Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Rhonda in Rochester With A Speedy Rant!

I have one freshman class that has struggled a bit all term. They begged me last week for a complete class period where they could "casually" and "without pressure" discuss their semester-long project. They didn't want a lecture or assignment or instructions.

Their stress level was SO high. They thought working in small groups sounded good, and after some convincing, I acquiesced.

There are 38 people currently registered in my class. By an overwhelming show of hands I delayed our normal schedule to fit in this special day. I told them they could do their small groups, share in-progress projects, just talk about what they had left to do, etc.

So that day was yesterday.

38 students registered.

Counting me, how many people do you think were in that room?

a) 39!
b) 30?
c) for the love of God not less than 20!!
d) 4, it couldn't have been 4, could it?

Yes it was.


  1. Hmmmm. I guess they found it more relaxing and de-stressing to stay at home and get stoned.

    Sorry Rhonda. They will find other ways to break your heart next year.

  2. Be careful how you handle this. It is rare that a professor has such a strong reason for beating the crap out of the little shits' grades. Take your time in designing revenge. Don't just tell students that you marked them absent and that you are disappointed. Raise the bar on the expected quality of their assignments, make lectures and instructions unbearably educational and always remind them of how pleasant it could have been.

    Imagine the students are your spouse who just cheated on you. If you had to stay married, how miserable could you make his life? Break your heart, indeed. Break them.

  3. I never let that sort of thing get to me. I help those who show up and relax because I don't have to do that much.

    I always remember a math prof who had a tutorial on the day before exams started. He had the few of us who showed work on very complicated equation and told us that it was worth a 5% bonus on the final. Not one of us told anyone who was not there that day.

    1. I've done similar things in the past when I have included quizzes in my course. On days when attendence was really light I'd tell them to pull out a piece of paper, put their name on it, and turn it in.

    2. On light attendance days, I will sometimes give students "a useful bit of information" (some trivia about my life -- like my dog's name) that will earn them a bonus mark on the final exam.

  4. One year my students persuaded me to show a film in class one day. They voted on which film. They all promised to come. Guess how many did, out of 35. Did you guess 3? Very good!

    I did not base 70% of the exam on that film but it was a struggle.

  5. I've learned not to offer or schedule any "extras" off the routine lecture track, especially after hours. They simply don't show up. Even "review classes" just before a test tend to have lower than normal attendance (they know I don't do "practice tests".) I keep them coming by telling them each lecture will contain new information, often not found in the text.

    On the other hand (following up on Beaker Ben's comment) there is no need for explicit "retribution"; withholding leniency is usually enough. I'd look at the 38 and think, "hmm, what's a good number of passing grades to keep me from getting on some adminiflake's radar screen?" And then, subject to that number, they get "what they have earned".

  6. I had a guest lecturer come in this term. Only half of the students bothered showing up. Of those, more than half didn't bother taking notes. I've yet to write up my final. It'll be more than likely that half of the final will be based directly on my guest speaker's talk.

    Pwned indeed! :)


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