Final exams are next week. I am now getting the usual wave of students coming in during (and not during) office hours for the first time all semester. These students have done little reading or homework all semester, and have done poorly on the mid-term exams, and now want to know what to do.
The deadline for dropping classes passed long ago. So, they want to know what they have to do to pass the class.
They seem to expect you to produce a jar of magic beans, and tell them that if you eat one, a miracle will happen. Or maybe they expect me to do the Vulcan mind meld, not noticing that I don't have pointed ears. It's much like when Tina, the technical writer in Dilbert, asked Alice, "Show me how to be an engineer. I don't care if it takes all day."
It does not work to get mad at them, the way Reverend Spooner did when he told a student, "You have hissed every one of my mystery lectures, and have tasted the whole worm." They're not soliciting opportunities for sexual services, either. (Those usually involve a salacious grin while saying, "Isn't there ANYTHING I can do?") Frankly, I can't help feeling a little sorry for them, despite how they got into their sorry situation is entirely their own fault.
This semester, I had an epiphany. I told one student, just before Mid-Term 2, "Take this pencil, and this eraser, and this pad of paper, and do so much writing, the pencil turns into a little stub. If you come to the end of the paper or eraser first, use new ones, but make this long pencil so short, it's no longer usable."
It worked: this student got a B on Mid-Term 2. This pulled the student's overall grade up to a C.
For final exams, I've been giving out two pencils. Mind you, this is for my third-semester, calculus-based physics class for scientists and engineers (on optics, special relativity, and introductory quantum physics). The subject is done with a pencil and paper, since it's very heavy on analytical mathematics (as opposed to numerical mathematics, for which one uses a computer). Nevertheless, this may work for other courses, such as English comp: I learned that in 1976, largely by putting pencil to paper. I think I'm onto something here.
- Froderick Frankenstien from Fresno