Saturday, March 19, 2016

Weekend Thirsty. From Bella.

I was thinking the other day about when I was a young lass about campus, teaching my very first classes.  I did some dumbass things I would never do today. One that had me particularly shaking my head:

Harold-----High Harold, came to class high nearly every time.  It took me a while to figure this out, as I did not know what to look for.  Harold would argue about his grades, and tell me about his terrible life circumstances.  I felt bad for him, I really did. I tried to help---finding him programs, services, grant opportunities. He never followed through on any of my bright ideas. I felt annoyed with his disruptive behavior and lack of effort.  One day, Harold was particularly angry and uncooperative.  He decided to leave class, picked up his things in a huff and headed out the door.  I was so upset with him, I went out into the hallway and literally shouted after him "Harold, you have NO CHANCE of passing this class if you continue to act this way!!!"

Harold was on the scary looking side.  My heart stopped as he spun on his heels and marched right up to me, putting his face right in mine.   "What did you just say?" Harold asked.  Friends, Harold scarred the shit out of me right then, and he knew it.  "Oh, um, I said...I said .....that you....need to do the work if you want to get a good grade...."  Harold gave a nod that was more in response to my fear than my reply----and spun back on his heels and left.

Lesson learned that day ---NEVER yell after an angry student to come back. NEVER, in fact, yell at a student at all. But especially if they decide to leave. They might have a good reason for doing so (which might include that they know they are about to lose it) and I should just let them walk on out the door without comment.

We've been talking at Inner City Community College about preparation for teaching.  College professors begin their profession trained as experts in their fields---yet often with no teaching experience at all.  We have to learn, most of us at least, "the hard way" ----by doing. 
My question for you wise folks here at CM:

Q: What lessons have you learned "the hard way"---and what are some of the things you did then that you'd never do now?

74 comments:

  1. One of the lessons I have learned is never grade the student's work in front of that student. It doesn't end well.

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    1. As a graduate TAs, my friends and I worked in the Hamster Quiz Room. Students were required to take about a dozen quizzes each semester, at times of their choosing, and had to pass each quiz with a high grade in under 3 attempts. My fellow graders and I worked at desks, marking the quizzes as the students sat beside us.

      Never has there been such an anti-pedagogical environment as this.

      Students whined and complained for their grades. They sometimes cried. Because Hamster grad students were mainly men, the women dressed up and wore perfume in an attempt to sway our opinions.

      Even the very best students, the conscientious ones, were unable to learn in this environment. They tried, but there was no way not to feel personally judged when we told them they got something wrong.

      But! This was the moment they genuinely cared about the material. Since then I do something I've not seen many others do: whenever I have an exam, I put the answer key at the front of the room for students to look at after they turn in their exams. Good students rush to the key to see what they got right, or how the hell they were supposed to do problem #5. I like to think they learn in those two minutes. Maybe they don't. But they CARE right then, and that's good.

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    3. This is a great idea! I am trying to think of how I can make something like this happen in my classes.

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  2. One lesson I learned is to not rant at your class because a bunch of students are skipping every class and then complaining to you about their low test grades, and you wish to give them a finger-wagging lecture about their conduct - the students you're lecturing at are the wrong audience, they haven't done anything wrong.

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  3. Don't assume a PhD, and some TA experience before, is equivalent to the expertise found in my peers wth BEds, MEds, and Ed Docs. Listening to them often helps

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  4. Group work. The most diligent group member does 90% of the work to preserve the peace (and their GPA) When it's time for them to assign peer grades, they all horse-trade to make sure that no one gets marked as a slacker. The real eye-opener for me was a recent study of 22 online college student groups, which found that 21 of them had at least one member who checked out and did nothing. (The groups communicated only via the online platform, so it was straightforward to see when someone wasn't participating.)

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    1. I'm interested to know if you have any veteran tips for making group work less disastrous, Frankie. I always hated it myself as a student, and I hate it now, as a professor, for exactly the reasons you state. But the powers that be at my college LOVE group work.

