In a paper I'm grading, the student mentions having "strong people kills"...I'm not sure whether to laugh or to be very afraid.
As you read over those evals from last semester, this site interprets those student comments for us:
Here are some of my favorites:
What They Say in the Written Evaluation: “This class was one of the best classes that I have ever taken.”
What They Mean: “This class was one of the best classes that I have ever taken.”
What They Say: “This is the worst class that I have ever taken.”
What They Mean: “This class challenged many of my most basic assumptions and required me to work hard.”
What They Say: “This professor was really condescending.”
What They Mean: “I can’t take criticism.”
What They Say: “The professor should post the lecture notes on-line so that we can have something to follow in class.”
What They Mean: “The professor should post the lecture notes on-line so that we won’t have to go to class at all.”
What They Say: “The professor has the worst taste in clothes that I have ever seen.”
What They Mean: “I have no idea about what constitutes an appropriate professional relationship and will probably be fired from my first job.”
What They Say: “Grading for this class was totally unfair.”
What They Mean: “I am getting a ‘F’ in this class.”
What They Say: “Grading for this class was totally fair.”
What They mean: “I am getting an ‘A’ in this class.”
What They Say: “The attendance policy for this class treats us like we are children.”
What They Mean: “I had to cancel a two-week vacation in Paris because attendance was required for this class.”
And my favorite comment? "This teacher is so arrogant; he thinks he knows more than anyone else in the class."
I recently received an email asking me for advice on how to use humor in the classroom. I have found the following articles useful.
I share a couple examples of how I've used humor with my students. I find using humor (and laughing at myself on occasion) helps to create a positive learning environment.
How do others use humor in the classroom? Jokes? Cartoons? Storytelling?
Got this from Daphne Gray-Grant at Publicationcoach.com It's a website for writers that are having trouble concentrating on their work. As someone who needs to revise and resubmit a journal article, I may have to try it!
As noted on Write or Die:
[This] is a web application that encourages writing by punishing the tendency to avoid writing. Start typing in the box. As long as you keep typing, you're fine, but once you stop typing, you have a grace period of a certain number of seconds and then there are consequences.
The idea is to instill in the would-be writer with a fear of not writing. We do this by employing principles taught in Introduction to Psychology. Anyone remember Operant Conditioning and Negative Reinforcement?
Negative Reinforcement "strengthens a behavior because a negative condition is stopped or avoided as a consequence of the behavior."
Gentle Mode: A certain amount of time after you stop writing, a box will pop up, gently reminding you to continue writing.
Normal Mode: If you persistently avoid writing, you will be played a most unpleasant sound. The sound will stop if and only if you continue to write.
Kamikaze Mode: Keep Writing or Your Work Will Unwrite Itself. These consequences will persist until your preset conditions have been met (that is, your time is up or you've written your word count goal or both).
This is aimed at anyone who wants to get writing done. It requires only that you recognize your own tendency towards self-sabotage and be willing to do something about it.
Maybe our students would find this useful?
Nelly Cardinale (Brevard Community College) posted this on Twitter: Her son came home from school with his class syllabus that noted:
If a cell phone rings, the entire class has an immediate quiz and the cell phone owner cannot take the quiz.
Last semester I taught a class for management majors and discussed what managers should and shouldn't ask in an interview during their hiring process. I then asked the following on an exam:
Is it legal to ask applicants this question: "Did you go to work on time on a regular basis at your last job?"
One student's written response on her exam? "That's kind of rude!"
Professor Barb Warner (University of South Florida) shares this: one of her students brought her a medical excuse note written by Leslie D. Parchmento, M.D. As Professor Warner notes, something about it didn’t sound right so she decided to check to see if the office existed...
Yep, there's a website where students can buy fake doctor's excuses!
Professor Steven Dutch (University of Wisconsin - Green Bay) shares his Top Ten No Sympathy Lines.
My favorite? I Paid Good Money for This Course and I Deserve a Good Grade
Right on! And ---
I paid good money to get on this golf course and I have a right to shoot par. Anyone can enter the U.S. Open - that's what "open" means. But if you don't make the cut, you don't play in the tournament. Nor do you get a refund of your entry fee.
I paid good money for a lawyer and I have a right to win my case.
I paid good money for a house and I have a right to see it increase in value, even if I haven't lifted a finger to maintain it in ten years.
