Thursday, August 19, 2010

This is building "engagement"? You have GOT to be kidding me.

According to an e-newsletter, it's really just a pretentious blog post called "Building Student Engagement: Beyond the Classroom," we proffies should do everything in our power to coddle our little snowflakes. Ridiculously terrible ideas presented as "suggestions for engaging students" include:
  • "Contact any students who don’t show up to class to find out if they need help." [Riiight, because that's my job, not theirs. How had I forgotten?]
  • "Add your home, office or cell phone number (wherever you prefer to be called) under your name at the end of the e-mail so that students can call you if needed." [AH HA HA HA HA. The home/cell thing is comedy gold!]
  • "Permit homework counter-offers: Let your students take more control of their own learning by allowing them to counter-offer when you give an assignment." [Yes, let's encourage wheeling-and-dealing! That will definitely prepare students for life after college!]
  • "Toward the end of the semester, select the top half dozen students in your class, and ask their permission to call their parents so you can tell them how well their son or daughter has done in your class." [Awesome idea! Creating a whole new breed of helicopter parents, whom my snowflakes can give my home or cell number, is definitely on my to-do list this fall.]


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  2. Dr. Snarky, did you read the other FIVE installments in the SIX installment series? There is some GOLD in there:

    "Don't let your snowflakes melt, it makes them sad."

    "Walk fifty miles (each way) to pick fresh rainbows to put in the cookies you bake for your snowflakes. Also, talk to the Unicorn of Utter Contentment to make sure he knows how incomplete his life is without snowflakes in it."

    "Be sure to make your students feel loved by you. No, don't touch them, as that is against the rules. Instead, make them feel as if they have been hugged by smothering them with kind words and praises. Let them know that you are blessed by their presence in your class, even if they aren't paying attention."

    We should start a SEVEN installment series on what to do to professors who actually do shit like that guy says they should.

    [Please note: For those of you who take things too literally, none of those quotes actually appear anywhere in the original series.]

    Mathsquatch out.

  3. I had to click on the link to see if this was real and in fact targeting college. Yes and yes. Worse, the blog post includes more crap ideas than are copied here. I'm speechless.

  4. Holy holy shit. I know the guy who wrote this.

    Chris Palmer is a wildlife filmmaker, among other things. And...apparently one of those other things is a guy who's delusional about how professors ought to interact with their students.

    I can just imagine telling my students that they're allowed to bargain and only complete the assignments they'll find relevant to their careers. I'm sure they'll find the system perfectly equitable: "Sorry, Student A. You do need to write that paper, even though Student B doesn't have to. Don't worry--if you do well, I'll be sure to phone your parents, even though you're an adult."

    Next time I see Chris, I'll have to ask him WTF.

  5. I just read an article that was somewhat similar. This one suggests that the key to happiness is to let students call and text all the time. Yeah, I'll get right on that. As thought it's not enough that they email me at 4 a.m. and expect an immediate response, now they would CALL at 4 a.m. and expect me to answer. No f*cking way.

  6. I don't want to attack anyone (uh huh), but should Chris Palmer take a drug test? He must be smoking some seriously strong ganja, mon.

    My skin was crawllllling when I read some of this stuff. I started thinking that maybe it was just a parody from The Onion.

    As annoyedPRprof said on Twitter in June: "Maybe you'll get a boss who will meet your needs better someday"

  7. Reading stuff like this makes me sigh with relief that I teach a large science lecture class that doesn't require lots of group work, disussions, sitting in circles, learning from eachother and whatnot. I really do feel sorry for the humanities profs who have to put up with shit like that. My expected classroom behavior: sit down, shut up, pay attention. (Bonus points for laughing at my lame science jokes.)

    Other items in this series are so obvious that it makes me wonder if other profs don't do things like establish clear grading requirements or don't refrain from beating students with metal rods. Seriously, folks. Wooden or plastic sticks can be almost as effective and they don't break any bones, reducing the amount of time-consuming paperwork on your part.

  8. This reminds me a bit of the one or two inevitable-every-term student evaluations that apparently come from students who are filled with the conversion-zeal of having had one X-education course, that suggest that they'd like more conversations about current events and more classroom discussions about their thoughts and opinions. Dudes, this is Methodological Approaches to Byzantine Typography II. "Do you guys have any thoughts on this, our first day? No? You have no opinions on Byzantine Typography you'd like to share? Ok, then!"

  9. Wait a minute Ben... You mean I'm not supposed to beat my students with metal rods? Have I been fucking up all these years?

    Actually, some of this reminds me of stories I've heard from friends of mine who teach at elite SLACs,where I've been told students feel free to drop by your house unannounced, never mind call you on the phone. But I have no experience with that world, so maybe they are just exaggerating.

  10. Lemurpants said, This reminds me a bit of the one or two inevitable-every-term student evaluations that apparently come from students who are filled with the conversion-zeal of having had one X-education course...

    Yes, and these are often the students who refuse to grasp that THERE IS MORE THAN ONE "RIGHT" PEDAGOGY! But if their own proffies don't believe that...

    And that homework counteroffer idea is priceless. Literally, it has no value!

  11. I might actually use the homework counteroffer idea, if it met two criteria:

    1. The assignment was more difficult for the student to complete, and

    2. The assignment was easier for me to grade.

    The student proposal would need to outline in paragraph form how it met each of those criteria.

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  13. Too many modern educators seem unable to grasp that it's just not possible to learn much science by sitting in a circle, holding hands, and singing "Kumbaya." Those who are shown this explicitly seem unwilling to grasp it. Since John Dewey's school in the 1920s, the pattern has been to marvel at the "new" pedagogy, have the students take a test, and then, when inevitably they don't do so well, demand that there must be something wrong with the test. This is described well in "The Academic Achievement Challenge," by Jeanne S. Chall.

    Nevertheless, in an attempt to placate these people, I did try relinquishing being "the sage on the stage" to become "the guide on the side." I took a couple years and made a serious attempt at it before I got tenure (in the early 2000s), because I'd been told that one can raise one's student evaluations with these techniques (and this is quite wrong).

    It did not take long for me to regret it. My intro-astronomy-for-non-majors class became painful, and outright embarrassing. One can't have a discussion about something about which one has no knowledge whatsoever. Student learning became an unmitigated disaster: if anything, "student-centered" techniques in science education reinforce student misconceptions, and not much else.

    The sad fact is that it doesn't matter what your "feelings" are about the natural world, or how you "relate" to it. Reality does what it does, and you need to be able to perceive it and to understand it.

  14. Where I work, I am required to contact students who aren't showing up to class or turning in assignments. I hate doing this, since I teach adults, not kids.

    And then students either don't reply to me at all, reply with something like, "Oh, thanks, I'm fine" or reply with a horrible sob story. Few ever return to class, and the ones who do still submit substandard work. I can see no benefit to this practice, but admin insists, so what can I do....

  15. We are always pressured to "call" students. "Please call any students who miss the first week." Are you effing kidding me? Why do I always feel 100 years old when I'm at the university? When I missed class in the "good ole days" nobody called to check on me. I was expected to grow up. And I did. What am I doing by serving as a wake-up service for my hungover students?

    Plus, couldn't I just tweet them?

  16. Ruby from Richmond, please conduct an interview and report back to us. Has Chris actually TRIED these techniques, or did he just dream them up while in a drug-induced haze???


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