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    2. I've got the same concerns, but it is hard to take out of the lab curriculum (the "skills building" part of the course) from the perspective of "if you got an entry level job in this discipline, you'd be a junior member of a team, rather than an completely independent worker doing your own thing. So, here's a lab that will mimic a 'real world' task."

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    3. I know how to fix group work. Really, I do.

      Have a grade auction for group partners. Every group project, half of the class is up for auction. The remainder bid points off of their individual portion of the group's grade (so if the group gets a 100 and the individual bid 3 points, THEY would get a 97 while the other person in the group whom they bid for got a 100).

      People who rely on better, more intelligent people to do the work for them will be penalized. And it's a penalty of their choosing so all subjectivity is their own, not the professor's.

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    4. Bella, my veteran tip is: all groupwork is ungraded and in class, where I can see what's going on. That way there's discussion and collaboration, but the fairness issues are minimized. I've tried every possible variation on having them evaluate one another, having them split up the points, allowing them to "fire" bad group members, etc. But the ones who shoulder most of the work will choose to keep the peace rather than insist on getting the points they deserve or punishing the slackers.

      A former colleague told me that he used group assignments in his required course as a "gift" to those students who didn't have a prayer of doing the work on their own. So one person's bug is another person's feature, I suppose.

      I would like to learn more about Conan's system; I don't quite understand how one might implement it on a syllabus.

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    5. So the way that you assign grades on completed grade work is thus: You take the grade that the "group" received and give it to each student. But you subtract the amount that the "bidder" bid from their grade and added onto the grade of the student they bid on.

      At the beginning of the class everyone in class will be given a 1 or a 2 and they'll alternate being in the auction or bidding on the people in the auction.

      Good students that are bidding won't feel the need to bid so much (after all, why bring down their grade when they are capable of doing the work themselves?) while students that rely on such students to work STILL have the option of working with them, but they have to subsidize their grade for the privilege.

      It ensures that students who use smarter students as a crutch are penalized while students that wind up doing all the work are rewarded.

      Couple prefaces:

      1: I'm a student; not a professor.

      2: People will hate you because you're using a clever, innovative system. And, like animals, they fear it.

      3: People WILL compare it to slave auctions. I imagine.

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    6. The big seller is that the professor doesn't have to penalize the student for using members as a crutch. The students do it themselves so they can't complain that it's unfair.

      And if they don't penalize themselves, they wind up hitched with other crappy students and get a horrible grade. Again, making it so that the prof doesn't have to detract a subjective amount of points and potentially give the student an opportunity to complain.

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    7. So it's like picking teams? Sounds like a fascinating game theory case albeit a *bit* cruel to implement in real life, no?

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  5. I had to learn that the students are NOT "junior versions of me". On the average they have different aspirations and, for the most part, far less talent for the subject.

    Also, this isn't graduate school; "tough love" should only be practiced sparingly and with the right student.

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    1. Yes! They are not junior versions of us! I naively thought there would be lots of mini mes in the mix!

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  6. Prof SnugglebunnyMarch 19, 2016 at 4:21 PM

    I have learned the hard way that around the eighth or ninth week of the semester, I am going to just snap if I don't get control of myself, and the results won't be pretty. The combination of sleep deprivation, stress, administrative bullshittery that reaches its peak shortly after mid-term, and sheer piss off-edness at the quality of grades and the lack of effort by many of my students becomes particularly toxic for me by that point. All of those elements bubble up throughout the term, of course, but by that point, lack of sleep turns me into Monster-zilla Bunny, as opposed to Snugglebunny.

