Rate Your Professor — On the First Day

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One week down, fourteen to go. I don’t want to give you the idea that I’m counting the days, but I’m always relieved at the end of the first week. No matter how many times I’ve had to introduce myself to a class, I always worry about that first impression. Did I come across too strong, too weak or just plain boring?

 

Here are some of my choice moments from Spring 2015’s first week.

 

About twenty minutes into a morning class, a student stood up and announced, “This isn’t an Italian class, is it?”  No — but that would be kind of fun. Maybe I could throw in a few Italian words just to spice up the class. Buon lavoro! (I think that means good work.)

 

Unfortunately, I don’t speak Italian. Neither did a second student who was hot on the heels of the first student. “I’m in the wrong class, too,” she admitted as she headed for the door. “But this class seems pretty good and I think I’ll try to add it.”  I took that as a compliment, but my glow quickly faded.

 

A third student packed up his books and walked out. No good-byes, just a door in my face. Ouch, I thought, and then I realized I’d never please everyone with my first day routine. In fact, I’ve decided that from now on I’m just going to be me.  And, I plan on being ‘just me’ for the next fourteen weeks – not that I’m counting.

 

Good luck this semester!

 

Comments on your first week of school are welcome here!

Career Advice – Life After College Graduation

You’ve done all the assignments, sat for the exams and earned the grades. Now what? As much work as that all seemed, here comes the next phase of your life – the 9 to 5 job. That’s right, more work! And worse, you’re going to have to work hard to get that job.

I’d like to congratulate, Idia Ogala, a former student of mine who has developed a website to promote his skill set. I wish him the best of luck! He worked hard for it.

http://idiaogala.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Proven Test Taking Tip

There’s nothing worse than taking a test and watching as one of your classmate’s hands in a completed exam within the first twenty minutes and then walks out the door without a care in the world. From my experience, the entire class sighs in frustration and full panic sets in as you realize that you’ve only completed ten questions out of 100.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re assuming that the speedy test taker studied so hard the correct answers flew off the page and landed directly onto the answer sheet.

Just so you know, periodically I jot down the time students finish exams and then I analyze test scores based on those times. The speedy test taker? They typically finish last when it comes to grades, and here’s why. The speedy student didn’t actually study. It only takes a few minutes to randomly circle anything and I think you’d be surprised to find out that some students hand in blank blue books. Literally, not a single word! You know how long it takes to write nothing but your name? About a second.

Here’s my test taking advice. Don’t flip out when students are finishing ahead of you. You’re wasting valuable time worrying about others while losing your focus. Pace yourself and keep your head down. When a fellow student leaves suspiciously early, give yourself one second to chuckle because you now know the tail end of the Bell curve has just been accounted for.

Good luck on finals and slow it down!

test taking tips

Taking a Test – Slow Down!

Smarter Than I Thought by Stephanie Witt

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WELCOME GUEST BLOGGER – STEPHANIE WITT, and her inspiring story about returning to school.

 

Going to college at eighteen years old may seem like the most exciting but scariest thing ever…returning to college ten years later is even more scary but equally as exciting!

At eighteen, I knew EVERYTHING, except what I wanted to do in life and how to help myself succeed.  I attended college away from home and got a true college experience: fun, friends, and some learning.  After mistakes, some bad choices, a few corporate jobs, and ten years, I have returned to college as a full time student.  I know now at twenty-eight that I don’t know a thing, except for what I want to do in my life and what makes me happy.  Attending school has been a huge change in my life, but more positive than I ever could have expected.

I now feel I’m one of the smartest students in my classes. Who would have thought? ! I sit in the front row, participate in class, do all my homework, and get straight A’s.  I wonder to myself, “Where was this person ten years ago?”

The truth is, how are we to know what we want to do when we haven’t truly been exposed to what the world has to offer? I didn’t have the knowledge I do now about all the possible jobs I could have based on my interests and skills.  Does anyone really know that they want to be a market research analyst at eighteen? No! But at twenty-eight, I can fully grasp what the job entails and why it fits me so perfectly.

How can we really expect teens in highschool to know what they want to be or exactly what major to choose at such a young age? I know there are many opinions on this topic, and people are on both sides of the fence.

But what I can tell you is coming back to school ten years later, after figuring out what I want, is the best decision I’ve ever made.  Although it’s much harder at this point, the rewards feel even greater.

Bueller?….Bueller?….Thoughts on Classroom Attendance

If you don’t get the Bueller reference it’s because you’re young and I’m old. The line is from the 1986 movie, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,  and there’s a great scene that highlights the monotonous process of taking classroom attendance.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NP0mQeLWCCo

 

After years of calling out names, I started to feel like the economics teacher from Ferris Bueller, a tired-looking teacher who makes a futile attempt to determine Ferris’ attendance status by repeatedly calling his name.

 

I can attest to the fact that there is no faster way to put forty students to sleep than reading the same forty names, with repeats, every day for fifteen straight weeks. I might as well just pass out Dixie cups of Benadryl before I start teaching.  Of course there’s always the sign-in sheet option. If you’ve never seen one, you’d be amazed at how many students have the same handwriting. It’s almost statistically impossible!

 

Recently, I wondered if I couldn’t just take a picture on my phone as opposed to slogging through the attendance list.  This way, I wouldn’t have to argue with students who insist they were present but didn’t hear their name called. I blame this phenomenon on earbuds (see my earbud post 11/4/14.)

 

I ran through the photo attendance scenario in my head a few times, but I figured I would need a gazillion campus administrators to approve my plan, and I don’t have that much energy. Most importantly, students would have to agree to be photographed on my personal phone and frankly, we’re just not that close.