I paid good money for this stock and I have a right to see it go up, even if I haven't bothered to watch the stock market. (I just know the XYZ Beta Video and 8-Track Tape Company is poised for growth!)
Almost everything you pay for in life is an entry fee. What happens next is up to you. Buy a Lexus and never change the oil and see what happens. Get a triple bypass and keep on smoking and snorking down the cholesterol - you'll be back.
Professor Horace shares what he calls the funniest student excuse ever:
Dear Professor Horace:
I apologize for not being in class right now. I left my shoes in my neighbor's room in the dorm. He's not there right now, and I can't come to class without shoes...
Anyone else have stories to share as we get into this new semester?
Check out this video on "the process of creating/designing within the advertising industry." Very funny! Hopefully, we do NOT teach this approach to our students...
I have to share this with my colleagues teaching Marketing. This company claims their vitamins which are specifically designed for teachers will give us more energy, stamina, and focus, and will reduce stress.
I DO need to start working on those syllabi...
Please do not aggravate, agonize, annoy, badger, bother, chafe, disconcert, distract, disturb, exasperate, fret, goad, hack off, hassle, heckle, infuriate, incense, irk, irritate, josh, mock, pester, provoke, rile, upset, taunt, tease, torment, vex, or worry your teacher. Doing so may affect your grade.
One of my former colleagues at Drake University shared this email from a student taking his online course:
prof, i luv this www class, im sitting in my pjs right now working on the stuff 4 class, but im fraid this assgnmt is gun b late. cud u gimme n x10shun til fri? srry, wont hppen again. ttyl
Professor to student: I've decided to give your class an open-book, open-note mid-term exam.
Student to professor: Where do I get the notes?
Check out this video by Don McMillan titled, "Life After Death By Powerpoint." It's very funny but does make the key points that bad powerpoint slides are:
Student to Professor: "I don't know why I didn't get a better grade on the exam. I studied for two hours!
Professor to Student: "It took me longer than two hours to put together the exam!"
You probably have heard about helicopter parents. Most professors and university administrators agree that hovering over your son or daughter in college is not teaching them how to be responsible for their own actions.
A woman in Iowa placed this ad in the Des Moines Register:
OLDS 1999 Intrigue. Totally uncool parents who obviously don't love teenage son, selling his car. Only driven for three weeks before snoopy mom who needs to get a life found booze under front seat. $3700/offer. Call meanest mom on the planet.
The son is a freshman business major at Briar Cliff University. The mother, Jane Hambleton, says she got over 70 phone calls from people supporting her action.
Professor Mike Adams (Eastern Connecticut State University) has written a paper titled, "The Dead Grandmother/Exam Syndrome and the Potential Downfall Of American Society." As he notes, "A student's grandmother is far more likely to die suddenly just before the student takes an exam, than at any other time of year...Overall, a student who is failing a class and has a final coming up is more than 50 times more likely to lose a family member than an A student not facing any exams."
There seems to be a trend toward asking for "proof" from students who claim a death in the family. I'm curious as to whether other professors require this. I give my students two "personal days" during the semester to use as they wish so that I don't have to judge the validity of their excuse for missing class.
For all of us currently facing mounds of exams and papers that have to be graded, Professor Sally Kuhlenschmidt (Western Kentucky University) has developed fantasy grading software. I chuckled at her FAQ's about teaching such as:
Q: Tell me again why I went into teaching?
A: Look at the shiny object-- you are growing sleepy, very sleepy....you went into teaching for the joy of evaluating student work. It is thrilling to assign value to student papers and tests. When I snap my fingers you will wake up and complete all your grading by the end of the day, feel very relaxed, and give extra credit to the next student you see. <snap>
Q: Is cleaning the bathroom a worthy excuse for avoiding grading papers?
A: Absolutely, as is defrosting the freezer, cleaning the garage and any other household chores that have been neglected for 6 months. It is well known that these become urgent tasks when faced with the alternative of a stack of blue books. It is even quite acceptable to clean out one's email inbox. Do not, however, forward humorous emails to others as they have their own "urgent" housework to accomplish.
Q: How about running to the grocery for aspirin?
A: No, because you have aspirin in your medicine cabinet. The excuse must offer plausible deniability.
OK, it's back to grading for me....
I'm currently grading student presentations (I'm sure many of you are doing the same). Timothy Johnson (Drake University) sent me a rubric he developed which made me chuckle. I like his distinction between A, B, and C (or below) level work.
