Feedback on being a better professor (ridiculously long) (Read 327 times)


Feeling the growl again

    Argh!!!! There must be something in the water.

     

    Today's emails:

    1) From a student who got 33 on the final. She needed 66 to pass: "you said I had a chance of passing"...and: "I just really dont think that is fair. I busted myself to try to pass the class and now since I failed your class I cant get my diploma" 

     

    2) A student who, along with an accomplice, was caught cheating twice and formally referred to the dean (same thing happened to the two of them in Chemistry), both of them ended up failing: "is there anyway you can let us to retake any of the exams"

     

    On the other hand: 

    "You smile more than any other professor I've had when you teach.  You seemed happy to be there and it made me happy to be there too. Providing lecture slides and study guides was awesome.  Neither I nor anybody else can blame our poor grades on anything other than our own efforts. Even with all the misconduct you never changed your attitude or demeanor.  I've seen professors turn on a class for far less and hold it against them for the rest of the semester."

     

    OK. I am done with this. Summer is beckoning and there are a lot of miles to be run over the next several weeks. 

     

    Looks like the first two are up for a lesson in personal responsibility and accountability, while the third one gets it.

     

    Just remember that for each of these complainers there are a lot of students you are not hearing from.  They are probably perfectly happy with your teaching, and this is why they don't expend the energy to submit messaged..  Perhaps they will be filling out evaluations which will reflect that.

    "If you want to be a bad a$s, then do what a bad a$s does.  There's your pep talk for today.  Go Run." -- Slo_Hand

     

      Years ago I did a little teaching as an adjunct professor.  The class was the required introductory electromagnetics class for EE students, and it is certainly a difficult class for many students, but most of my students worked hard at it and did OK.  (Although I admit I was a bit of a hard nose and I didn't give a lot of As).  Anyway, at the end of the semester I got a tearful phone call from the wife of one of my students.  He was a foreign student, and she told me if he failed the class that they might have to go back to China and the whole nine yards.  But I really didn't see what I could do.  He had something like a 40 in the class.  He never once approached me for help or to ask questions.  Maybe had difficulty with English?  I don't know.  But at the end of the semester, sitting with the lowest grade in the class, and a pretty abysmal one at that, I felt like I had no recourse at all but to fail him.

       

      It's a sucky thing.  I've also had to fire people, and that feels even worse.  It sucks that we have to do these things sometimes, but I guess I tell myself that it's really the person that has chosen this path.  It's not me doing it to him.

      - Joe

      We are fragile creatures on collision with our judgment day.

        My dad is still teaching engineering full-time at age 76.  He enjoys the students so much.  Every year, he and a bunch of other profs pick out a book and lead a discussion on it for incoming freshmen.  The kids look through the list of books and sign up for one.  This is a letter he got from one of the students.  He never had her in a class, but she remembered him four years later!

         

        "Hi Dr. Fowler,

         

        I'd be surprised if you remember me, but in 2009 I was in your Freshmen Reading Round-up session. I just graduated yesterday, and during the ceremony I spent time thinking about all of my experiences on the Forty Acres. You were one of the first professors that I interacted with, and I wanted to thank you for being so friendly and approachable. Your demeanor helped me to understand that my professors at UT would be here to support me and not simple "weed me out" of classes. I feel that learning that from you helped me to build relationships with all of my professors and become a more successful student. 

         

        Thank you for teaching me such a valuable lesson right at the beginning of my experience at UT. I graduated with a degree in speech-language pathology and I will begin graduate school at UT Dallas this summer. Hopefully I will be a speech-language pathologist in under two years! 

         

        I appreciate you, and I thank you for making such a big place not seem so scary to an 18-year-old from East Texas."