    In my early years as a teacher, I was incapable of any self-awareness that I was at the breaking point and thus made repeated lapses in judgment when dealing with students (and colleagues, on occasion). Among many illustrations of this: I once spent twenty minutes in front of the whole class chewing out a group of students for ignoring the rules in a simulation and thereby for "cheating" (which is not a term to be used lightly in any event, and definitely not outside a private meeting in which it is calmly discussed). I once said something sarcastic to a student that misfired so badly that I thought the student was going to cry; I'm sure he lost all respect for me because of that (that was more than twenty years ago - I still feel horrible about it). I once told a class that if they really, really wanted their papers graded and returned to them with comments a lot faster, they should write better papers. Ouch.

    All of this is the kind of stuff that generally now just stays in my head; I would never say it even if I thought it. I still get really exhausted and stressed out at the same point in the semester, but now, if I feel like something rude is about to come out of my mouth, I literally stop and take a deep breath. It helps. And I can always go back to my office and drink bourbon from the bottle in my bottom desk drawer later in the day, if I need to.

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    1. "I once told a class that if they really, really wanted their papers graded and returned to them with comments a lot faster, they should write better papers."

      You told them the truth, though. "A" papers and "F" papers are a breeze to grade. It's trying to write comments that will help the student write a B paper next time instead of a C-minus one-- that's what sucks up all your time.

      I guess you could've said, "If you want your papers back faster, they have to be either a lot better or a lot worse."

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    2. Prof SnugglebunnyMarch 19, 2016 at 5:43 PM

      You are absolutely right about that. These days, I say something along the lines of: "I'm sure that you look forward to getting your papers back with helpful comments. In order to do my best job of providing you with feedback, I want to take the time to write those comments carefully and thoughtfully." They can't really argue with that. And it has the virtue of being true.

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    3. I, too, have found that knowing where the low points in the semester fall for both me and the students is helpful. That way I can watch what I say when I'm feeling low (and remember that it does get better), and not feel too discouraged when 3/4 of the class is missing or catatonic at entirely predictable times of the semester (e.g. when they have midterms in other classes).

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    4. What Frankie said.

      No work is the easiest thing to grade, and perfect work is second. Utterly incorrect BS is third.

      But work that shows partial comprehension and a mixture of correct and incorrect process and reasoning is a bear to correct.

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  7. If you have a final exam at the start of exam week and you grade it quickly, do NOT submit the grades shortly thereafter. Wait until very late in finals week or just after the last day. I goofed on that early in my career and got a swarm of students who "just wanted to go over the final". Yeah, and pick at every single deduction I took.

    I'll get the occasional inquiry to go over the exam after I submit grades now, but I just tell them to come by at the start of the semester (second semester seniors really don't care at that point). I almost never get a taker.

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    1. I know people who wait until the last minute to post all their grades for this very reason!

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    2. Also, set a time limit in which previously graded labs/assignments/tests can be submitted for re-grading. Otherwise, even after the course grade deadline, students who calculate their grade and realize they're on the verge of the next grade will come a'calling and a'grubbing.

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  8. The most costly mistake I ever made was taking on a graduate research assistant when there were (in retrospect) vivid red flags suggesting that s/he wouldn't be able to do the work. The reasons for his/her previous project's stall were plausible. An unavailable advisor, a poor dataset, etc. But it turned out that this person had neither talent nor work ethic. I learned, for a $40k price tag, that 90% of the time when something goes wrong between a student and advisor, it's because the student didn't do the work.

    People even warned me that his/her previous equipment use proposals were atrocious, but I thought I could turn things around for him/her. Don't be the white knight. Make the student TA for a semester, or even a year, before you spend your RA money.

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  9. Jesus... I'm sorry you had to deal with a student that clearly got some sort of satisfaction out of scaring you. What a sociopath.

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    1. Thanks, Conan. But actually, I was in the wrong there, lo so many moons ago. I was more than annoyed at Harold---I was mad at him for not letting me save him. For not picking up what I was putting down. So, I yelled at him in the hallway for leaving. Now, I try not to feel that way. I try to just offer help, and understand that people are in their own place and can only do so much and that I don't know everything about what might make things better (hard for me, an admitted egomaniac, to remember that I don't know everything!!!.

