## Saturday, March 2, 2013

### Step 3: And then a miracle occurs.

Happens every time. Intro to History of Material Culture of Small Mammals I.

Exam #1. 50 minutes, some short answer questions but mostly half-page to full-page 'essays' (a generous term). Two sections, so 80 or 90 exams to wade through.

Exam is given on Monday.

Wednesday, at the next class meeting, *at least* five students will ask "Have you put grades up on Blackboard yet?" I hate you guys. I can't even imagine what you think I do when I'm not in class. I haven't even managed to wash my hair since the exam.

"When will our exams be graded by?"
"May, I think?"

I have GOT to figure out how to give Scantron essay exams. "From the following options, pick the least stupid thesis statement for this topic. . ."

Also, a hypothesis: There is a close correlation between the students who are most itching to get written assignments back immediately and students who have cheated somehow.

One of my colleagues leads the itchy students through a little math exercise:

"How many students took the exam?"
(number goes on board)
(range of numbers goes on board)

"If 40 students took a minimum of 40 minutes to write their answers, how many minutes of essays are there for me to read? How many hours?"

(1600 minutes or 26.6 hours)

Most students turn very quiet then, but the inevitable smart-ass notes that it takes less time to read than to write.

"Okay, suppose I spend half the time on your exam that you took to write it. How many hours is that?"

(13.3 hours)

"When I finish doing that 13 hours of grading, I'll let you know."

(Captain Subtext continues:
"Where should I find those 13 hours? Do I have fewer classes to teach the week I give an exam? Do my kids need fewer meals? Does my commute get shorter?")

1. That reminds me of the last boss I had at the oil company I worked for just after I got my B. Sc. I had a conversation about how much time it took for me to do something. His response was along the lines of: "There are 24 hours in a day. Why haven't you got it done yet?" Since he said it in a somewhat jovial manner, I thought he was joking. He wasn't.

Many years later, while I was teaching, I vented to my department head about the workload I had that term which, frankly, was excessive. His answer? "That's what you get paid the big bucks for." Yup, that sure helped me with all the course preparation I had to do not to mention all the lectures I had to give and lab sessions I had to run.

2. How many more miles?

3. And then there's the endless amount of time suck from you arguing about ONE FUCKING POINT on an exam item.

Or the time they suck from you whining because "I did EXACTLY what George did and you gave HIM 32.22 points but you only gave ME 32.19 points."

OR the time they suck from you being utterly clueless about where they went wrong: "But...but...I REALLY UNDERSTOOD it!"

Fucking remoras.

(Obligatory Princess Bride quote: "As you know, the concept of the suction pump is centuries old. Really that's all this is except that instead of sucking water, I'm sucking life. I've just sucked one year of your life away. I might one day go as high as five, but I really don't know what that would do to you. So, let's just start with what we have. What did this do to you? Tell me. And remember, this is for posterity so be honest. How do you feel?")

1. Try this:

Students may fill in a form to request rechecking.

The two allowed reasons on the form are

a) the total marks recorded are incorrect and should be ___ ;

b) Questions ________ are COMPLETELY correct and have been marked wrong.

Do not discuss with the students. Forms can be dropped in a box. Check all the forms after a couple of weeks just once.

Announce in class that the forms have been checked and any changes recorded.

This approach reduced my misery considerably and it does once in a while catch an error on my part.

2. Re: Obligatory Princess Bride quote. Brilliant. I never thought about that in terms of my life before. I may just frame it.

3. "I did EXACTLY what George did and you gave HIM 32.22 points but you only gave ME 32.19 points." It's like you've tapped into the Great Student Brain!

I don't ever spend class time on finished exams. If they want to see them, they have to stop by my office. No one has complained (I think this is pretty common practice here), and it has cut way back on this kind of petty comparison. And some of them actually do it!

4. I tell them: I can grade every problem "credit/no credit" and get your exams back to you very quickly!

They say "oh no, that's ok". I smile and remind them: I take my time so you can get all of the credit that you deserve.

5. Ooh, Harriet, I like that!

6. It's my fifth year as an untenured drudge, and I can only hope it gets easier! The other day I started getting a migraine in the middle of class and kinda lashed out at the students — it was kinda funny how well they started to behave. But then it made me sad that that's what it took to make them behave.

Anyway, it's blogs like this that help me through it - so thank you. I've also come across a blog that's about horror stories of conference interviews — very funny. www.conferenceconfidential.org
I can't say I ever had a bad interview, but reading other peoples helps lighten the mood.

7. I get this (or I used to) from my comp students. Now I require that they upload to theLMS in the correct file format, and I grade in the order they are turned in. The keeners get their feedback first (sometimes in less than a week) and they get full markup on their drafts. The ones who turn in the wrong (readable but unmarkable) file format get graded last, and they only get the rubric remarks, though with a note that says I'd be happy to meet with them during office hours to,discuss the grade.