Here's another (perhaps more serious) rubric for grading presentations.
Found this bit of academic humor in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's newsletter published by their Office of Graduate Studies:
An eccentric philosophy professor gave a one-question final exam after a semester dealing with a broad array of topics. The class was already seated and ready to go when the professor picked up his chair, plopped it on his desk and wrote on the board: "Using everything we have learned this semester, prove that this chair does not exist."
Fingers flew, erasers erased, notebooks were filled in furious fashion. Some students wrote over 30 pages in one hour attempting to refute the existence of the chair. One member of the class, however, was up and finished in less than a minute. Weeks later when the grades were posted, the student who finished in less than a minute got an A. The rest of the group wondered how she could have gotten the best grade in the class when she apparently gave the exam such little effort. This is what she wrote: "What chair?"
I'm looking forward to my trip to Lincoln next week where I'll be the keynote speaker on classroom management for their campus-wide Teaching Assistants' Workshop.
One of the comments I hear often is that students think they can search the web, text message their friends, and listen to a class lecture at the same time...and can't understand why we professors get upset by this behavior. The Onion has a cute video on what happens when multi-tasking goes bad causing the entire internet to crash...
We've all heard this...food picked up within five seconds after being dropped on the floor is still good. I once witnessed a parent invoke the rule to those of us watching on a subway when her son dropped his ice cream cone.
Professor Anne Bernhard (Connecticut College) and some of her students researched this urban legend and found that actually the window of opportunity was 30 seconds. According to their findings, "As long as you eat a moist food within 30 seconds of its fall, you're very likely to be in a zone of safety. For dry, less porous foods...you might be safe even if you allow them to stay on the floor for 1 minute."
What a great learning project for these biology students!
I received this email from a student who is signed up for one of my classes next semester. The class meets from 6:00-8:50pm on Thursday nights.
Dear Dr. Kirk,
Can you please let me know if this is a lecture class and if you keep students until 8:50pm? I am registered, but am concerned about the drive because I work/live in <next town which is 15 miles away>
So essentially she's telling me that she is hoping I don't give her full value for her money...I wonder if she would ask her new boss if she needed to work the full eight hours a day as scheduled?
I'm interested in how others reply when you receive a question like this...
I gave my students at the University of South Florida-St Petersburg the option of videotaping part of their team presentation in my Human Resource Management class this semester. Thus, they could put together a training video to use as a visual aid in class. Click here to see one of the most entertaining and professional student videos I've seen. The topic was sexual harassment in the workplace and the five minute video covers the type of behaviors that could be considered as sexual harassment. Is there a student version of the Academy Awards??
Here's an article on how to use humor in the classroom, especially in those classes that students all have to take but don't necessarily see as relevant to their major.
As the authors note:
"Humor is a valuable teaching tool for establishing a classroom climate conducive to learning. This article identifies opportunities for incorporating humor in the college classroom, reviews the impact of humor on learning outcomes, and suggests guidelines for the appropriate use of humor...Appropriate and timely humor in the college classroom can foster mutual openness and respect and contribute to overall teaching effectiveness."
They go on to say:
"Humor is a catalyst for classroom "magic," when all the educational elements converge and teacher and student are both positive and excited about learning. Instructors can foster classroom "magic" through improved communication with students by possessing a playful attitude and a willingness to use appropriate humor."
Humor in the classroom helps to reduce the anxiety students feel and makes for a positive learning environment. Last night I gave a 90 minute exam. At the beginning of class which started at 6pm, I looked at the clock on the wall and said they had until 6:34pm to finish. I then started laughing, realizing that I meant to say 7:34pm. The students also laughed which helped them to relax a little before starting the exam.
In another class this week, there were a number of students who came in tardy which is actually very unusual in my classroom. It turned out that there was an event on campus that had filled up the parking lots. However, I was lecturing and every 2-3 minutes another student would come into class. The first one I ignored, the second one I stopped and looked at, the third one I made a comment. By the fourth person I paused and started laughing. Obviously something was going on out of the ordinary. I then accused the students of all standing outside the classroom text messaging each other and deliberately sending in one late student at a time. The class thought it was hilarious. It made the point that I was paying attention and yet didn't place any blame. I find humor a good way to control the classroom.