      Actually, I do think Harold was amused at how quickly I showed fear----but I don't think that was his intent (to scare me). I was pissing him off, is all. And give the kid some credit, he left, which is all he was trying to do in the first place.

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    2. Fair enough. But if I frightened my professor, or anyone for that matter, I'd be embarrassed. Which... I think is the correct emotion.

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    3. I never had one of the old school professors who said, "Look to your left, look to your right, because one of you won't be here by the end of the year." However, I wish there were more of them now. Many times as an undergraduate, graduate, and, more recently, community college student, I wished more professors would jettison the snowflakes and Harolds out of the ionosphere. I didn't know what to expect when I went to college, but I just knew from popular culture and conversations that colleges did not tolerate fools gladly and you were thrown out the door quickly if the professor so desired. I know I've done some snowflakey things, but it never rose to levels of yelling or demanding things of my professors. The tutors and office hours were there and I knew it. It was my choice to go or not and, regrettably, I often did the latter.

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  10. I do not like the new design of the page. There are too many gaps between white space, the background image is too heavy and dark, and the font has been changed to something that is quite unreadable.

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    1. Yes, the font is quite unreadable, isn't it.

      I'm glad you used a different one so that I could read what you had to say.

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    2. Hahaha EC1.

      All in favor of Sans-Serif to piss this guy off even more?

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    3. Comic-sans if it'll annoy him.

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    4. Oh my God. Comic-sans is the type of Lovecraftian monsters.

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    5. The graphics are poorly rendered.

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    6. My only goal is to carry on in the manner.

      Compound Crystal

      PS: Thanks to Cal for turning me on to befunky.com and sending me an "education" version of Photoshop...why does it have a "do not duplicate" sticker?

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  11. Bella, I laughed out loud at the part when the student got in your face. Thanks for that.

    I learned the hard way that I could not be sober during all of my committee meetings or else I'd go nuts. By "the hard way," I mean that I was miserable. Well, fuck misery. If misery can be avoided, then it should be.

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  12. I agree that the page is too dark and unreadable.

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  13. ˙uʍop-ǝpısdn sı buıɥʇʎɹǝʌǝ puɐ buıןןɐɟ sı ʎʞs ǝɥʇ puɐ ʎzznɟ ooʇ ǝɹɐ sǝbɐɯı ǝɥʇ ʇnq 'ǝןqɐpɐǝɹun puɐ ʞɹɐp ooʇ ǝbɐd ǝɥʇ sı ʎןuo ʇou

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    1. There should be more posts as well instead of parlour tricks.

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    2. Anonymous, you silly ass. This blog is supplied by US, the readers. Wanna see more posts??? POST! And don't hound people like Conan away!! That is all.

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    3. Yeah there's one anonymous who ruins everything. Why doesn't the moderator delete the dumb comments and put more content up?

      And readability is no joke. Its an access situation as well for vision impaired readers. I guess you don't care about them either. Disgraceful. Exclusive club I guess. Bunch of primadonnas.

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    4. Oh my God, you guys! This whole time WE were the assholes! I'm so sorry!

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    5. You said it.

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  14. 1) I learned the hard way that when a student says "a lot of us students feel that blah blah blah..." what they really mean is "I feel that blah blah blah..." It seems that the type who says such things is also the type who assumes a generality of their personal situation well in excess of the evidence.

    2) I learned the hard way that when you give a re-do to a student for what seems like good reasons, other students will find out and forever thereafter ask for re-dos for stupid shit reasons.

    3) I learned the hard way that students are often unaware that there are such things as rules till they run afoul of them. Then they become Clarence Fucking Darrow and F. Fucking Lee Bailey* wannabees, trying to find and exploit every perceived (by them) loophole they can.

    * as I write this, I wish there were quickly to mind some famous female defense attorneys; on the other hand, almost all of our "rules lawyers" have been guys.

