Acade(me)

The dissertation was only the beginning.

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Quote of the Day
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Teaching Snippets
A few snippets from me before I head to bed (before midnight! On a school night!):

1.) I'm going out on a limb tomorrow and am using a game show in my great Senior Seminar tomorrow, as suggested in the fantastic comments I received on a previous post. Tomorrow's reading assignment was kind of self-explanatory and not really "meaty," and since they're getting ready for a midterm essay assignment I thought I'd prime them with my own version of Jeopardy! I downloaded a PowerPoint Jeopardy! template and made two full sets of answers/questions for them. There are usually about 27 students there, so I think I'll divide them into two big teams and have prizes for the winners of each question and for the winning team. I hope they like it; I'm a little nervous because I'm so used to lecturing that coming in without pages and pages of notes makes me feel a bit insecure. T seemed to think it was a super idea, though, and said it was just the kind of thing he would have enjoyed as a college student. If it goes well, I'll use it in my Intro to Subfield classes, too. I wanted to test it out on a class I already completely connect with before trying it in the harsher environment of Zombie Class.

2.) After complaining about how my students don't and won't read in my Zombie Class and after using a One Minute Paper with them on Monday, I am more convinced than ever that, indeed, they are Zombies. The One Minute Paper asked them to answer some very obvious questions about the readings I'd assigned -- short readings that were completely factual and current, stuff they should get into. Of my 30 students, 28 of them wrote something along the lines of "I was too busy on the weekend to do the reading." How can we have a discussion if they have NO CLUE what I'm talking about? I ended up lecturing AGAIN. I wanted to have them find the answers to my ridiculously easy questions in groups, but of course the 28 students that hadn't read the materials also hadn't downloaded the articles from e-reserve.

UPDATE: after reading Flavia's comments this morning before class, I decided to "get tough" with Zombie Class. I told them that, until I think they're no longer necessary, there will be reading quizzes that count towards their participation grade. I explained that I knew who the 3-4 active participators were, and that the rest of them were already failing in participation. I told them what I expect from them, that I'm not assigning readings for my own health, etc. You know what? After being a little mean in the beginning, it turned out to be the best class session EVER for this group. Hands were raised, students were talking. I was pleased. Very pleased.

3.) I had a student visit my office hours on Monday and honestly, what she said made me feel so relieved and happy I nearly hugged her. She's in my lively Intro to Subfield course, the larger one of the two. She said it's her favorite class by far, she wants me to be her advisor, and that for the first time she's seriously considering graduate school. "Watching you up there made me realize that it's the kind of job I think I'd really like," she said. "You make it so fun." That comment made my entire day, especially since I was feeling so low about the Zombie Class. As it turns out, this student's best friend is in Zombie Class, and apparently the best friend is frustrated with her Zombie Classmates. Good! I know this student -- she's one of the 2 who actually did the reading for Monday.

4.) A great conversation with my "little" brother Rob (23, recent college graduate and also 6'4") reminded me to do something: tell the good students that they're good. He gave a great example that really stuck with me: he said that in one of his senior seminar courses last year he and a group of fellow students stayed after class to figure out a particularly tough assignment. The professor noticed them and said, "I really like to see this. You students are my core. I always know I can count on you for solid work." Rob said that this comment was inspiring to all of the students in his group, and from that moment they became the "core," even if that's not how they originally thought of themselves. He reminded me to compliment the good students, the good classes. That's what I did to my large section of Intro to Subfield on Monday, and they really seemed to respond. The atmosphere, which was already pretty good, was bumped up a notch.

