Thursday, May 17, 2007

Forgotten but Not Gone

My semester is over.
Okay, it's not over. I still have one make-up to administer, then correct; another make-up to correct; and I have [x] students who will be completing the semester before the university's No-Really-Now-You-Have-To-Be-Finished date.
My subject is one that allows for multiple choice exams, and the university structure is such that encourages them. Plus, I find them helpful. There's a right answer and three or four wrong ones. If you pick the right answer, you win! the point; if you don't, you lose it. Why do I like this? Because there is no room for a student to say "You just didn't like me, that's why I have such a low grade," and there is no opportunity for me to say, even unconsciously, "Well, I do feel sorry for this person, I'll just grade them lightly." It's fair to everyone.
And yet I've spent the last week fielding requests for a better grade. "I'm so close, can you just...?"
I think my favorite is the person who threw in every single possible sob story you've heard or seen on blogs -- except illness -- into why s/he should get a better grade. This student came to meet with me after all the in-class exams had been administered, ostensibly for help, but said as s/he was leaving "Well, I just wanted you to meet me."
Oh, wait; maybe my favorite person was the one who demanded that I produce evidence that my grading system was comperable to the rest of the departments' grading. Because I'm the one who's supposed to run around and do all kinds of extra work to defend myself -- to the person who failed every exam and never came for extra help.
Did I mention I'm frustrated?
See, my university is a state university; while somewhere between a few to several of the graduate programs are among the best in the country, the undergraduate pool comes almost exclusively from in-state -- and therefore is highly non-competitive. I am well aware that there are good students here. We even have brilliant ones: one undergraduate alum went onto graduate school in a humanities subject, and landed a job straight out of graduate school with one of the most prestigious universities for that subject in the country. But such students are rare.
I love teaching: I love the expounding, but I also love helping people understand things, and I would love to inspire people with the love of understanding things too. But 95% of my feedback is from people who don't care about the subject, about learning, about curiosity.
So I'm frustrated.

4 Comments:

Anonymous wolfa said...

Heh, that just happened for an undergrad alum of your school in my field -- are we talking about the same guy?

Are your courses like the intro ones in my ex-dept, where they are carefully crafted to fit into one of the subject matters all undergrads take while being easier than, say, math or first year Chinese?

And you're back blogging! Hi.

10:49 AM EST  
Blogger ceresina said...

No - so there's another one! I do, I know they're out there, they're just-- very quiet.

And no, our 101 courses are fairly uncrafted & required for the major. (I think your ex-department's aren't?) I'd have been a much worse professor if they had to be crafted like that.

And thanks! it's nice to be back!

11:10 AM EST  
Anonymous wolfa said...

Two! Unbelievable.

Actually, I know this entirely because someone from your school in my field (as a grad student) applied for the same job (= prob the most prestigious job in this subfield, at all, anywhere) and since I dislike this person, I was overjoyed that someone else got the job.

I'm not a bitch though. Honest.

It looks weird as anything when I have my undergrad from "Harvard of the North" and grad from elsewhere, though.

I think the course descriptions are crafted, not the courses. I mean, it's not hard to discuss languages other than English or maybe European languages in a linguistics course. And poof! You have "world views" or whatever it's called.

4:41 PM EST  
Blogger Kate said...

your mindset at the end of the semester was so similar to mine!!

i wrote up some feedback forms for my students, as we don't get ANY feedback from the dept otherwise. as most were non-science majors coming into the class, i was under the delusion that i could/would convert a few through spectacular, glittering teaching.

ONE student wrote something about 'it was better than i thought', but it might as well have been punctuated with 'but my expectations/interest were so low, the only possible direction to go was up'

so good for you, for caring and trying and using your time/energy to talk to the students who you probably won't see again. that is one of the most impt roles of a teacher, and the hallmark of a good one.

9:35 AM EST  

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