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    1. Hey, Ogre, I hear you on #1. I once had a student do this, claiming I was "censoring" the students' writing by pointing out flawed logic, poor focus, etc. She claimed ALL the students felt this way. I decided to bring this observation to the class--not identifying the student in question, of course--because I thought it highlighted what my job is. Wow. The class thought the "censoring" idea was stupid, that my job was to guide them and give feedback, and so on. The class made it abundantly clear that it did not share this one student's opinion. A little tense there for a few moments, but the complainer didn't bother me for the rest of the semester. Grin.

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    2. Ogre, I loved all 3 points. On the first, some students seem to think class is a democracy and try to tell us that many feel... I had a grad student pull that last fall. A couple of students came up after class and wondered why I didn't smack the guy upside the head.

      On (2), holy shit, no good goes unpunished. You do a favor for one kid, swear him/her to secrecy and within minutes, the sob stories from others come out of the woodwork. I learned a while back to view the syllabus as a contract.

      And (3), almost all the shithouse lawyers in the class are guys. If they spent half the time studying the materials that they spend looking for loopholes, they wouldn't have to look for loopholes.

      Gog - well done!!

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    3. Pennsylvania PennyMarch 21, 2016 at 6:38 AM

      It isn't just students who pull this crap. Years ago, I worked as a secretary in an academic department in a large state university. One of the profs loved to come into the department office and try to bully us into ignoring department policies for her benefit. Her constant refrain was, "In *no other department* do they [restrict photocopying for budget reasons/lock up the department lounge after hours/ask profs to bring in their final exams 48 hours ahead of time if they wanted us to type them]." Finally our head secretary, who had been there forever and knew everyone, started calling around, and found that all the other dozen or so departments in our building had similar policies. Even that didn't stop her; we finally had to ask the department chair to intervene before she would leave us alone.

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  15. Group work. There's always a slacker. I used to be silent, but the final two semesters I brought it up to the instructor. My other regret was, I was rude to a slacker in an online class and my comment was just nasty. I should have handled it better.
    Tutoring. I refuse to care one little bit if a student doesn't do the required coarse reading. I used to think I was a bad tutor. I got really stressed when a student complained to the school I wasn't there for hir enough. So I sent the school records of my emails and cell phone callls to hir. Student dropped out and school asked me to tutor for more classes. Now I determine quickly if a student is doing the reading and, if not, put it in the school notes. Have a nice day. The school asks me to tutor in classes I took, so, I already know exactly what the reading is like and what the instructor expects.
    "We students feel..." I hate those shites. I used to be silent, but the last two semesters I said openly, you don't speak for me. It brought some courage to the other students, made the instructor feel a little better, and the complainer kept hir mouth shut from then on.

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  16. Jerry the nutsackMarch 20, 2016 at 3:02 PM

    I don't get what's so hard. Aren't there tens of thousands of professors and you have one article in three days. Why even bother if you can't do better than that. Stupid. And its spring break. What else do you have to do this place is a fucking joke. Just watch how you will censor me now.

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    1. Professors tend to break during spring break, in one of at least two ways: (1)actually take a break (from everything, including the internet) or (2)go stark raving mad trying to grade all the midterms students took just before break, and expect grades on just after.

      Guess which is more common.

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    2. I was about to invite Jerry to contribute a post of his own, but then I re-read his error-riddled comment and decided to be more careful what I ask for.

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  17. Interested readers might find parallels between comments from anonymous and his pals* and "the perfect Daily Mail** comment"

    http://www.newsbiscuit.com/2016/03/19/scientists-develop-formula-for-the-perfect-daily-mail-reader-comment/ here.

    * who am I kidding? It's probably all the same guy.
    ** really horrible UK newspaper, famed for the rabidity of its online comments section.

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  18. Within one semester of starting teaching, I learned: Do not accept late work. All work is to be turned in during the first five minutes of class, and will not be accepted after this, and I set an alarm at six minutes past the hour to make sure everyone knows this.

