March 10, 2012

Getting my Snark On.

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 8:06 pm by profart

I think I may buy a really wonderful hat, walk into class, and announce that it is my “Snark Hat.” When I put on my “Snark Hat”, I am no longer Prof Art, I am Womba from Ivanhoe, here to make merry at the expense of my wise students. After all, I gave my students a TAKE HOME, OPEN-BOOK midterm with an in-class review, and they had a WHOLE WEEK to take it.

Some advice:

1. When you have an open-book exam, try opening your book.
2. It is NEVER OK to cut and paste from Wikipedia. Ever. This includes your exam.
3. If you are going to cheat and copy each other’s short answers and essays, at least give me the courtesy of writing GOOD answers or essays.
4. Thou Shalt Proofread, or Thou Shalt Become Blog Fodder.
5. Even my fourth grader knows an “essay” is more than three sentences- in fact, he knows it is more than one paragraph. He also knows what a paragraph is.

Seriously. How do you flunk a take-home, open-book, week-long exam?



April 20, 2010

Do I get paid just the same?

Posted in teaching revelations, Uncategorized tagged at 1:04 am by profart

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.

March 7, 2010

Clues to the Clueless #26

Posted in clues to the clueless tagged , at 1:51 pm by profart

When completing work online, it is best not to be running extraneous programs on your computer. Technology is a funny thing, and programs tend to crash when you least expect. Or when you least want them to. Don’t be caught like this student:

Prof Art:
I don’t know what to do, i was taking the online test yesterday on a friends laptop when it crashed. They were downloading music while i was accessing the test when the computer shut down. I was at about 14-15 questions into the 20 question test, i was also saving after i answered them. We tryed turning the computer back on and it would light up to say corruption data loss. I had my essay saved on their computer and everything. Its a lesson well learned but i would like a chance to finish the exam if you could allow it or if not all just the majority percent of the test, the first part. Thank you for understanding, and whichever way you feel about this i’ll understand too.

Fortunately for this student, I do understand. And I also know they do not have their own computer, and are not used to online work and such. But seriously folks, learn the lesson before it happens to you: dedicated computer in stable environment. When taking your exam, go to the computer lab or library.

January 29, 2010

File Under: Are You Serious?

Posted in student stories, Uncategorized tagged , , , at 4:03 am by profart

As the add/drop period comes to a close, I am reminded of an email I got from a student some semesters ago. It was the kind of email that spews diet coke over your computer screen and has someone popping their head in to make sure the the scream that just emerged from your office didn’t require medical attention.

Dear Prof Art:

Hi! This is Suzie Snowflake, I’m in your online class. I just noticed the F I keep getting for the discussion stuff. I thought my posts were really thoughtful, and I wondered why I got an F. I know I’m supposed to post two times, but I thought I’d at least get some credit for what I did. I have a full-time job and three kids at home, so I don’t have a lot of time to post and log in to the class. I hope you’ll remember that when you grade this stuff, and take into consideration that I don’t have a lot of time. I really need this class to graduate, I have to have three humanities credits, there required, so I can’t drop this class or fail it. Can you give me some advice to help my discussion grades, and can you check to be sure you graded the last three weeks right? I just don’t see this as F work.


What did you think I advised?

A. I will certainly look into your grades and think about your home life when grading your work. Heck, you should get an A, because who needs humanities, anyway? Its just three credits.

B. My advice would be to meet the minimum requirements for each and every assignment. When you do not meet the minimum requirement, the only possible grade is an F. I did give you some credit for posting. If you had not posted at all, I would have awarded you a grade of 0.

C. You need to withdraw from this class.

Keep in mind that this student later accused me of “favoritism”. And by the way, I teach 2-3 online classes each semester, so I had to hunt down who this student was in the first place.

November 29, 2009

Clues for the Clueless #25

Posted in clues to the clueless tagged , , , , , , , , , at 6:12 pm by profart

Ah, we have come to a momentous occasion: my twenty-fifth clue for those who have none. Seriously, kids need to have academic advisors and be required to see them regularly; and those advisors should start listening to the “problems” and offering clues. But then, you can lead the horse to water, but even holding its face under that water can’t force it to imbibe.

Hint: Lack of planing on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part, nor qualify you for an extension.

