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Do You Love School?

ARE YOU ONE OF US? Are you in the club? Do you love school as much as we do?

 

That’s me, bottom row, far right, brown knee socks, Pilgrim collar. I’m so happy I’m practically screaming “I Love School.” In fact, that ridiculous neck device may have been designed to capture the drool as my mouth hung open in paralyzed glee.

 

How about the boy standing behind me in the double-breasted suit jacket? He’s one of us too! And the boys next to him? – not too shabby on the happy-meter.

 

Uh oh. I’m worried about the girl to my left. It’s like she’s smirking at me with her Mona Lisa smile. And those mod, hippy beads she’s wearing? I can’t compete with her serene, self-control. I suspect she doubts my enthusiasm. She probably thinks my joyous expression was sugar-induced or possibly clinical. Worse, I think she’s badmouthed me to the rest of the row. Look at their faces – I’ve frightened them off.

 

It’s not easy being a lover of school, but I’m here to tell you that we have strength in numbers. So stand-up and be heard. Are you one of us?

 

We accept TBT pictures as evidence for potential membership.

 

 

 

Author of A Sketch In Crime Mystery series

Drawing Conclusions 2015

Drawing Blood Feb 2016

 

How to Talk To a Teacher – Bridging the Generational Gap

See this picture. It’s me and my college roommates – thirty years ago. When I look at this photo, I’m immediately transported back to the early 1980’s. For me, it feels normal. For you, it must seem antiquated. That age difference makes it hard for us to connect.

And yet, thirty years ago, no one was connected. There was nothing to connect to. I’d never seen a cell phone nor used a computer. My papers were typed on an electric typewriter. My housemates and I had one phone, attached to the kitchen wall with a cord that stretched three feet to the refrigerator. No one I knew had an answering machine. If a guy you liked said he’d call, you sat by the phone and waited. If you went to a college party, you had no idea who was there until you arrived and no evidence of the night’s shenanigans were captured electronically. This photo was as bad as it got. Personal information remained personal and ‘sharing’ was a behavior learned by nursery school kids. If a better party was happening somewhere else on campus, you’d never know, so you didn’t care. The party was wherever you were at – as this picture proves.

Pants sat above your hips (I submit my stonewashed jeans as evidence), undergarments remained hidden, sneakers had not become collectibles, flip flops were strictly a beach item, tattoos were unthinkable unless you’d been to prison, music was played on a stereo system with giant speakers. Check out the size of the black box behind my head. If someone told me they had earbuds in 1980, I would have suggested they see an ENT.

Rap music hadn’t gone mainstream. The term ‘urban lifestyle’ hadn’t been invented. Hair was big, shoulder pads were enormous and MTV played the same three music videos.

I’d never heard the letters ATM until I got my first real job after college. If I wanted money, I had to wait on a physical line to cash a check. No one lived at home after college and parents were not considered your friends. First week freshman year, you waited by the payphone to speak to your parents. If your family’s phone was busy, you waited until the next week.

If I wanted to speak to a teacher, I had to show up in person and hope the line outside their door wasn’t too long. Teachers couldn’t fire off emails to a class or post announcements on an e-board. My questions were prepared ahead of time so I could get the most out of my five minutes of face-to-face time. If I had to leave a teacher a note, I proofread it and included a formal salutation and close. I never called a teacher on the phone, and obviously, I never sent a teacher an emoji.

In class, students listened carefully. PowerPoint slides were not made available before or after class – or ever. There was no such thing as electronic slides. Teachers talked and students wrote notes. Lots of notes. With little else but our notes to go on, textbooks were very important. We bought them, we read them, we carried them to the library to study, we high-lighted the important parts in neon green and then we prayed the bookstore would buy them back after a  semester of serious abuse. I hope you didn’t miss the guy sitting on the couch in the back of this picture. He brought his textbook to a party!

So – is it hard to talk to your teachers? Of course it is. Our college experiences are formed by our generational differences. This makes our interactions difficult. Lots of times, I just don’t get what students are trying to tell me because their approach is based on their fast-moving electronic world. In my college world, circa 1983-1987, parental contact and support was limited, information was hard to come by (no google), distractions were minimal (no cell phones or YouTube), and class time had value simply because we had little else available to earn a good grade.

Here’s my advice. If you need help from a teacher, show up to their office. Email conversations with a teacher are often doomed for failure. Speak slowly. Introduce yourself. Be prepared and thank them when you’re done. Resist the urge to check your phone. If you want to take notes on your computer, have it booted up before you walk into the office. Don’t talk about your family. In fact, don’t say anything personal. If your teacher is distracted by their own cellphone or email, then they’re probably not much older than you. In which case, you’ll get along just fine!

 

 

Should Attendance Count?

Attendance is a tough topic for me to discuss because I’m not sure I agree with the current educational theories related to showing up for class. Logically, attending class should result in better grades because if the teacher is teaching and you’re listening, then learning should occur. Hopefully, the time spent at the desk will rub off and result in correct answers on tests. Conversely, the less time spent in class might result in fewer correct answers. For that reason alone, students should be motivated to attend class. I’m on board with this type of thinking.