    In the case of a good excuse, such as an absence excused by a physician's note or a job interview and not much else, I mark late work "excused," as if the student had been sick, so it doesn't count for or against the student. Otherwise, I just plain do not accept late work, period.

    Something I subsequently learned was: Do not argue about accepting late work. By this I mean: do not tell a student who is trying to turn in late work that the work is late, so I won't accept it. Much better is to take the late work without saying anything, and at the first opportunity the student is out of range, write "LATE" at the top of the first page. Then, do not grade or count it, record the grade as a zero with a note that it was late, and then return the paper to the student in the folder I pass around among all my students, typically 100+ per class.

    Only once did I get a student foolish enough to insist that I acknowledge right then and there that I was accepting, as opposing to merely taking, their late work, and that was in my office. Never have I had a student try to fight this during or even after a class.

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    1. In general, deflecting trouble of most kinds often works a WHOLE lot better than slamming into it head-on. If you think that's just common sense, sorry, but I was a physics major, and I now teach physics to physics majors, and hapless victims mainly from the engineering school.

      I also learned never to give extra credit, of any kind, for any reason. When I was youngish and more idealistic, I used to use extra credit to bribe students to come to special events such as colloquium speakers. One criticism of this is that its unfair to students who have to work at that time, particularly during events that can't be recorded and subsequently re-run just for them. There was also the time an interesting talk was marred by a couple of airheads who were yakking loudly through the whole thing. The last straw was when this really famous researcher, who may soon get a Nobel prize for exactly the work he was talking about, gave a talk. As usual, the talk went five minutes overtime. Nevertheless, at the nominal end time on the dot, 6 or 7 students lined up next to me, LOUDLY demanding I pass around the sign-up sheet at that VERY MINUTE. They were so loud I couldn't hear the end of the talk, so I said phooey on that, ever after. There are other reasons that extra credit is bogus, the most fundamental of which is that education is a self-directed activity: you get out of it only what you put into it.

      As far as the argument that "grading is censorship" goes, thoughtful students may wonder whether my insistence on logic, facts, evidence, composition, and style "inhibits creativity." The answer is no: no more so than the format of the minuet inhibited Mozart, or the form of the sonnet stifled Shakespeare. The truth is, when given well-defined sets of rules, creativity does well. Few things help creativity better than a firm deadline. It helps to give this argument pre-emptively, and list it in my syllabus---now 22 pages and counting, yeah!

      I always have students do research as independent study projects for academic credit, while supporting themselves as TAs, for at least one semester before paying them with research funding. I'm ashamed to admit how long it took me to catch on to that one, but I did.

      But then, the longer I teach, the more I learn about how people misconstrue things. I find that the best way to combat this is just not to give students the opportunity to misunderstand things in the first place, but careful design and use of arguments and examples. Hindsight can be an excellent guide to seeing around corners that one does tend to revisit.

      Go easy or sarcasm with students. They rarely get it, so it doesn't do much good anyway. In the rare cases they do, it's tantamount to a challenge to a duel. If you ever have a student demand, "ARE YOU CALLING ME A LIAR?" the correct response is to again to deflect the trouble, by remaining calm and saying, "Well, anyone can make a mistake."

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    2. Ooo I like the alarm idea. Everybody should do that. It's impersonal. YOU'RE not saying the paper's late. The alarm has said it's late. It's very public, it's standard. That's a fucking sick idea.

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    3. Frod, a longgg time ago during, like, the 1990s, when there was a hell of a lot less content on the internet, I recall there was a website (I suppose these days we'd call it a 'blog') from a guy writing about his adventures running a video store. It was filled with stories about him catching a kid shoplifting, and the parents coming in when he'd called them, and them yelling at him "ARE YOU CALLING MY CHILD A THIEF??" or "ARE YOU CALLING MY CHILD A LIAR??" and his calm response would be "Why, yes, yes I am. Were you not listening to what I just told you?"

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    4. The Acts of GORD! I love that: http://www.actsofgord.com/ I learned many things about customer service from Gord.

