Monday, November 26, 2007

Musings during an exam

One of my students is wearing an Arizona State sweatshirt. I was very confused about my location for awhile.

So often we complain about "kids these days", but I've found that their parents are equally, if not more, irresponsible. For example, I have a student missing the quiz today because her parents decided to surprise her with a trip for her birthday. I've had parents phone their students during class and, in one case, I actually grabbed the phone and scolded the mother (a repeat offender who was afraid her daughter was lying about her whereabouts). In one instance of a power struggle during a divorce, I've had a father hide a daughter's shoes and car keys in an attempt to keep her at home. (She showed up to class in slippers.) I also had to write letters to her father stating that she had to be in class on particular dates when he wanted her to go on family trips. Parents regularly schedule flights home for break as early as possible (gotta get the good rates!), and pay no attention to students' final exam schedules. If you think the students are pulling scams, I've seen them in tears in my office because their profs won't reschedule exams and their parents don't want to eat the fees from the airlines. So for all my friends with kids, remember that responsibility does begin at home and that you want your kids to become independent adults with their own lives, even if you're still helping them pay for school. And paying for their schooling does not give you control over their lives or their professors.

The student I made the deal with remembered to bring a scantron and a pencil today. Unfortunately it looks like he forgot to study. However, chocolate chip cookies for everyone during the final quiz!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

I hear them calling my name

Argh! There are fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies cooling on the kitchen counter. But my kitchen is so small that I need all that counter space! Gotta do something about those cookies then. What to do... what to do? ;)

We'll see how many are left to give to Greg's folks tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Short Week

For reasons that aren't entirely clear to me, classes only met on Monday this week. I'm not complaining. With my first day off, I had breakfast with Greg at a coffee house by the sea and chatted briefly with a student there. Then I wrote two quizzes. Got a haircut. Did some grocery shopping at Trader Joes, where I was amused by the number of people FREAKING OUT because they sold out of turkeys yesterday. Corresponded with distant TAs. Corresponded with distant former students. Made dinner. Kind of a mellow day. I feel restless, though. Like there is something I should be doing that I haven't done. Gosh, I hope it isn't important!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Cause and Effect?

The first time I taught a particular physics course, the class schedule was three days per week, 50 minute class meetings. I designed my exams for that length of time. The students did well and most students finished comfortably within the 50 minute period. The next time I taught the same course, the class met two days per week, 75 minute class meetings. Another difference was that the previous class was a small class at a community college, and the second class was approaching 200 students at a university. Anyways, I gave the same exams, so I could contrast performance. What surprised me was how many students took the whole time and the class as a whole did worse. The next time I taught the course was the same setup - large class, two days at 75 minutes each, at the university. This class also thought the exams were too long, but did really well overall. I'm currently teaching this same course to a small class at a community college, which meets two days per week, 2 hours each time. These students find the exams too long, although these are the same design, and in some cases the same questions, as the very first time I taught the course. In fact, the reason why I'm posting this now is that I had two students this week need MORE than the two hours to finish the exam.

So, what's going on here? I've come up with some possible issues:

  • First time through, I graded everything. Homeworks, exams, etc... The other times, TAs and/or online homeworks were incorporated.
  • The most recent section is made up of slightly different majors.
  • Test-taking expands to fill the available time.
  • Some classes are just better than others.

I've eliminated some possibilities:

  • Small class vs. large class - I've had both do well.
  • Community college vs. university - I've had both do well.

Any thoughts?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Deal

I have made a deal with an astronomy student: if he can manage to bring both a pencil and a Scantron to the next quiz, I will bring cookies to the final quiz. This deal was made publicly, in front of his classmates. I'll know the results in two weeks.

The things I do...

Friday, November 09, 2007

I am SO me sometimes

Did laundry earlier today. As I was hanging my four newly clean shirts, I realized three were gray and one was black. Typical.

Just got back from Extraordinary Desserts. I had a hot chocolate (made with Valrhona) and a piece of Viking cake (chocolate cake, chocolate mousse, chocolate ganache...). I may well be drunk.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Changing Times

One of the things I appreciated most about my time in Arizona was that it didn't observe Daylight Savings Time. (Trust me, nobody wants the Sun to set later in the summer there.) I despise changing the time, falling back or springing forward. Nowadays, it's easier. Our cell phones, computers, cable boxes... they all change automatically. But my inner fourth-grader will always remember walking to school, across a vacant playground and then having all eyes turn to her as she walked into class an hour late. Feh.

Today - watched Pats-Colts. It was fun to watch such a good game without rooting for either team, sort of an "NFL Appreciation" class. During half-time, I put together a loaf of pumpkin bread and a dozen pumpkin muffins. Tasty breakfasts await us this week!

Saturday, November 03, 2007


Today started off with breakfast prepared for me by Greg. He even brought it to me where I was sitting on the couch still in my robe. I'm a spoiled brat. Later, we went to our favorite pizza place and walked along the beach. I took another walk tonight by the mist-shrouded bay. Not such a bad day, hmm? Hope you're all well!