Monday, December 17, 2007

Good, Bad, and Ugly

Well, the semester is over so it is time to look back. Unlike some of the bloggers I read regularly, the end of the semester did not bring out the cloying annoying students that some had to deal with.

The Good:

My students. Not because I had a high pass rate, because I didn't. Last fall was outstanding while this fall was just above average. Because the ones who passed did a really good job. This was a class that was going to be either A or F. And since the F students will not be in my 2nd semester class, it looks like spring with this group is going to be a lot of fun.

But mainly because I just did not have any of the annoying ones that Profgrrrrl and RH were blogging about. But it was not that simple.

More of the Good:

Facilitating instead of doing. I tend to just do it. The sage on the stage. But a few weeks ago I managed to pay attention to a side comment at an engineering lunch meeting and put it to good use. A former student is part of a team building something for a national engineering competition. The guy at my table mentioned that he had been in the same competition 10 or 15 years ago. After lunch was over I introduced one to the other and watch an electric moment. You don't actually have to do the teaching to be a teacher.

Starting an ed research collaboration with an old friend from grad school. I think this is going to be really interesting.

The semester started and ended on a high note. During the pre-semester faculty meeting, my Dean closed by reading an e-mail he had gotten over the summer. He said he did not usually do this (he doesn't), which is a good thing. I could barely handle that one instance. After the first sentence I knew who wrote it, and so did the chemistry prof sitting next to me. This was a returning student, mid 30s career woman, going back to school to become an engineer. There were six of us who changed her life. I did not mind that I was an afterthought at the end, because it was the other five who got her to my classroom prepared to succeed. And just yesterday I got a note forwarded to me by one of the math faculty, a note thanking him for his clarity in teaching vector calculus and mentioning my efforts (the previous spring) as well. Most of the time they just walk in the door in August and walk out in December and you never really know whether you had an impact.

Yeah, and there was the Iraq war vet I ran into in the supermarket just last week, who is showing that an average CC student who put an emphasis on learning can kick butt when put up against those kids who started at the university. He even has one company ready to hire him after just on summer as an intern. And there was another vet, an ex-Marine (as if there is such a thing) from the inner city slums of a northeastern city who stopped by in August to tell me he had graduated and was off to take a job in Washington DC. Every one of those stories helps dispel the myth that CC students are inferior and helps the next group do even better.

Oh, yeah, and profgrrrrl is well on her way to earning tenure.

The Bad:

Too many meetings. I knew serving on a major (actually, the most major) college committee would be a strain, but you never know for sure until it happens. To those who know, there is nothing more that needs to be said.

The kid who had more persistence than sense of reality. The odds of passing the course with a great final exam are not good if you averaged 65 on the hour exams. He did not even make 50% on the final. I suspect, from what I saw in the lab, that he confused understanding how to do a HW problem with getting it right after someone told him how to do it. That might help on an hour exam, but it won't work on the final and he proved it. But maybe he will be in the 'good' category after next semester. I have seen that happen, and maybe he needed to fail the final exam to really learn that his approach will not work.

The Really Ugly:

One of my lab TAs did not turn in his grades on time. No trouble with the students, but trouble with their teachers! That was a completely new experience for me. Sigh. I suspect graders block or terminal procrastination. I saw some hints of trouble but never suspected it would turn out this badly. The worst thing is that he is a really good teacher in the lab. I see a stressful spring.

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