5.) In other teaching-related news, ST loves his new preschool. The first day went incredibly smoothly, I think he might have a slight crush on his new teacher, and he's already made two friends. His comment after Day 1 (Monday): "Mom, I told Miss Sharon about those planes that crashed into the buildings and she KNEW WHAT I WAS TALKING ABOUT!" He's fascinated by terrorist attacks lately -- not afraid, but he wants to know everything about 9/11 and "mean guys" and the people who try to stop them -- and was so pleased that Miss Sharon would actually talk to him about it instead of skirting the issue because he's only 3.5 years old. He's absolutely glued to NPR in the mornings and afternoons while we're in the car and that's all he wants to talk about: news. I'm fairly sure Michele Norris, Melissa Block and Robert Siegel narrate his dreams. (Although Friday he was very interested not in the news, but in the meeting I had on campus that made me 35 minutes late to pick him up. He asked what my meeting was about and I told him. His response? "Oh, grant proposals. Tell me more about that, Mom." Right. I could barely stay awake during the meeting, and now I have to relive the meeting to entertain my preschooler?)
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 10/03/2006 10:50:00 PM  
7 Words of Wisdom:
  • At 8:02 AM, Blogger Flavia said…

    Okay, there's no excuse for 23 students not doing the reading. It's time to stop being nice.

    One thing I do when a class get zombified is just start calling on people, one after another, in order to get answers to my questions. When someone mutters, "uh, I don't know," I stare at him for a moment, say, "well, why don't you start *thinking* about it, and I'll come back to you in 2 minutes," and then I move on to the next person. Show them how impatient you are, and how unacceptable their behavior is. (It's always good to remind them of the participation component of their grade, here, if there is one!)

    And if all else fails, there's the nuclear option: if 90% of the class *really* hasn't done the reading, tell them that you're counting them all as absent, and throw them all out. I've threatened this to one of my classes already, just so they know the option is on the table, and it seemed to freak them out in a productive way. (So far I've never actually *done* it, but people I know have. It probably works best if you have a strict limit on the number of permissible absences, but frankly just the shaming seems to work for many students.)

     
  • At 11:14 AM, Blogger betty said…

    I'm with Flavia. I think the 'Responsiblity' lecture is also in order - that's what I'd be tempted to do. Just flat out tell them that I wasn't going to take it any more, that I had worked hard and they should at least try to do something, that college is about being responsibile for commitments (like classes you signed up for) and so forth. And I'd tell them that participation matters for their grade (it does, right?) and that they're all going to feel it if they don't start contributing right away (or maybe I'd reword this so it doen't sound totally 'threatening' but so they'd get the point). You could even say that you'll be doing One Minute Papers every day from now on and that they will be graded.

    Then I'd end by asking them (like one commenter said in your last post) what they would like to do in class so they can feel like their thoughts/feelings are important to you. Once in a class that wasn't going well, we gave them each a sheet of paper and asked them to list 3 things they liked, 3 things they didn't like and 3 suggestions for the class. We discovered a bunch of easy things we could do to make them happier! That was awesome.

    Good luck with the Jeopardy game - I've done that with high school students and it was very successful!

     
  • At 11:15 AM, Blogger betty said…

    Oh and p.s. - ST sounds so awesome. I seriously wish I knew him! So cute!

     
  • At 11:16 AM, Blogger betty said…

    Uh, I didn't see that update. Glad that getting tough worked. Just ignore that first comment.

    I need more coffee....

     
  • At 12:41 PM, Blogger ScienceWoman said…

    Glad that the teaching is going better. And I definitely laughed out loud at the last line of your post. ST makes my day.

     
  • At 1:15 PM, Blogger Flavia said…

    Oh, good! I think that kicking some asses now and then is a really important part of being a teacher--and I completely believe in the reading quiz. I give them in all my lower (200)-level classes, and I wouldn't be averse to instituting them if necessary in other classes. If they're acting like high schoolers, they deserve to be treated like high schoolers.

    I'm glad to hear that there was some instant improvement and I hope that it stays that way...

     
  • At 2:15 PM, Blogger grumpyABDadjunct said…

    Way to give it to the Zombies!

    ST sounds like a total treat, I'm sure Miss Sharon is glad to have someone to talk to about something other than My Little Pony and What My Parents Argued About Last Night.

     
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