Showing posts from January, 2015

Not waving but drowning

 Teaching first-year students at my institution is some of the best and the hardest teaching I do.  I said this in a faculty meeting last week and was later given a comeuppance by my provost.  "Why did you say it was hard?  We are trying to get people to volunteer for the First-Year program."   I guess I was just being honest.  The fact is teaching 18-years olds really is hard work.  They are at once earnest, hopeful and--with rare exception--almost completely unrealistic about what it takes to achieve any of their goals.

Two small assignments I've tried to implement in my First-Year Seminar this spring provide a window into the way my students think about school and how to be successful.  This week, for example, I had them complete a goal-setting paper in which they were to define their long-term goal (and how a college degree will help them reach it).  Among the life goals were
Make millions of dollars.Become a millionaire Major League Baseball player.Medal in the Ol…

Door Number Three

On the first day of a course you walk into the room, fiddle with the computer, pull up your "Welcome to Class" powerpoint and then stand waiting to begin.  Sometimes you make a little joke and try to create a relaxed rapport.  Maybe you even see a familiar face from an earlier semester and make small talk, but this isn't as easy as it used to be.  Students these days are mostly buried in their palm-sized home entertainment centers. 

Nobody sits waiting any longer.

Even so, I always like the moment before anything has happened.  I have no idea who I'm dealing with or whether this will become a class I remember for years or am anxious to forget.  It's even possible in those few, brief, anticipatory seconds to reconnect with the na├»ve, hopeful and ambitious professor I once was. 

Something similar happens just before I grade the first set of papers. There they all are in my stack or lined up in my on-line grading box.  In this moment it's still theoretically …

Go Stand in the Corner and Consider Yourself

Many years ago I remember hearing that it was important to take your exam in the same place where you learned the material.  In other words, if you sat in a certain spot in a classroom for an entire semester, you ought not to switch spots for the final. 

I have no idea whether this is true or if anyone has ever done any research on this.  It might be just an academic urban legend (like guessing B on multiple choice quizzes when you are stumped, or the pervasive yet unfounded belief that waiting times for late professors are keyed to rank).

True or not, the idea that memory is connected to place makes a certain amount of sense.  I can often recall what part of the page I was reading (top, bottom, left, right) when I ran across an idea in a book. So maybe we really do remember better when we return the place where we first learned it.

Then again, maybe this is nonsense.  Heck, think of something--anything--you must have learned in grade school: long division, who wrote Charlotte's…

Greyhounds in the slips

One of the more telling glimpses into my pedagogical future can be found by running a course management report on classes before the semester begins.  Our system records student visits and displays them in tables, graphs and colorful pie charts.  A quick glance at this data shows me that just under a third of my juniors and seniors have glanced over the course site at least once since it went live a week ago (freshmen and sophomores tend to visit less often). 

More interesting, however, are the anomalies in the data.  I always notice one or two students who have looked over the site somewhat compulsively.  They will have run up an astonishing amount of visits before the first class meeting (the record is 43).   This year I even have a first: one student has completed and submitted the first assignment!  It's sitting there waiting to be graded in my on-line inbox.

I'm not sure whether I ought to commend her or remind her to breathe.  Hmmm...

More and more I find myself lookin…