle. I also get set up and ready to roll, and then often prick up my ears to listen to the latest in the student world. Usually, the conversation is about jobs or kids or movies or whatever. However, it occasionally opens into a student vent session. My ears prick up extra sharp, because I get a good idea of how students view their professors, and policies and practices that may be problematic. Its very , very useful. Although often, the thought that crosses my mind is, “put on your big kid panties and do the work your professors tell you to do”, sometimes all I can do is wonder what the professor is thinking, and what gaps there are between practice and perception.
Today (and I don’t often blog about things really happening right now), I found myself speechless, aghast. The horror stories were just… incredible. Professors who throw papers directly into the trash without looking at them. Papers handed back with “redo” in large letters, but no other comments. Papers given an F because the student used a “bibliography” instead of a “works cited.” It went on. And on. And on.
Now, I am not going to sit in judgement of any of these professors. I have no clue what was going on, no objective context for these events, no idea what instructions were given, no idea what frustrations may have lead to extreme actions. I just don’t know.
I was, however, mightily concerned about what I was hearing in terms of perspective. Whatever the context, the perception of these things was shock, anger, almost tears. I honestly didn’t know what to say. I finally jumped in and said, “Wow. I don’t do these things, do I? Would you please tell me if you feel this way?”
The shock I got back was equally concerning. Mouths dropped open. A professor was asking them to tell her if they were unhappy? It was their turn to be speechless, partly because it was clear that I was serious. What I got was a chorus of “oh, no, we really love this class”, but knowing what I’ve seen on evals in years past, I know that wasn’t universally true, either. But the clear gap between students and professors at my college was definitely a shock.
It can be a good thing to let students vent, and to listen to those concerns with an ear for your own practices. Have I become cynical and frustrated? Or do I help students and stay professional? How are my actions and practice perceived? How do I communicate to students that comments are intended to be constructive and helpful? When I correct something in a student’s paper, I want them to understand that I am telling them these things so they become better writers, not because I hate them.
Because these kids are absolutely convinced that the entire English department hates them- and so they have stopped listening. That’s not good for learning.
April 23, 2010
Well, folks, this is it- today I have an interview that may (or may not) lead me from the adjunct world into the world of real employment of an academic nature. How exciting is this? (You are missing me bouncing about going *woo-hoo!* like Daffy Duck). See, to be at the interview stage is a huge huge deal. This is the first full-time position to open up in my field in this area in a long long while, and this is a big area. They had to be swamped with applications… and Im in the top five. Not bad for someone who’s been adjuncting as long as I have, without publishing (except a few small reviews and a few conference papers here and there). The question they have asked us to speak about today in our teaching sample is pretty specific and unusual, so I suspect they already have someone in mind- perhaps a long time adjunct of their own- but I’m still pretty happy. Perhaps I will head over there and really blow them away. Wouldn’t that rock?
I haven’t been actually idle in these last years, either. I have become an expert in specific disabilities and disability law, therapy, school policy, and education in order to advocate for my kid, and that’s been nearly a full-time job in and of itself. What do I have to show for it? A child who talks. That’s no small potatoes.
So here I go. May the guidance of Leonardo get me up there, and Ganesha open all the doors.
April 20, 2010
What is grade inflation about? It is about avoiding our jobs: to teach students. Don’t do it. Stand up against colleges and universities that work to support grade inflation rather than focus on student evaluation and teaching, ESPECIALLY in core or basic requirement courses.
The teacher in this article was, in my opinion, slightly extreme. Note the slightly. I think making a multiple-choice quiz with ten choices is not a good choice of testing format, and it significantly and purposely daunting to beginning students. But daily quizzes? I have no trouble with that. And if you put it in the syllabus that you are going to have daily quizzes, then kids have no right to complain when they get quizzes every day on material they should know. On the other hand, I don’t know what standards the professor was using, what questions were being asked, and how much detail the professor was expecting, which may have justified removal from the class. There is a difference between evaluation and torture, and I do not believe in torturing students.
I do, however, believe in teaching them. Yes, teaching material that is of little interest to a student when they initially walk through your door is a challenge. It is part of the great challenge of teaching- that makes it fun. If it isn’t fun for you… um, get out of teaching. Lots of other things to do in life.
Teaching is about meeting the challenge of getting students what they need and making it relevant to them. Even the best of teachers are not successful with every single student that walks through their doors. That would be a bloody miracle. Making education accessible is our job; there does come a point when the student has the responsibility to actually access it. Making it scary is not making it accessible; on the other hand, you have to evaluate students in order to help them.
Evaluation is a tool, both for the student and for the educator- a tool to evaluate progress and intellectual development. Not a tool to force students out of a class… a tool to track development, and act as a warning to help me, as the educator, adjust my delivery and explanations to fit the needs of my students.
But I don’t like it being my fault if none of them are bothering to do any work. Which, unfortunately, does happen. For some groups, material being relevant to them is beside the point to them.
Well, I printed out my student papers and worked on grading them this weekend (and you thought email saved trees! HA!) I got through them terribly quickly, far faster than I expected. The problem?
Only half of them bothered to turn it in.
This is not a good sign.
April 2, 2010
Hint: You are getting F’s on your discussion boards. You inquire. Your professor informs you that you are not meeting the minimum requirements of two posts per forum. She agrees to allow you to go back and post on the forums.
Stop arguing with your professor, and get to work. Don’t try to argue that she can’t count. Don’t try to argue that you thought she meant twice per week, not twice per forum. Do not argue about the definition of “forum.”
Get to frickin’ WORK… or the offer will be rescinded for lack of interest!