Tuesday, October 25, 2011

An Early Thirsty From Carl From Coffeyville.

Q: Say I like to offer individual meetings to students, and these students sign up happily for the appointments. Say that in the past these meetings have worked well. Then say my current classes are showing up about 60% of the time, leaving me staring at my office wall for 15 minute chunks of time? Is blowing up the campus an overreaction? One colleague suggested I give my students points for showing up! Has the world changed? Are we in end times? Should I give up on offering personal help?


  1. My solution is to keep a note of some research things that can be done in 15 minute chunks (typing in references, making a graph look prettier, that sort of useful but tedious thing) and every time a student doesn't show think 'yay, extra research time!' and do one of the things. Or in a bad week, I do similar small jobs off the teaching and admin list - filing, that sort of thing. This helps prevent me getting too grumpy - it's not fair on those who DO show if I'm all grumpy because of their classmates who didn't show!

    Personally, I continue to offer various bits of one to one help, because even if hardly anyone takes me up on it, it still gives a nice positive impression for evaluations... and

  2. I like to offer individual meetings to students, and these students sign up happily for the appointments.

    In the past these meetings have worked well.

    My current classes are showing up about 60% of the time, leaving me staring at my office wall for 15 minute chunks of time?

    Just sayin'.

  3. Count a missed appointment as an absence.

    'Cause it's an absence.

  4. Yeah, I don't know what Ben's talking about, but for me, I love conferencing with students, but if they don't miss one without a valid excuse, they don't get to sign up for another.

  5. I'd go with Grumpy on what to do while waiting.

    As for the ones that don't show up, make a note for future reference when they ask for an extension or offer a lame excuse for something. Grant latitude to those that keep their appointments if they should ask for it. The rest will have to learn a hard life lesson.

    They should at least contact you beforehand to explain that they can't make the appointment, and would it be too much trouble to schedule another at your convenience.

  6. I make it worthwhile for students to come. I may show them a quiz problem or GIVE them solutions to HW problems. That way the ones who blew me off suffer, but do not know it. I let them think they got me, but in reality, I got them.

  7. I was just following instructions. The Thirsty began with "Say..." so that's what I did.

    It was early and I needed my coffee.

    I have a poor sense of humor sometimes.

    I was young and needed the money.

    Pick whichever excuse works best for you.

  8. Students often flake on appointments that they set-up. Because of this I never set up an appointment at a time that isn't convenient for me. And I always have planned tasks in case they don't show up.

    This makes me think of a colleague of mine who skipped an off campus club meeting (all my colleagues seem to be in Rotary, American Legion, Junior League, etc) to meet with a borderline F student. Of course, the student didn't show and my colleague had to make up the meeting he missed. I can't believe that in 40 years of teaching my colleague hasn't learned how flake students are.

  9. CMP - the real consequence of your colleague's action is missed here. Whoever skips the meeting gets volunteered to clean up the coffee urn after the next meeting.

    I like Will's idea. Hypothetically, I prefer HPP's, but in reality it would just cause students to fear signing up and then they'd complain that you were too difficult to get help from. I know that ends in a preposition, but I can't figure out how to re-arrange that.

    I like this idea in general and have been toying with using it as my form for office hours, but was worried about those 15 minute chunks. But Grumpy Academic has a great idea for that. I think I'll try this with my very small upper level class - I'll give them a subsection of my office hours, and leave the rest the standard walk-in type for my intro class. They never come anyway, so that's like 8 15 minute chunks in a row. i.e. I brought a carpet, a throw pillow and a blanket in there for a reason.

    My hubsand comes from a large family. At one point his two still teenage siblings lived with us. I currently live with four boys between the ages of 1 and 13. I knew exactly what Ben was doing. I find myself doing similar things from time to time.

    Or maybe it's fumes from organic lab.

  10. I used to make meeting with me about the research paper mandatory, but so many of them would show up (if they showed up at all) without a draft that I ran the risk of croaking from a rage-induced aneurysm. Two years ago, I made it optional. I have sign-up sheets in class, which I then copy and post outside my office door. I encourage them to call or email if they're not going to make it (simple etiquette most of them understand). I then make plans to use whatever time isn't taken to do what I call "housekeeping"-- catching up with online assignment grading, etc.

    Since I've stopped "forcing" them to come, I get to help the ones who really want it, and I don't worry about the rest of them. Way less stress in my life. I'm with CMP--the only times they can meet with me are convenient to me, and since I cancel two class periods to make room--they are listed as "research/work days" on the syllabus-- they have no excuses that they can't make it because of work, or whatever. I'm pretty happy with it, actually. I get work done, they get work done (theoretically), and they get help if they want it. Win-win.

    Oh, and they sure as hell do not get points for coming to a meeting designed to help them.

  11. @Wombat "...they'd complain that you were a person too difficult from whom to get help" maybe?

  12. Here's how I combat this problem. I make conferences mandatory, but I don't give students points for them. HOWEVER, a component of the assignment is to write a revision memo that explains how they incorporated feedback from the conference into their final draft. (This also works for making students take peer review more seriously.) The memo isn't worth much -- 10% of the overall assignment grade -- but attaching points to it is enough to make my students show for their conferences.

  13. A bonus of this method is that students actually have to DO something with the feedback -- in other words, they are forced to do more than just add a few commas and run the spell check, and I get to read better work. It's awesome.

  14. I sometime make evening meetings at a coffee shop. This way if no one shows, I can sip coffee, read a good book or do grading in a pleasant environment, and if someone shows, I can pause, help and then resume my sipping.

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  16. @Gauss- Oh, I did the same thing, back when I was a grad student/adjunct at a big Uni. Thanks for bringing back happy memories at the [now-defunct] Grasshopper Cafe!

    @Motor City Mitch: That's a GREAT idea. Seriously. I may have to 'appropriate' it...


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