Sunday, October 11, 2009

Back to school; round 2

So we have finished the first week of the semester. Or at least the first post-Eid, post-H1N1 closure. My graduate students have been doing their thing, which was not a surprise. My undergraduates came back strong too, and that was a surprise to me. Perhaps I should be embarrassed by my modest expectations. These are mostly 16 and 17 year olds in their first semester of college. After only three class sessions, we were shut down so I kept in touch via email and by using some of the online course tools. They had handed in their first essay before the closure so I responded with comments and grades by email and required them to submit their second essay online. Almost all of them did it correctly and on time. Then for one first day back, they were to read a chapter of a book on art theory and write a short essay and most of them not only completed the assignment and did good jobs with it. Our discussions in class that day and again later in the week were pretty dynamic. The students had kept up with the reading.

In the class of 21, there is of course one student who missed the first three classes and shows up after the closure. He was on my email list and had access to the course website, but had done nothing to contact me or respond to my announcements. Initially I thought he was added late because sometimes the advisors do shady things, but he said he was registered by the deadline and got sick. OK. On this, his first day, a month after the first class meeting, and having missed the first three essays, he comes to class without a pen or paper. All he brought was his cell phone; I know, because it rang of course.

After class, he comes up and tells me how he is going to do all of the work by Thursday. I explain that he can’t do all of the work that quickly and that we need to make an appointment to meet to discuss exactly what he needs to do and when he can do it. We find a time for Wednesday. I also change the assignments for group projects in order to accommodate him. Finally, I tell him to always bring a pen and paper. He tells me he is a sophomore, so I explain that if first year students have no excuse for coming to class without a pen and paper, he certainly does not.

On Wednesday, he misses his appointment. I was not surprised. On Thursday in class, he had to borrow a pen and paper for the pop quiz (on which he did not answer a single question) occasioned by another student’s phone ringing. (On the syllabus, I explain that the penalty for a cell phone ringing is a pop quiz for the class.) And later he pulled out his cellphone which I did call him out on in front of the class. After class, he approached me to tell me how lost he is in the course. I asked about our missed appointment. He started to tell me that he had to do something really important at the same time. I explained that when you schedule an appointment that you are unable to honor, you notify the person via email. Then he said something about it being too late and he did not think I would have gotten the email. OK. This is not going well. We have made another appointment for this week.

This is all pretty typical stuff, as any teachers reading here will probably agree. I do find it also typical that I devote three paragraphs to one knucklehead and less than one to the rest of the class who come correct.

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