Friday, March 21, 2008

So long

If I don't write things when they happen I forget. There has been so much going on this semester, but I'm having hard time putting it all together. This week was a spring break that I intended to spend catching up on all the things that I have neglected, but I spent it on two things: writing a grant for master of science program for secondary teachers and filing my taxes. The former is, I hope, out of my hands (but then again I thought the same on Wednesday night and spent all day yesterday working on it), and the latter is still waiting for me as both online programs I tried got hung up on MI state taxes. And I didn't even want to live there :)

Anyway, I want to say a few things about my classes. Mark says that the only one I ever talk about is my 1010 class. That's the intermediate algebra, started with 195 students, stabilized at about 150. It's actually really hard to tell because, despite all my efforts they don't show up. I use the clickers to take attendance that is worth 5% of their grade. I get about 100-115 students, and never more than that (except on the exam day). I give quizzes that are worth 15% of their grade. I get 115 students show up on the quiz days as well. I started alternating between in class quizzes and online quizzes. My favorite day was when I reminded them in class that the quiz is online, twice. 115 were present, 95 took the quiz. And! They have between 3pm on day and 9am the following day to take it. I really am not sure how else I could encourage them to be there. Maybe it's not important that they're there. Except my last exam average was 62%! It is entirely possible that I can't write an exam, but that'll be another post. Although ....

Random thought: It is extremely hard to find whiskey barrels in Utah.

... I wouldn't want to imply that most of the students don't care. There are many who work really hard, and do really well. But many are all too happy to keep a grudge, text during class, sleep or just chat, and to be one of 150 hoping I'll never know them. Many I don't. But many I do. It was really funny to watch them freak out when I started calling people by their names especially the ones who sit in the back and don't talk. Anyhow, the theory for low passing rate in these classes is that they don't come to class. I don't believe so. The reason is that they are so huge. If these kids could learn in this kind of an environment then probably wouldn't need to be here. The department's problems are clear though: we don't have enough money to teach smaller sections. We have about 400-500 students a semester. If you want a decent sized classrooms you'd need what, about 20 sections? We have 3! Apparently we can't afford any more than that. What can we do to make these students more successful? Trying to get them more involved in the actual class, having them work on the problems on their own and getting an instant feedback and awareness of how everyone else is doing (the clickers) makes it a more engaging atmosphere, and I am convinced it helps them (and many said as much, even if only that they are not afraid of being wrong) but it also means I am behind. Now I am worried that I will not cover all the material that they would need before they can be successful in college algebra class. I'm all about them knowing something well, but we do have a departmental final and I'm worried they'll do badly. Argh.

Anyway, some teacher ladies are meeting for drinks. Yeah, I know, kinda early, it must be the Utah thing.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Rubber room?!

Ever heard of it? Listen to This American Life Human resources episode. It's act 1. Is this NYC thing, or does it happen everywhere? I am flabbergasted.