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  19. This should be required reading for new faculty.

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  20. My lesson learned: There are different types of faculty work that is "valued." Some work is valued so you get a reward (e.g., a raise, promotion, etc.). Some work is valued simply because nobody else wants to do it, so they are thrilled when you step up and do a good job. There's no reward because it's not the right type of valued work. Had I known the difference, I could have saved myself three years.

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  21. Don't write comments on all final papers (save the effort for the few -- very few, in fact most semesters "few"="zero" students who actually want feedback, and are willing to schedule a conference to get it). Save your commenting effort for drafts (and even then make sure students have some skin in the game -- e.g. a brief note saying that they think is going well and what needs work; that way, I don't comment on editing/proofreading stuff when they know it's a mess at that level).

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  22. I discovered I have one more.

    I learned the hard way that this job will suck up any personal resource you devote to it. Particularly, it will take all the time you give it, but that may not even be the worst thing.

    It will also sap the part of you that seeks companionship and the invigorating unpredictability that relationships can bring. After a day of having no control over the rate of interpersonal interactions (got to keep the customer satisfied!) and having to be "on" all the time, you are only too content to retreat into your shell when you leave campus in the evening. And the people you love and who love you, who deserve the best from you, are left with the dregs of you. They bear this situation because they are more supportive and understanding than the people you work with (i.e. most students and many to most colleagues), but it sucks for them. And it's ultimately not the best thing for you.

    It's taken me well over a decade to recover some of the mindset I'd been able to enjoy when I did a brief stint in industry. Granted, I was not then a manager responsible for many individuals, nor was I angling for such responsibility, but I do recall that every evening, I turned my mental faculties completely away from my job and towards the friends I was spending time with and the activities we were doing. Recently, I've been doing that for at least a few hours a week, and at least a day or so every month, with my wife.

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  23. I agree that first year proffies should read this, but I also learned some new things

    I do wish I had written that Harold scared me, rather than scarred. While I obviously didn't forget him, that was a bit melodramatic, even for me. Sigh.

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  25. 1) When the Dean asks you during the evaluation if there is anything you've noticed in yourself that you may need to improve on, IT'S 5TH AMENDMENT TIME! Adding to their list of bullshit observations will not make you look better for being 'honest'. A simple answer of "Not at this time" is a great splash of cold water in their face.

    2) When I was an undergrad, I taught remedial algebra. The final exam was a standardized machine-graded test. They were allowed 90 minutes out of the 2 hours to complete the test. Students were instructed to hang out after their test was turned in while the instructor (me) ran downstairs to the scantron machine and printed out scores (this was department procedure for this class). One thing I learned right away: HAVE YOUR STUFF PACKED AND READY TO LEAVE AS SOON AS ALL SCORES ARE HANDED OUT, AND THEN LEAVE. Do not look back. Do not go back to your office. Very often was it the case that students would be in tears after receiving their scores and would demand for "something else they could do." I never had a student chase me down the hall though. But I still avoided my office as they always liked to wait 20 minutes before showing up there all pissed off.

    3) Learn their names. I'm not kidding. There will always be troublemakers but their antics are turned up exponentially if they find out you don't know their name. I struggled with names my first year but then I learned a few tricks. You can use word association if there is a peculiarity with their face (for instance, I had a student with the last name of Padmoore and saw that she wore shoulder pads). My roster became my friend in this goal. I found that if I couldn't recall somebody's name, I could go down the roster and as I read their names their faces would appear in my mind (the brain is weird isn't it?).

    4) Sometimes your Dean is stupid. Sometime your college President is stupid. You can't fix stupid.

    5) The private sector is a better place and pays about the same. You can actually tell students to fuck-off and get away with it.

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  26. Make your final project due more than 24 hours before your grades are due to the Registrar. If you don't want to grade it, change it. You can only do so much for them. Being kind is fine, being a pushover is not. The syllabus is a contract. Put EVERYTHING in that sucker.

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