Monday, April 28, 2008

Who was that?

When my officemate unlocked the door to our darkened office early this morning, a man darted out of it. Nothing appears to be missing, but from the way my keyboard had been moved, he was probably sleeping in my chair with his head on my desk. I wonder who that was? Whoever he is, he must have a key and our alarm code.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


Today is the 18th anniversary of the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope. When I mentioned that to my astronomy classes, a few of the students commented on the fact that they're eighteen years old, too. Most of my students don't remember a world before Hubble. I do. It was a quieter universe, beautiful and placid. We now know that is not the universe we live in, and I'm forever grateful to have seen the heavens through Hubble's eyes.

To commemorate today's anniversary, here are some colliding galaxies, from Hubble:

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


You know, after a 13-hour day at work, I was thinking it would be so nice if my favorite musical artist would release a new single for free. What's that you say? Thanks, Trent!

Monday, April 21, 2008

For the record

It was Greg's idea to have chocolate chip cookie sundaes for dinner last night. It was a splendid idea, in my opinion.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

And so it goes

I had to yell TWICE at a group of students in one of my classes today. I resent having to apply discipline in a college classroom, and getting angry always leaves me unsettled and in a crappy mood. Needless to say, I did not have a good day.

However, when I got home, Greg made a yummy dinner, I baked chocolate chip cookies, and I received an email containing an apology from one of the troublesome students. Not such a bad day after all.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Benefit of the Doubt

My astronomy students turned in their first papers last week. The assignment is an article summary, in which they read a newspaper/magazine/internet piece on an astronomy topic and summarize it in one page. Nothing high stress, but rather my way of getting them to read science in the news. As part of grading, I mark spelling and grammatical errors. I did have a student object to this once, because I'm not an English teacher. Egads! I do think it is my duty to have them write as part of the astronomy curriculum. My physics students also have to write a short paper. I think it's important that students are held responsible for their writing skills, even outside the English classroom. After all, the goal of most composition classes is to prepare the students for their other courses, right?

I receive notices about students who take advantage of campus tutoring to proofread their papers for spelling and grammatical errors. One of these students turned in a paper full of errors. To whom do I give the benefit of the doubt - to the student, who perhaps did not receive the help she needed? Or to the tutor, who perhaps helped, but my student didn't follow through? Sigh. More hot chocolate is required.

Sunday, April 06, 2008


On Friday, I attended a six hour-long meeting focusing on student learning outcomes. It made me ponder some recent examples I have of the outcomes that different people expect for student learning. All of these examples are from colleagues, near and far:

  • The withdrawal and fail rates for these courses are too high. You need to figure out how to help more students succeed in these courses - a dean, remarking upon a track of pre-med/pre-professional courses.
  • You guys need to fail more students. Not enough of the students are learning what they need to succeed in our courses. - a professor, remarking upon the same track of pre-med/pre-professional courses.
  • I was concentrating on my music and my surfing instead of your class. - a student responding to a professor chiding the class on poor exam performance.
  • Zero hours outside of class. Zero homework done. This class does nothing to prepare students for the tests. - student response to a post-exam survey asking for amount of time spent studying, amount of homework completed, and constructive criticism for the professor.

I think I'll go drink hot cocoa now.