Wednesday, November 5, 2014

If It's Wednesday, Hiram Must Be Pissed Off.

Thursday: 40 students in a lit analysis class with a large sourced essay beginning.

Oh, Dr. Hiram, we have so much trouble figuring out topics. What can we do? How can you help us?

Oh, my goodness, your alarm is sincere and appreciated. Let's do this. I'll put up a number of discussion questions on the LMS. We can all login over the weekend and we'll debate some of the answers together. I'll commit to at least an hour or two Saturday and Sunday. If all 40 of us read and answer the questions - I'll put up 5 - we should generate a ton of ideas.

Saturday: Crickets.
Sunday: 1 person, one answer to one of the 5 questions, 24 words, no reply to my followup.

Tuesday morning: Dr. Hiram are you going to help us with topics for our essay?

No, actually. No, I am not.


  1. I actually don't have a specific comment for Hiram. But seriously, what are we going to do about this sort of student? I only have 10 years to teach, but I don't see how I'm going to survive it. I haven't had this specific experience that Hiram describes, but several like it.

    I used to be able to get some fire by threatening their grades, their progress to the next level. But on some of the "new" freshmen and sophomores it doesn't seem to work.

    I don't even know if some of them understand the notion of doing work to satisfy a requirement or guideline. They have a placid demeanor around the rushing trains of my assignments. And I don't get it.

  2. But Doctor Hiiiiiiirrrraaaammmm, we're supposed to meet the students where they aaaaaarrrrreeeeee.

    They're just not in the LMS on a weekend. So we'll have to meet them somewhere else.

    Maybe Facebook? I'm not on FB, but I'm thinking its user experience has to be way better than the discussion board on Blahboard. At some point, I just know I'm going to be coerced into getting a FB account, so that I can meet the customers where they are. Several things keep me away for now:

    1) I don't need yet another court for others to lob balls into. I can't even get through all my emails on a daily basis.

    2) I don't want to conduct classwork through an entertainment system whose privacy policies are subject to corporate whim, because FERPA.

    3) I don't want to be "FB friends" with students, because eeewww.

  3. I often get this questions "I don't GET it" to which I ask "What is it that you don't understand". I require that they are more specific, to tell me what they do understand about a topic and what they do not understand to ensure that they have read the information and the instructions for the assignment. I have found that when I require a specific question they often do not ask for help because they have to go and actually read the material and then it is magically self explanatory!

    1. What they really mean by that statement is: "Will you do my work for me and give me full credit for it?"

      As I mentioned in a different post a few days ago, often my students knew how to solve a problem I gave them. They were either lazy or simply had no idea how to compile all the information and techniques to actually producing a solution.

    2. Conversation last week:

      "Professor Galore, my brain is having trouble getting this Hamster Classification."

      "Okay, which part?"

      "Well like I don't even see the point. Why do we need to know all these, like, data points?"

      "Oh. That's covered in Chapters 6 and 7. Which parts didn't make sense to you[r brain]?"

      "Well I didn't read them."

      Long pause.

      "Also I need to know whether I'm going to pass."

    3. PG:

      You probably heard the saying: "Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he'll eat for a lifetime." That was what I attempted to accomplish when I took a student step by step through a problem, getting him or her to figure out how to solve it.

      More often than not, I'd be interrupted partway through, if I was even allowed to finish, with the twerp blurting out: "Can't you just show me how to solve the problem?" Sure I could, kid. I could show you how to solve *that* problem. I can't, however, show you if a question like that shows up on an exam or, more important, if you have to do something similar after you start working for a living.

      Unfortunately, word of this got round to my masters, who didn't hesitate to remind me that it was a *bad* teaching method. I guess I didn't meet the "needs and expectations" of my "customers".

      No wonder I often became friendly with a bottle of booze when I got home.

    4. The "I just don't GET it" wail is definitely getting more common (though not, thank goodness, ubiquitous, at least not at my school, at least not yet). I, too, answer it with "what part don't you understand?" and tend to get crickets in reply (because, yes, reading the assignment enough to ask a question tends to solve the problem, at least partially). I'm not sure why these pleas (which, at least in my experience, usually come by email, usually in the middle of the night just before or a few hours after the assignment was due) are so hard to deal with, since the reply is pretty easy to write, but somehow they exhaust me.

    5. My five year old son uses the "My brain doesn't want me to eat the chicken" "My brain told me to pee on the floor NEXT to the toilet."

      I thought that was just a five-year old thing.

    6. "Welp, sounds like your body is rejecting your brain. It'll have to come out. Honey, go get the ice cream scooper!"

    7. @ QWV: "Build a man a fire, and he'll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life." - Terry Pratchett

      @ BurntChrome: I use the approach to teach the Little Dears how studying actually makes their brain cells grow new connections. Some of them actually get the message. Others start to use their brains as scapegoats.

      @PC: Love it!

    8. @CC: I think part of it is the deer-in-headlights phenomenon of overwhelming anxiety. It's exhausting to deal with overwhelmingly anxious people.

      I used to feel "I just don't GET it" about sines (because that's spelled wrong), tangents (because tangents are lines that touch a circle at one point so how can they be slopes with no circle nearby?), and secants (because why the hell isn't the cosine the reciprocal of the sine?). I could stare at a trig page for hours and get nothing at all from it. "My brain" did the equivalent of covering its ears and screaming, " LALALALALALALA, I can't hear you, I can't hear you."

      Did someone mention cognitive dissonance today?

  4. "I understand the concepts, I just can't do the assignments!" Then you didn't understand the concepts after all.

  5. Of course we all face what Hiram does. The problem is when people in our own departments fail the students and their colleagues by caving in and pleasing the little shits.

    I can't tell you how many times I've heard my colleagues explain how they get on their knees to help students pass. Ridiculous.

    Hiram, you did the right thing. Stick to your guns. You offered, they failed.

    Let it go!

    1. Agreed. Hiram bent over backwards for the Little Dears twice last weekend. No need for him to bend over forwards now.

  6. I'm running into this this year and a technical skills class, for the first time. An unusually high number of students aren't getting it, and aren't doing the work either, which guarantees that they will continue not to get it.usually the ones that are left by now are doing the work. I am puzzled.

  7. Dear Student -
    If you can't be specific about "What you don't get", I can't help you. For all I know, you "don't get" how to chew bubble gum and walk at the same time.
    Your Instructor
    P.S. - My high schooler uses this line on me when she needs help with her Chemistry and Calculus assignments. Surely, you can be more articulate than a high school sophomore.


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