         

         

        doctorjen


          Speaking as an MD who has a kid in college (my second go round, oldest graduated in 2010), I cannot imagine calling a professor to try to get my kid's grade changed.  As someone else said further up, I'm happy to give advice and even commiseration for poor teaching, but I consider my just-turned-18-year-old to be a young adult who has to learn how to live the rest of her life as an adult learner.  That means if she's struggling in a class, she has to figure out how to help herself, including taking advantage of the many resources her college offers students (tutoring, a writing center, study groups, TAs who lead review sessions, professor office hours) and learn how to approach her professors and ask for their guidance.  I tell my children (and believe me, I say this with great compassion) that life isn't fair.  You can only be responsible for your own behavior, and sometimes bad things do happen and we can only do the best we can.

          I don't teach regular college students, but I am full time faculty in a residency program and teach some med students.  I am sort of amazed that some students really do seem to expect to be graded/evaluated based on what *they* viewed as their intentions - so if they meant to do well, I should cut them some slack, whether they actually did well or not.

          I sincerely hope your dean backs you up.


          A Dance with Monkeys

            I am sort of amazed that some students really do seem to expect to be graded/evaluated based on what *they* viewed as their intentions - so if they meant to do well, I should cut them some slack, whether they actually did well or not.

             

            I *intended* to reduce your femur fracture correctly...

             

            I *intended* to treat your pneumonia correctly...

             

            I *intended* to deliver your baby correctly...

             

            ...doesn't quite seem like enough, does it?


            Queen of 3rd Place

              Finally, I think it's important to remember that kids these days are acting like this because the economy is really bad and they have legitimate fears about employment, competition, etc. It's fear that's driving these emails. ...

               

              Agree completely! And, as I said before, the pressure from the parents can be huge. I've had discussions with students whose parents want them to be MDs, while the student doesn't want that at all yet feels trapped. I had similar pressure from my parents (they wanted me to get an MBA), which resulted in 3 1/2 years of misery for me as I tried to get a business degree.

              Ex runner

                 

                Agree completely! And, as I said before, the pressure from the parents can be huge. I've had discussions with students whose parents want them to be MDs, while the student doesn't want that at all yet feels trapped. I had similar pressure from my parents (they wanted me to get an MBA), which resulted in 3 1/2 years of misery for me as I tried to get a business degree.

                 

                Enjoy your summer. (And by the way, I looked you up on Rate My Professor -- yes, horrible site, but hey -- and was really impressed by the things your students said about you.)

                  From the student side I only asked one time for a professor to clarify a grade that surprised me, I think I got a C+ instead of the B I expected.  I didn't get such a long thoughtful response, I got mailed his breakdown of the grade.  I had missed something in my calculations.  When I went back to school that fall I thanked him for the reply and told him I'd found my mistake, I think he expected an argument.  I'm sure he had gotten them from someone else.  I had also gotten a lot of consideration when I missed several weeks of a semester for a family crisis that was all over the news, some did not even tell me I had to make up the work.

                   

                  I was very pressured with grades from my parents (A was expected, B stood for needs improvement).  I was expected to graduate from college in 4 years with high honors.  It influenced me to choose an "easier" major over one I loved, where I was not as good at that subject (the chemistry and physics needed for a meteorology degree).  By then I hated school and was looking for the path of least resistance just to get done with it.  I'm not doing that to my kid.

                   

                  I can see how some students extrapolate pressure like that onto their profs to try and get better grades.  Others are just really lazy.  I don't think that's fair to you.

                   

                  Its your job, you can give as much or as little consideration as you want.  Give them that lesson now before they argue with me (the manager) on the job about why they don't have a perfect evaluation (when they are slow, make errors, and cause disruption) and get low scores that impact their raises.

                     

                    Enjoy your summer. (And by the way, I looked you up on Rate My Professor -- yes, horrible site, but hey -- and was really impressed by the things your students said about you.)

                    what the hell? Guess its really true, everything is out in the interwebs, somewhere.

                     

                    Hotness - Is your professor hot? Hot professors get a red chili pepper. The Hotness rating is NOT included when calculating the Overall Quality rating.

