September 10, 2009

Back to School Round-Up

My first classes meet tomorrow. Then things get progressively busier and busier and busier...until they stop after December exams are marked and grades submitted. I have done everything I need to prepare for tomorrow except download my class lists, which I have learned to leave to the last minute because of all the adding and dropping going on. (Pet Peeve #873: Dalhousie's long add-drop period, which is designed for the convenience of the customers students, with no regard for the pedagogical chaos it creates as students appear and disappear quite at will for the first two weeks of a term that's barely twelve weeks long anyway. Just how far backwards is one supposed to bend for a student who has missed the first six or eight class meetings and so has no idea about the books, the assignments, or the attendance policies?) (Oh, and there's also Pet Peeve #781: students who register for your class but don't show up for several days, or maybe ever, but don't drop the class so that you know there's a spot available for someone on your waiting list. If only we were empowered by Customer Service the Registrar's Office to remove students from the course if they missed, say, the first two class meetings. Imagine how attendance, and thus engagement, would improve!)

Anyway, it's the time of year when academic work becomes a lot less academic (in that other sense of the word) and practical concerns press heavily on us all. Herewith, therefore, an idiosyncratic round-up of relevant tips or sites for students and professors alike.
How to E-Mail Your Professors. The guidelines in this post seem entirely sensible to me. Even if (like some of the commenters) you quibble with the details, I think everyone would agree that you should approach any communication with your professors (indeed, with anyone you hope will take you seriously) responsibly and professionally. Above all, never forget the First Law of Electronic Communication: once you click "send," you can't get it back. (The same goes for posts on your blog and status updates on Facebook, just btw.)

Dear Students... There are my own somewhat snarky (but still well-founded!) suggestions from this season last year.

I Worked So Hard! In her inimitable style, The Little Professor considers the relationship between effort, ambition, and success. See also her piece on Dealing with Professors. I especially like the reassurance that "most of us ... are not necessarily evil." True: in my own case, it's a lifestyle choice. He he.

On Teaching Evaluations. Professors: remember, it's impossible to please all of your students all of the time. Students: remember, not everyone is just like you, so perhaps what the professor should do instead of whatever you don't like is not as obvious as you think.

Did I Miss Anything? This poem by Tom Wayman remains the best response I know to a professors' most hated question, though this year I think I'll go with "you'll never know, will you?"

ProfHacker. This newly launched site, established by Jason B. Jones of The Salt-Box and collaborators, is already a goldmine full of nuggets of advice about pedagogy, technology (yay, help with wikis!), and academic business (for instance, ideas for reforming bad meetings)

Confessions of a Community College Dean
. This blog always has thoughtful, and thought-provoking, discussions of administrative and pedagogical issues. Dalhousie faculty wondering how the university's policies on "Academic Continuity" in the event that the campus is hard hit by the H1N1 virus will affect their plans and policies may want to look at this post and its comment thread.

OWL. Purdue's Online Writing Lab remains one of the best online writing resources I know.

Teaching Writing Across the Curriculum. I like a lot of things about this book; I've adapted the letter-writing assignment described on pages 30-34 for my 19th-century fiction classes and will be using my version of it again this year, after reverting last year to more traditional papers.
More as occasions warrant. In the meantime, time to go test the PowerPoint slides and double-check that all the links on Blackboard are working as planned.

4 comments:

Jeanne said...

Sometimes instead of giving a student who asks a copy of the Wayman poem or going with your relatively gentle "you'll never know" I like to say "yes." Enjoying the moment of silence that follows is probably a little evil.

Dorothy W. said...

Two weeks! Yeah, that's rough. And I love the idea of being able to remove a student from a class if he or she doesn't show up for the first two classes.

Rohan Maitzen said...

Jeanne, I think your response is the best one by far; I'm adopting that from now on. I like its minimalism. It lets us retain our dignity better than the more peevish ones!

Dorothy, every faculty member I suggest this to loves the idea. Then they point out that the admin would never go for it: we can't risk alienating (or, worse, losing) students nowadays. And so once again pedagogy comes second. I do usually take the line that they are ultimately responsible for everything covered in the course, no matter when they registered: they aren't going to get just partial credit, after all...

Craig Monk said...

I wish I knew of a better system for add/drop: I really do. I find that we tread water for those first classes. But, technically, all I have to do is provide the opportunity for students to catch up. I can start taking attendance, giving quizzes, delivering lectures. If someone adds at the very end, I'll provide a makeup, suggest how notes can be solicited, but I do not, for example, provide my own notes. Late adds should have the same opportunities, not a better one.

Ideally, I'd like to see little time for adding and a little more for dropping, but it is important for students who want a full load to get one.