Tim Johnson is teaching a class on creativity for business students at Drake University using Roger von Oech's book, A Kick in the Seat of the Pants. Check out this photo of his class. Tim's the fuzzy pink bunny. As you can see, Tim's students love his classes! He definitely "walks the walk" and is able to make a connection to his students that encourages them to engage fully in the subject matter.
Did I mention that I was Tim's professor in his MBA program 17 years ago? And no, I didn't teach him how to dress!
My daughter's daughter (Istra, age 9) drew this for me after reading my book on classroom management that I had sent to her father (Dr. Christopher Fuhrmann, University of North Texas). She gets it!
I'm thinking I should put her drawing on all future syllabi...
And no, we don't use the G word in my house!
I've decided to start a new series asking faculty to share their "best" and "worst" stories in the classroom.
Dr. Kurt Lemmert (Frostburg State University) sent me the following "first day horror story."
"I was scheduled to teach a Calculus I class, followed immediately by two sections of Elementary Probability and Statistics (back to back to back). On the first day, one guy showed up about ten minutes late for Calculus. I figured he got lost or something and so I just went over, got his name, and gave him the course guide. A few minutes later, I saw that he was fast asleep with his head down on the desk. I bumped his desk, and said, "Hey, it might be a good idea to stay awake for the first class!" A few minutes later, he was zonked again, so I just ignored him. As the 50 -minute class ended, the other students' movement awakened the sleeper. I went over and said, "You were late, you slept through the rest of the class entirely, and now it's time to leave." He slowly blinked a few times, looked at the clock and said to me, "No, I'm in your next class, too." And he was. And your suspicions are correct - he slept through that one also."
I've shared tips and more tips for getting students to turn off their cell phones before but this might be the visual that really impacts on student behavior. I have to think this was staged but it still illustrates the point and I'm thinking this professor's students are likely to remember to turn that phone off.
Apparently someone at Lafayette High School in Brooklyn can't add. The principal sent a note home with students regarding their new grading system. The pie chart indicated that grades "would be based 25 percent on Regents exams, 10-20 on homework, 60-75 on exams and 10-20 on classwork."
I kept my night class 18 minutes after the normal ending time in order to finish discussing the material so that they would be ready for their first exam the following week. One of the students contacted my Dean to complain...
Suggestions as to how I should have handled this? I had told them the first night of class that I would not change the test dates so they could plan ahead. Also, I was going out of town early the next morning and did not have time to redo the test.
I told my Dean to reassure the student that I would not charge him/her for the additional teaching received.
There's a videotape of an University of Florida management professor lecturing to his class. I watched 25 minutes of it before I could figure out what the class topic was. He is dressed as if he just came in from mowing his lawn, he sits down the entire time he's talking (except twice when he actually lies down on the floor), he refers to his students by their shirt colors as obviously does not know anyone's name, he rambles on about Paul Revere, Ireland being boring, the history of giving someone the middle finger, his trip to Boston, an art museum he liked in Europe...He constantly makes faces at the students as well as making fun of them...What's even more amazing to me is he knew he was being videotaped.
Thanks to my colleague at Drake, Tim Johnson, for sharing this with me. I'm thinking I can use this in future teaching workshops on how NOT to teach...
OK, now I've seen it all. I assigned a short paper (1-2 page executive summary) and told my students they needed at least three or four sources. One student's source: the name of what I take to be another student and the words "midterm paper." That's it. No other info. I have no idea who the student is, what the class was, why my student thinks he would be a credible source...
A friend of mine sent me the following:
NEW YORK -- A public school teacher was arrested today at John F.
Kennedy International Airport as he attempted to board a flight while in
possession of a ruler, a protractor, a set square, a slide rule and a
At a morning press conference, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said he
believes the man is a member of the notorious Al-gebra movement. He did not
identify the man, who has been charged by the FBI with carrying weapons of
"Al-gebra is a problem for us," Gonzales said. "They desire solutions by
means and extremes, and sometimes go off on tangents in search of absolute
values. They use secret code names like 'x' and 'y' and refer to themselves
as 'unknowns', but we have determined they belong to a common denominator of
the axis of medieval with coordinates in every country. As the Greek
philanderer Isosceles used to say, 'There are 3 sides to every triangle'."
When asked to comment on the arrest, President Bush said, "If God had
wanted us to have better weapons of math instruction, He would have given us
more fingers and toes."