                    We reserve the right to make any changes to the Ratings Categories and scoring in our sole discretion.


                    A Dance with Monkeys

                      I looked up the good Professor Jeff there. He did reasonably well too! Smile

                      FSocks


                      Gramps

                        You work 9 months per year and get to look at hot coeds all day long.  And you're complaining?  Big grin

                        Running is dumb. 


                        Interval Junkie --Nobby

                          OK so I just got tenure last year . . .

                           

                          Congratulations!

                           

                          I lectured at UMass for a few years in their evening sessions.  Taught computer science.  It was an eye opening experience.  I had always assumed grading math / CS was straight-forward and objective.  But I found myself regrading the tests after going through the first time and noticing myself getting more forgiving in partial credit (so, I had to regrade those I had been hard on in the beginning).

                           

                          I once caught two people cheating on a mid-term programming assignment.  They handed in code that looked very similar.  What surprised me was that nobody else's looked at all a like (I always assumed that with very strict requirements all solutions would look similar -- couldn't be more wrong).  After some forensics I found evidence it was the same problem with a halfhearted white-wash.  I took it to the dean who, to my disbelief, said, "well, did you tell them they couldn't work together on it?".  I asked if English professors explicitly forbid that for essays.  In the end I was forced to council the two people not to do it again.  For the final project I made it explicit on the assignment.  They did it again.  The guy who did the work called me at home (I hadn't given anyone my number) to ask why he got a C in the class.  I had to tell him that while he was on track for an A, I had to split his final project grade with his partner in crime.  If he'd like to contest it we can do so before ethics board.  I then gave him the dean's phone number and washed my hands of it.

                           

                          One time I laid out a project in fine detail, stating exactly how many points everything was worth.  I labeled one section "minimal requirements", which added to 65pts.  I labeled another section "Advanced requirements", which held the other 35pts.  Several students did the 65pts and wondered why they got a C.  *sigh*

                          2014 Goals:  sub-3 Marathon 

                          Current Status 11/10: Back to building up miles.  Junk feels mostly okay.  Kinda.

                          zonykel


                             One time I laid out a project in fine detail, stating exactly how many points everything was worth.  I labeled one section "minimal requirements", which added to 65pts.  I labeled another section "Advanced requirements", which held the other 35pts.  Several students did the 65pts and wondered why they got a C.  *sigh*

                             

                            You should have just called them "part A" and "part B" (or not labeled them at all). I can see where there would be confusion.

                              Wow, I'm just finishing up 2nd year undergrad (not in science, I need my sanity) and am shocked that a student would honestly ask that.  Shocked  I felt bad asking a professor to make sure my exam mark was recorded (it was a scantron/multiple-choice and that sometimes does happen) when I [completely fairly] received a lower mark than I initially thought I got.  However, it was fair and I didn't think about begging him to change it.

                               

                              Congrats on gaining tenure!!! Smile  Hopefully the dean will back you up!

                              'No matter how slow you go, you're still lapping everyone on the couch'

                               

                              "Running is a big question mark that's there each and every day. It asks you, 'Are you going to be a wimp or are you going to be strong today?'"  - Peter Maher

                               

                              "Running long and hard is an ideal antidepressant, since it's hard to run and feel sorry for yourself at the same time. Also, there are those hours of clearheadedness that follow a long run."  -Monte Davis


                              Interval Junkie --Nobby

                                 

                                You should have just called them "part A" and "part B" (or not labeled them at all). I can see where there would be confusion.

                                 

                                I considered that.  But it was pretty satisfying to respond to entitled students with, "So, you did the minimum necessary work for this assignment, and you think you deserve something other than an 'Average' grade?"

                                 

                                Maybe that was the real lesson they walked away with (who am I kidding?).

                                2014 Goals:  sub-3 Marathon 

                                Current Status 11/10: Back to building up miles.  Junk feels mostly okay.  Kinda.