Showing posts from April, 2012

Tap, tap, tap...

One of my earliest memories is standing in the driveway outside my childhood home pondering the oddity of time: how it just moved in the one direction and how arbitrarily we measure it.  Of course I didn't put it in  those terms back then.  I was simply tapping a stick on the concrete and thinking how each moment between taps had happened and now was gone.  Days were a special concern to my five-year old mind.  I wondered what it was like for a day to wait billions of years to come into being, and then be one that wasn't particularly memorable.  How disappointing. 

I'm still struck by the arbitrary ways we mark time.  I read recently about an ancient South American Indian society that had three separate calenders, including one based upon the position of the planet Venus.  That sounds odd until you recall that our own society has multiple markers of time.  We have one cycle that repeats every seven days, another tied to a solar orbit that repeats every 365 days and is qua…

Hieronymo's mad againe

The one thing you must never do in a classroom is lose your cool.  Whatever annoying student behavior is creating a loss of confidence in your career choice, you simply cannot freak on them.  Yesterday I came close, though.   In my Humanities section we were discussing the impact of Freud on the arts in the early 20th Century.  I thought I had a pretty good plan, too.  I laid out Freud's ideas on the unconscious, we were going to watch a short video on Freud's work, and then apply his ideas to James Joyce's Evilene and Eliot's Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock
Ten seconds after I began the video, one student whips out a cell phone and scrolls through messages.  Another starts updating a planner, and still another starts doing homework for another class.    I counted to ten to get my anger in check and then strolled to the rear of the classroom.  I leaned down and, in a measured monotone, I whispered, "Put the phone away and please don't do homework for other cl…

Grade Grubbers

There are two types of grade grubbers.  The first I like and even admire in a way.  These are the last minute--holy smokes--the semester's almost over and I'm tanking variety.  They have been lousy students all semester, but somehow, with two or three weeks to go, they pull themselves together and manage to land their hind ends just the other side of the C line. As a chronically-disorganized wool gatherer,  I identify and empathize with these students. 

The second type drives me to distraction.  These are students who have already earned an A, yet they obsessively contest every single point and become little syllabus lawyers.  Unfortunately, this is the point in the semester when both varieties of grubbers show up.

Ye gods, I loathe grades.  I would abolish them if it were in my power.  They corrupt the entire point of education.  In their place I would prefer a combination of instructor and student self-assessment.  In an ideal world, I would be given a set of students for a…

Field notes from a late, late, late adopter

To put my late adoption into context, let me just admit one fact up front.  The year is 2012 and I only in the past week got a cell phone.  Yep, that's right, a cell phone.  I am the latest of late adopters.  I have never texted or tweeted.  I've never Game-Boyed or Wii.-ed.  I don't even know if these things can be made into verbs.  For heaven's sake, I have never had cable TV.  Once at friend's apartment years ago, I was mindlessly flipping through the channels and I muttered something like, "Good heavens, there's an entire network devoted to cartoons?"

He just gaped at me and said, "You never change, man."

He was wrong.  I do change, but at a glacial pace.  And my pace has recently begun to speed up.  Unavoidably, ineluctably, all of the new media platforms that people have been living with for decades are insinuating themselves into my life.  Me, the tardiest of late adopters.  In the last year alone I've found myself imbibing in str…

Missing Persons

Every semester I have students who vanish.  They don't call, they don't email.  They just go poof.   Often, too, their disappearance happens with no forewarning or signs of academic distress.  Good students are as prone to disappear as poor and indifferent ones.  One day they are there and then...  gone.    Sometimes the other people in the course will ask, "What happened to that guy?"  Most of the time, however, they say nothing and the course sails on. 

If a student disapparates in the first few weeks, I just assume he dropped the class. If this happens in the middle of the semester, I assume illness.  What's odd is when a student goes missing at the end of the course.  I've had them disappear with less than two weeks to go.  Once I had a young woman (who was ace-ing the course) fail to show for the final exam, which was heavily weighted enough to sink her.  She didn't skip the final or misread the exam date in the syllabus; she just vanished.  Even od…