Posts Tagged ‘Students’

Today marks the release of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, the final movie in Peter Jackson’s Tolkien saga (at least until he decides to make nine movies out of The Silmarillion). Its release during final exam time is fitting since Tolkien famously started writing The Hobbit while grading. As reported by Alison Flood in The Guardian:

Tolkien was Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford University, and would mark School Certificate exams in the summers to add to his salary. In a letter to WH Auden, he wrote: “All I remember about the start of The Hobbit is sitting correcting School Certificate papers in the everlasting weariness of that annual task forced on impecunious academics with children. On the blank leaf I scrawled: ‘In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.’ I did not and do not know why.”

In a recently rediscovered letter, Tolkien also noted that:

“All teaching is exhausting, and depressing and one is seldom comforted by knowing when one has had some effect. I wish I could now tell some of mine (of long ago) how I remember them and things they said, though I was (only, as it appeared) looking out of the window or giggling at my neighbour”.

Tolkien dealt with the “everlasting weariness” of grading by creating an entire world that is adored by millions. The rest of us can try to overcome memories of our students looking out the window and giggling with their neighbors by going to the movies.

“Like” Memoirs of a SLACer on Facebook to receive updates and links in 3D CGI via your news feed.


Read Full Post »

Female Science Professor posted today about her reaction to receiving communications via the US Postal Service rather than e-mail.  Through discussions with my students I am increasingly convinced that they see e-mail the same way that I see snail mail.  For example:

You also couldn’t have known that I seldom look in my mailbox anymore. When I do get physical mail, most of it is junk mail. It is quite miraculous that I glanced at my mailbox this week, when I wasn’t expecting anything interesting. In fact, even once I saw that there was something in my mailbox, I almost ignored it, so sure was I that it was not important.


Read Full Post »

I was recently reminded of my reflections on academic behavior by Tenured Radical’s recent admission that:

As it turned out, I was unable to sit through a meeting that bored me without fidgeting, texting, whispering to my neighbor, and going on Facebook repeatedly to update all my “friends” (many of whom were in the room) about my status. Status as what? Status as a middle-aged person who has utterly lost patience with meetings? Status as someone who has utterly lost hir manners?

I have to admit that there have been times in the past year where I sent text messages during faculty meetings – usually to let my wife know that I was not going to be home anywhere near the expected time.  I find it interesting, though, that Tenured Radical blames Facebook for her behavior:

If it were not for the mileage I get for this blog from being on Facebook, I would definitely punish myself by canceling my account, since my behavior yesterday seems like de facto proof of cerebral and personality changes that have been wrought by this particular form of new media. I wasn’t even able to sit there quietly reading The Atlantic on my iPhone, which is the kind of non-disruptive behavior that many fifth graders with ADD have mastered.

As I’ve said before, I strongly believe that the bad use of technology is a symptom, not the disease.

Read Full Post »

As a professor, I recognize that students have all kinds of lives outside of the classroom that I almost never see.  They have parents, siblings, romantic partners, stupid friends, cell phone bills, and to-do lists.  Most of the time I am happy to get a glimpse of what my students are like outside of the classroom but a small part of me dies each time I find out that an intelligent, thoughtful student is a smoker.  I have smoked a few cigarettes in my lifetime but they never did anything for me other than make me cough.  Apparently, the fact that their addictive quality does not kick in immediately prevents me from seeing their benefit.  As a result, it is hard for me to reconcile “intelligent and thoughtful” with “willing to pay somebody to slowly kill me.”  So students, if your own health is not motivation enough to quit, maybe you can do it for the little part of me that you are killing when you stand outside of a campus building and light up.

Read Full Post »

Based on the terminology my students use, it appears that they think of every research project as an “experiment.”  They are often surprised to learn that there are, in fact, many different types of research and that experiments make up only a small subset of these (especially among sociologists).  My favorite is when students describe an interpretive ethnographic research project as an experiment, since I imagine the blood pressure of ethnographers rising at the mere thought of such an association.

Keep trying students, you’ll get it right eventually!

Read Full Post »

After the aforementioned second rash of first-exam failures, scores on the second exam were significantly improved.  This fact alone does not confirm the wait-and-see approach but I can confirm that at least one student has taken this approach to my class.  When asked what she did after the first exam to improve her performance on the second exam she stated, “I actually studied this time around.”  Of course, when I asked after the first exam how long she had spent studying she reported a study time of three hours, so there is either a difference between “studying” and “actually studying” or my methods of data collection are returning invalid results.  I suspect the latter.

Read Full Post »

After another rash of first-exam failures, this time in another course, I have identified what I am calling the “wait-and-see approach to exams.” In this approach, students view the first exam as an unknown entity.  Because they do not know what to expect from a professor in terms of exam style, difficulty, and grading they apply minimal effort in their studying.  “Maybe,” they think, “this professor writes easier exams and grades more leniently than all prior professors, in which case spending three or even four hours studying would be a monumental waste of my time.  By waiting to see how the first exam goes after 10 minutes of studying I can minimize my effort and in the event that it is unwarranted.”  (An alternative approach would be to over-study for the first exam in the event that a professor writes harder exams and grades more stringently than all prior professors.  I suspect that these students exist in much smaller numbers than their wait-and-see counterparts.)  Alternative explanations for this performance are that “they just don’t care,” that “Dr. Smith doesn’t show enough videos to keep students interested for an entire 50 minutes,” that “like this year’s East coast snowstorms, this class of poor students is an anomaly and is likely never to be seen again,” and that “Dr. Smith is a poor professor.”  The final option has been rejected in the interest of mental health.  Besides, at least I’m trying.

Read Full Post »

At the recent ASA conference in San Francisco, I was reminded that, as audience members, professors are typically no better, and in some cases much worse, than students.  I am continually amazed during presentations when professors enter late, talk among themselves, and leave early.  I’m also amazed that these professors do not appear to connect their disrespectful behavior to that of their students.

I suspect that they fail to make this connection because they do not believe they are being disrespectful.  Rather, the professors who enter a room late probably believe that they were doing Something Important, those who talk to others during a presentation probably believe that they are discussing Something Important, and those who leave early probably believe that they have Something Important to get to.  At a conference, these Important Things may be discussions of research but they are just as likely to be discussions with the other survivors of one’s graduate program.

In this way, students are not as different as they may seem.  When students enter a class late, talk during class, or leave early they sometimes have what we consider good reasons.  Maybe they were meeting with another professor after class, clarifying something we had discussed, or needed to get to work on time.  In other cases, however, we fail to see the value in student activities.  Students may have been talking to friends in the hallway, discussing plans for the weekend, or trying to get to the cafeteria early.  Like the professors catching up at old times during a session at ASA, though, students consider these to be Important Things.  Thus, the difference between important and inane, networking and nonsense appears to be a Ph.D.

Read Full Post »