Thursday, October 28, 2004

(Why does my profile still state that my average number of posts per week is 0?)

Although I was feeling pretty happy with myself today, what with writing a very nice letter of rec for a student, having most of the re-re-re-re-revisions of my thesis done, and teaching, I ended up being completely "hated on" in a number of ways today.

First, my students are upset because of the Great Scantron Scandal, in which a huge number of their midterms were messed up by the scantron. I didn't find this out until I had already posted their grades with a pretty high "curve" (18 points). It's the first test I've ever made, and I thought maybe I had done something to make it really hard. So, lo and behold, after a bunch of people in the class went over their tests with the key, it was determined to be a scantron problem, so I re-scored them all by hand and completely redid their grades. This turned out to be more what you would expect a class to be--a normal curve. So my dilemma was what to do about those 18 points? Some people were extremely happy to get 106 percent or whatever. So today I handed out a poll asking what they thought was the fairest way for me to deal with this. I got comments like "we work harder for your class than any other so why don't you give us a BREAK!!!"

Now, it would be easy to say ... maybe I am a real hardass as far as class stuff goes, and that's why they're upset (well, okay, a couple of them). However, I have really tried to make my section of the class easier than the sections of other instructors. We have the same reading as the other classes, which I admit is a lot.

But instead of intermittent, biggish journals, (which are also graded for grammar and spelling), I give quite short weekly assignments--over the Internet for crying out loud--I don't grade for any grammar or spelling, I give nearly everyone a 9 or 10 out of 10 (even those who it's obvious made the least attempt possible), and even if their answers are wrong I still give points if their thinking is reasonable. Also, I am the only instructor who gives points just for plain ol' attendance (I've even structured it to give extra credit points overall if they attend every class), and so on.

So the upshot is, I do give them a break! Every week when I grade their assignments, give them points for showing up, give random extra credit questions in class, and also give them extra credit opportunities as other people's research permits. So I'm not really happy about that"tone". Especially since I am very open to suggestions or whatever. I would have heard the words without all that rage!

So, okay, there was that.

Next, I was outside standing near the usual stone benches, happily feeding a couple squirrels to salve my wounded ego. A young woman approached me with an odd expression on her face (I thought at first there might be a witnessing a-comin') and said, "You know, when you feed those squirrels, they come up to other people, too." She was so upset and angry that her lips were actually shaking as she spoke.

Completely submarined by this, I answered pleasantly, "Yes, sometimes they do." She replied venomously, "Even people who don't want to be bothered with squirrels." As if in illustration, another squirrel hopped gaily over to my foot. She cringed away from it, even raising one leg.

If I had had the presence of mind, what I should have said was, "Now lissen, lady. Ever since students have been eating on campus, squirrels have been approaching people for their scraps. Those of us who feed them are just taking advantage of this for our own entertainment. Nobody came out here and trained the little bastards to run after you." (Although technically, giving them more food would in fact be another layer of reinforcement, but--whatever.)

Of course, what I ended up saying was something like, "They won't do anything to you." And maybe muttered something dopey about a long tradition of people feeding squirrels on campuses, or something. What a day to have my presence of mind fail me.

There were a couple other things, too, but those ones hit me hardest. Bleh.


Big Al said...

The 'number of posts' counter doesn't work properly. I had the same problem - apparently it's a known issue, so it might get fixed sometime soon. Maybe.

Andrew said...

"He puts one of yours in the hospital, you put one of his in the morgue. That's the Chicago way." -- Sean Connery, "The Untouchables."

Here's the Heckman way:

#1: Tell the students what you wrote here. If they still think you're being a hardass, then perhaps offer: "Listen, I take it very easy on you. If you give me a hard time, I'll start grading for grammer and spelling like I'm supposed to. And I'll stop giving points for attendance, which is a perk. College means preparing to be accountable adults. Unless your last name is Bush."

#2" Tape a peanut to the lady's ankle and watch her run! Or tell her, "Don't worry, the peanuts are poisoned. Soon there will be no squirrels at all! Mwa-haa-haa!"

argotnaut said...

That's just bizarre. Clearly she has some pathological squirrel phobia! Why would she take it out on you? I don't get mad at other people for buying plane tickets.

D said...

Sounds like a pretty easy ride to me. Marks for attendance!? I should have been so lucky.

Because you give frequent assignments it may seem like more work to the students than one big assignment though.