My assignments not only have a due date, they have a due time. It used to be noon. When I first started teaching, this was just fine. Noon on the day of the assignment due date was pretty standard for my college, allowing professors some flexibility in taking assignments and office hour time to assess those assignments. I could happily spend the rest of the afternoon grading, and plan that time effectively. No problem.

Then it started being a problem. Noon deadlines started meaning you were still receiving assignments at one, then two, then three pm. Then the emails began really rolling. In a hyper-connected world, why can’t a student email you their assignment at four? After all, they have so many other classes, and jobs, and kids, and stuff, and its just one paper, right? I was handing out so many zeros that the department chair, then the dean got on my ass. I had to do something.

So I shifted the due time to 5. Then 6. Then midnight.

But it never ends. If I can wait until midnight, why not 1 am?

Tricking them by saying the due time is noon, but accepting papers through midnight, only works once. Not just once per class; in this day of internet and Twitter, I mean once. And even then, you have the stragglers who just can’t seem to understand the definition of “deadline.” As in, if you cross the line, you are dead.

Corollary: if you are going to be traveling the day or two before something is due, black those days out. You will not have time to complete the assignment on those days. If time appears, bonus for you, but the more common experience is one of flight, train, and bus delays, security delays, taxi delays, traffic delays. Also, you have no assurance of internet connection when you arrive at your destination. Seriously. Finish up before you leave.

November 12, 2009

Notes and noteworthy

Posted in Helpful Hints, student stories, teaching revelations tagged , , at 10:46 pm by profart

When I was in college, which really wasn’t that long ago, and you missed a class, you provided your excuse to the professor- and then went and got notes from your classmates. Going and asking the professor for their notes was not done. At the time, I didn’t know why- it was just not done.

Now I have the answer.

You see, a professor’s lecture is under copyright. It is propriety to them. Taking the notes of a professor for a missed lecture is like going over to Bill Gates and asking him to provide you the full code of the current Windows operating system, and all the business memos included with it. Or asking for the full and correct formula for Coke.

It is also basically asking a professor to take notes during their own lecture.

Some professors actually write out the whole lecture, and it works like an article they have written or any other work they have done. Other professors write notes, and are talking extemp. Included in either of those notes are notes on the notes, information that may or may not be actually offered in a lecture, notes about questions that may or may not be asked. Things may be crossed out, updated, notated, and even in code. They are not in a state intended to hand out to the public.

So here’s a hint to folks prepping to miss a class: get a buddy. Ask that buddy for a copy of their notes.

Or come to class.

October 28, 2009

Clues for the Clueless #23:

Posted in clues to the clueless tagged , , , at 1:16 pm by profart

Hint: If you are already on a professor’s shit list, and you know it, it is a bad idea to ask for extensions or “rule bending” of any kind. That kind of crap just pisses your professor off and makes you BLOG FODDER.

Ever have a student you just want to throttle, because they are so self-centered and thick-headed that you wonder how they managed to get through the admissions process to get into your college?

When I was young, one of the great lessons I learned is of you piss somebody off, the best course of action is to not annoy them further. In the world of college, if you already have crossed a line with a professor, your best course of action is to toe the line of course policy. Come to all the classes. Turn in all the work. Turn it in on time. If the professor provides you with something like an extension, despite your previous run-in, turn that work in quickly, by the new deadline set, and for the love of All Things Holy, make sure you turn in high-quality, spectacular work, to show respect for your professional and beneficent professor. Because if you don’t, and you were already on the Metaphorical Smack List, you will get moved up to the Report Student to Advisor and Department Chair List. Oh, and you’ll likely flunk that crappily done assignment you turned in late.

I think in my next syllabus, I am going to include a Late Work Policy. If you forget to bring the essay I kindly allowed you to do at home instead of having to complete in class without any books or notes, you may turn it in by midnight for a Five-Point penalty. Each day that passes thereafter will be another Five Points. Be aware that your points may run to the negative. (So if you have an essay worth 25 points, and you turn in a C-level essay a week late, that would be 19 – 35, or a -16, to be added into your exam score.)

Seriously. The rise in this kind of shit is getting so annoying, it is making me cuss on my blog in frustration.

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.

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 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.

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