Friday, December 6, 2013

Not the greatest way to end the semester

First, some background: the reading assignment was due the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, but that class was cancelled because of weather. I e-mailed to remind students to do the reading, but they never read past the "class cancelled" part, so their performance on the reading quiz this Tuesday was abysmal. I emphasized that this particular reading assignment will play a large role on the final exam next week, and I told them that they should definitely review the text (or read it for the first time) before Thursday's class.

Thursday's class went something like this:

Me: Only three of you passed the reading quiz on Tuesday, but I'm offering you a break. Today I'm prepared to give you another reading quiz, and I will record the higher of the two quiz scores. For most of you, this will mean the difference between a 0 and something higher than a 0, so taking the quiz can't possibly hurt you. Then after the quiz we'll discuss the reading in some depth.

Annoying Student Who Can't Keep His Hands Out Of His Pants In Class: But I didn't have time to do the reading!

Me: Really? It was due 9 days ago.

ASWCKHHOOHPIC: I've been busy! This is such a waste of time!

Me: So? You don't have to take the quiz. If you're happy with a 0, feel free to leave.

ASWCKHHOOHPIC: Really? I can leave?

Me: Be my guest.

ASWCKHHOOHPIC: But I can come back later to discuss the text, right?

Me: Nope. Once you're gone, you're gone.

ASWCKHHOOHPIC: I don't have time for this.

And then he packs up his things and leaves, followed by four other students. The rest stay and take the quiz and then have a delightful and enlightening discussion of the text.

Here's the kicker: part of the text in question was printed on the quiz, so even students who hadn't done the reading could have come up with a reasonable response. All they had to do was stay in class and take the quiz.

What are the odds that ASWCKHHOOHPIC and his buddies will crucify me on course evaluations?


  1. Schedule a reading quiz prior to the evaluations. Let them walk out of class again. They miss the quiz and the evaluations. You are left with students who just took - if you are smart - the easiest reading quiz in the world. Enjoy your evaluations.

    1. Great plan except that we have an online eval system, so we have no control over when students submit evals. On the bright side, though, these guys may not be able to figure out how to use the system.

    2. I'm guessing someone like this won't even bother. I have sometimes wondered what these kinds of students are writing on my evals, and then I realize they are too lazy to even go online to complete the evals.

  2. I just love snowflake logic! "I didn't do the reading. I won't take the quiz on the reading. But I wanna discuss the reading!!!"

    1. They don't want to discuss the reading. They want to hear you discuss the reading. More specifically, they want to hear the answers to the questions that will be on the exam.

      They think this way.

    2. Indeed. And the "disrupters" who think that education=information delivery aren't helping matters.

  3. They're getting increasingly brazen, aren't they? I hope you have tenure, or at least a faculty evaluation system that isn't overly dependent on student evals.

    1. Thankfully, yes--tenure and seniority and a supportive chair. I spoke to the chair right after class to let him know these guys might be complaining about me, but he's encountered the ringleader previously, so I'm not worried. Angry, yes; worried, no.

    2. Good. Those are conditions under which the little darlings might actually learn something (about life, if not literature).

  4. Also, in the last two days, we've heard here about two students so fidgety/distracted that they're doing either extremely dangerous (sticking paperclips in electrical sockets) or socially unacceptable (playing around down there) things while in class. I realize that sitting still in class (or meetings, or whatever) isn't for everyone, but somebody needs to teach them what to do with that excess energy when their chief pacifiers -- their smartphones -- aren't available. Whatever happened to jiggling your foot, or twirling your pencil/pen? Maybe we need to start issuing worry beads?

  5. ^ I have literally handed out daubs of play dough to give my figeters occupation. It helps.

  6. In the days before enlightened education, back in the '60s, I had an 8th grade math teacher that put it into perspective for us. The assignment for the next day was to learn the 16 points of the compass, to be recited individually in class. When we groaned and complained, he told us, "There are 24 hours between now and the next class. That should be enough time to learn this."

    Since then, I've used that both on my children (now adults) and myself when the excuse "There isn't enough time" comes up.

    1 day = 24 hours
    2 days = 48 hours
    3 days = 72 hours
    7 days = 168 hours
    30 days = 720 hours
    I figure out how many hours I have to do whatever needs to be done. When faced with that many hours, I realize that I can surely find the time I need. It's also a great response for the students who whine they didn't have time, when you remind them that other students had the same number of hours to work with and got the assignment done. It's always better to not wait till the 166th hour for last week's assignment, also

    1. I see your point, Gary, but some or even most of those hours are filled with responsibilities other than one class. Most of my students have other classes and jobs, and some also have kids or do elder care in their families.

      That's why they need to consider a realistic schedule at the beginning of the semester. I take a few minutes in class the first day to show them an interactive pie chart at the Study Guides and Strategies website. (There's also an interactive weekly schedule which is more realistic but has less visual oomph.) As a class, we fill it out onscreen with rough averages of their work hours, class hours, and time for commuting, meals, sleep, and personal hygiene. Rarely are there 2 hours remaining of study time for every hour in class.

      "How much time does this leave for Facebook? Online gaming? Drinking with friends?

      "So what do you need to cut back on? Work hours? Number of classes? If you choose to cut back on study time, you're choosing to earn a lower grade.

      " 'If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.' "

      When they groan and complain about lack of time at the end of the semester, I ask them what they did to rearrange their schedule back in September.


  7. You make a good point. I'm aware that they have other things to fill time with, but I suspect there are a great number of non-productive hours not necessarily used in sleeping. I like the idea of the study guides pie chart, but it's sad you have to show them how it works. Even back in high school I remember former seniors coming back to tell us that in college we needed to budget our time.
    They do need to learn some responsibility, but I think ideally it shouldn't be your job to teach them that. Perhaps colleges should have an enrollment form stating "the student hereby agrees to be completely responsible for completing assignments, homework, required reading, taking notes, test preparation, and getting himself/herself to class on time." Then proffies' syllabi could be two pages, at most. Name of course, Course number, Class days and times, test dates, assignment deadlines, and date and time of the final. Just like it used to be.

    1. Non-productive hours not necessarily used in sleeping? Are you dissing Facebook?

      You're right, of course. It shouldn't be our job to teach them time management. I probably wouldn't if I taught at a college with entrance requirements. But the majority of my students are grasping for the bottom rung of a ladder out of poverty. If they need instruction on how to get a grip on that rung, who am I to say "not my job"?

    2. I'm not saying don't help them, but wasn't there anyone else in their previous 18 years? Then too, they might have been parent-deaf and/or learning resistant. We know they're reality impaired.