 

Well, it’s a good thing I’m lazy.  As it turns out, Harvard University has recently come under fire for violating students’ and professors’ privacy rights by conducting an attendance study by secretly photographing students in classrooms.

 

Boy, that word secret is volatile.

 

http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2014/11/05/harvard-secretly-photographed-students-study-class-attendance-raising-privacy-concerns/hC8TBdGdZmQehg0lAhnnJN/story.html

 

 

So I pose the question to you – how would you feel if attendance was recorded by photograph? Would you need to know you were being photographed for attendance purposes, and would you agree?

 

 

 

Earbud Oblivion

An editor was recently reading my college blog and offered the following comment.

 

“I don’t like your mean posts.  You’re not a mean person, but your sarcasm is biting, and I think some of your posts might turn off readers.”

 

Since my goal is to keep readers and not lose them, I’ve made a conscious effort to keep it light. For this post, I asked students to pitch me a topic in hopes their perspective would keep my sarcasm in check. Unfortunately, this particular student-generated topic seems to have brought out the worst in me.  Sorry, but here goes!

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Nothing says, I don’t want to be here, more than wearing earbuds to class. I can hear the music thumping as you walk by, and although I assume you’ll power down, I’m not entirely convinced. Maybe it’s because you’re not laughing with the rest of the class or moaning when I announce a test. You’re just kind of sitting there, in your own world, wires dangling from your ears. I’ll ask you to remove your earbuds a few times, but then I start to look like that teacher.

 

At first I thought the earbud thing was just me. Turns out, your fellow students also have an issue with earbuds in class. In fact, they asked me to write this post to let you know it bugs them too. Forget the anti-social message it sends. The real issue is your music, which can be heard within a two-desk radius of your seat. According to your classmates, even songs they like can sound annoying when filtered through a classmate’s headphones.

 

To test this complaint, I had my son pop in earbuds while I stood within listening range. We chose a favorite song of mine, ‘So Lonely’ by The Police. The frustration of hearing squeaky snippets of Stings’ already high-pitched voice was nearly as torturous as hearing parts of a song I disliked. For that test, I chose “Let It Go” from the movie Frozen.

 

I nearly lost it.

 

In summary, be kind to your fellow students and take the needle off the record before entering class.

 

 

 

 

Blogging Blunders

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Last year, I posted a blog on paper buying services. My inspiration was one of my students who had purchased a paper and submitted it as their own. Super-sleuth that I am, I tracked down the source and then spent a few days ranting about paper buying services. When I calmed down, I wrote a tongue-in-cheek entry (April 13, 2014) on plagiarism where I threatened to write my own versions of the papers I had assigned, sell my papers to these paper-buying mills, and then wait for my own work to recycle back to me!

That way, I could scream – “Gotcha!” and feel really good about it.

Yesterday, I received a comment on my original post from the paper buying service, Special Essay. It read:

“Good education is an essential part of our lives. It’s our ticket to the happy future. If you have difficulties with some assignments, let the experts at Special Essay help you.”

So let me get this straight. The marketing experts at Special Essay have identified my blog as targeting college students. They narrow their focus on an entry I wrote about plagiarism, and then they decide that this would be a good place to advertise their services?

Isn’t that a bit like advertising cigarettes in a hospital? But who am I to judge. I’ll let the skillfully-worded comment by Special Essay stand as evidence of their writing expertise. Clearly, these people are special.

Have you ever been tempted to purchase a paper?

Eating Your Way to an F

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Last week a student took a test with a basket full of fried chicken fingers on his desk. You know the sound that greasy paper makes? Crunchy and wet all at the same time.

“Are you really going to eat that while taking the test?” I asked.

“Don’t worry, I can manage it,” he replied.

Hmmm, I thought. I wasn’t worried about your eating skills. In fact, I had always hoped all my students had mastered the art of eating before entering college. I was more concerned the rest of the class would be distracted by the food choice — a choice that is loud and likely to cause to uncontrollable cravings. Just what you want when taking a test.

In my opinion, greasy chicken fingers in a paper-lined basket are as bad as the dreaded bag of chips.  The sound of a chip bag being opened in a quiet classroom is akin to finger nails on a chalkboard. Worse, I find the offending chip-eating student will then try to chomp each chip slowly, as if that lessens the sound. It doesn’t. It only prolongs the madness.

As a compromise, I asked my students to recommend low auditory, low olfactory foods for in-class snacking. This easy recipe for blueberry muffins was suggested by Nicholas Esser. Nick, a self-proclaimed foodie, highly recommends these easy to chew muffins as a quiet, in-class eating option. I recommend bringing one for your teacher too.

 

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/best-of-the-best-blueberry-muffins/detail.aspx

Teaching Tiny

I have a class this semester with only thirteen students. I don’t like small classes and when I saw the size of this one, I tried to get the class canceled. Much to my dismay, the class ran.

 

Here’s the thing about ‘teaching tiny’. There’s no hiding and that includes me! If I’m having a bad day, there’s very little room for diversion. It’s like acting in an Off-Off-Off Broadway show, on an off night. One mistake and thirteen people will have a front row view of my flub.

 

Same goes for my students. If no one raises their hand, there’s 1 chance in 13 that a student will be called on. And that’s if I only ask one question! Suddenly hiding in a hundred student lecture hall is looking pretty good.

 

I asked my thirteen students, individually because I could, how they felt about a small class. Most said they liked the intimacy and for this group, I’d have to agree. We’re only a few weeks into the semester, and we’ve already checked out one student’s tattoos. We chatted about religion (in a marketing class), and we’re getting pretty good at showing up on time.

 

That last point is important. One day, ten students were late, leaving three students to carry the load. Now that’s taking this small thing a bit too far.

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