My real question has to do with earning additional points for attending. Should attendance, otherwise known as the act of being present, count as points towards your grade? Check your syllabus. Are you earning points for attendance? Or rather, are you losing points for not attending? What if you got a 100 on a test and then lost points for not attending? Would you be angry?

Before you answer, remember that attendance is not participation. Attendance is nothing more than arriving and leaving at a prescribed time. What you do for those minutes in between, is up to the student. You might be the type of student who attends and pays attention. But what about that kid next to you? He’s sleeping and earning an equal amount of points. It’s like those old diet commercials that tried to convince people they could lose weight while they slept.

I don’t particularly like giving or subtracting points for attendance but teachers seem to feel that those extra brownie points act as a motivator – they get students who wouldn’t ordinarily show up to attend, regardless of their level of consciousness.

So – I pose the question to students. Points or no points. Let me know.

 

 

My Five Favorite Words

 

If you really want your professor to like you, try these five words.

 

“What else do you teach?

 

Like a fine bottle of wine, this question needs time to age. If you throw it in too early, it won’t ring true. I recommend saving it up until the end of the semester. Why? Because it implies a tangible action that benefits the professor. Registration is open and you’re about to pick classes. Teachers’ need to fill their classes, especially electives. Your question is exactly what they want to hear.

 

Consider this –compliments are perishable. They’re gone the minute you walk out of the classroom. Asking a teacher what else they teach is a compliment with a complimentary commitment. It’s like down payment and timed correctly, it will leave your professor with a positive feeling about you.

 

And that can’t hurt during final exams. So mark your calendar now.

What’s The Point Of Teacher Evaluations?

 

Twice a year, most schools ask students to fill out a teacher evaluation form. These standardized forms  give students the opportunity to rate their teachers on topics such as clarity, organization, level of difficulty and responsiveness.

 

Whenever I mention that the forms are available, my request is met with a bunch of eye rolls. It’s like a bag of marbles fell out of someone’s backpack and I’m stuck trying to justify the significance of teacher evaluations while tripping over a green agate.  I’m sure from a student’s perspective, you start to wonder where all that survey information ends up. Does anyone even look at the results? Do the results matter? What happens if I say something mean about a teacher? Will they know it’s me?

 

Let me tackle the topic of anonymity first. If you just fill in the bubbles, then I won’t know it’s you. However, if you choose to write something in the comment box like, “She hated my paper on the cultural impact of rap music,” then I can probably guess it was you. What can I say, I’m just not a rap fan. Luckily, teachers don’t see the results of their evaluations until the next semester so your grade is safe, but your paper is still lame.

 

The surveys really matter when the teacher you are evaluating is not a full time faculty member or possibly an un-tenured faculty member. In this case, a teacher’s job could be on the line and any input you can provide is helpful, as long as it’s honest. So what about those tenured professors.  If you’ve never heard of tenure, think of it as a life sentence with no chance of parole. Tenured professors become Teflon professors during the teacher evaluation process. There’s nothing you can say in those surveys that will threaten their position.

 

On the flip-side, I’m a tenured professor and I do read and consider students’ comments. Early in my teaching career, a student said I favored male students. It was an important comment and I worked hard to fix that perception, especially since I thought I had favored the females!  Another student said I wasn’t open to interpretations other than my own.  Wow! That’s totally me. I’m a ‘my way, or the highway’ kind of teacher. I’ve since attempted to correct for this, but only in a way that gives me complete control of the conversation.

 

The one thing I refuse to do is give students extra credit for filling out a teacher evaluation survey.  This is a common practice, but it feels like I’d be paying you to say something nice about me. Hmmm, maybe I should reconsider this last point. While I’m thinking about it, maybe you can take a look at the photo I chose of a teacher favoring a male student. This might be the worst stock photo I’ve ever purchased. Why is the teacher’s ponytail on his shoulder? Why does she even have a ponytail? And don’t get me started on that creepy baby hand reaching for the guy’s back.

Interpretations about the photo are welcome, because as you know – I’m open-minded. And by the way, please fill out your teacher evaluation forms!

 

 

 

 

College Excuses

As Spring Break nears, I have to prepare myself for the onslaught of ridiculous excuses used by college students to squeeze out another day of vacation.

 

To be fair, let’s assume that if your grandmother is alive today, there’s a good chance she’ll still be alive next week which means you’ll be able to return to school when classes resume.

 

Next, let’s assume you most likely will not contract a Caribbean virus like Dengue fever that prevents you from boarding your return flight. In addition, there is no evidence to suggest that passengers can’t fly with a severe hangover.

 

Another point. Consider the circumstantial evidence when you present me with your excuse for missing an extra day or two of class after break. If you’re tan and relaxed, I’ll be less likely to believe that your boat, flight or car was hijacked by island pirates.  I’m also less likely to believe you were hospitalized if your tan is still golden. And as far as missing luggage goes, I don’t care what you wear to class as long as you show up.

 

My most favorite excuse for returning to campus late was told to me by a fellow teacher.  It’s so insane, I’d almost like to accept it since technically, there is supportive evidence.

 

                                            “I couldn’t get back in time for class. I was getting plastic surgery in a foreign country.”

 

If you’ve got a whopper of a lie you ‘d like to let us in on, please share!

 

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!

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.

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.

 

 

 

 

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