Category Archives: teaching

ah, summer (part 3)

About 2 months ago I posted about my experiences teaching over the summer. I had a student with severe ADHD in my small class, and it made the class a unique challenge.

This morning I received my course evals in that class.

Three students accused me of unfair treatment and favoritism because I was “too nice” to my student with ADHD.

Yes, they actually used these words in my evaluations.

I know for a fact that 2 of these 3 were students I’d had to threaten to physically separate the day before because they wouldn’t shut up for the 80 minute lecture (the “eye rollers” mentioned in the post from 2 months ago; these two students plan to be psychologists after completing their undergraduate degrees. HA!). The third student was one of their friends.

Apparently I was supposed to kick the ADHD student out of my class when they asked repeated tangential questions instead of dealing with them and moving on. Apparently it’s also unfair that I gave copies of my lecture notes to the student with ADHD.

Never mind that that this student was also paying for the course and actually displayed interest in the material, and that the student with ADHD had accommodations that guaranteed them access to my lecture notes as well as other types of support in the course.

I am livid and disgusted. Apparently as a professor I’m responsible for controlling everybody’s annoying behavior in the classroom, but I’m still unreasonable to expect neurotypical normals to shut up and leave their cell phones alone.

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another year…

Sorry to  be away… things are going on, so I am too busy to post! (Not a bad thing, right?)

I am mega-annoyed right now because it is the 2nd week of our term, and I’ve been getting messages from students every day this week about adding one or the other of my classes. This is definitely unusual. For pete’s sake… we’ve had 3 sessions already (of about 30 classes total)… why on earth would anybody think they could add after they’ve missed 10% of the course?

ah, summer (part 2)

Summer goes on, and I’m still inside, working on grant reviews. I’m about halfway through my stack, and have discovered a couple of tricks to help speed up the review process. It’s still taking me about 5 hours per application, which is really slow. I haven’t yet figured out if I’m being compulsive or inefficient. I suspect it’s both together :-S. I’m getting about 1.5 applications done per day, and am well-situated to be done with the reviews well in advance of the deadline. At any rate, as I’m now too brain-dead to work on reviews any longer, I’ll follow through on last week’s promise that I’d recount an ADD-related experience I had in my summer class.

It seems that each semester I have at least one student who has moderate to severe ADHD. My summer course was no exception; I had a student with ADHD that was sufficiently severe to require fairly intensive accommodations, which I was happy to provide in order to help them be successful in my course.

Outside of those accommodations, this student clearly had trouble in all the usual ways. They couldn’t sit still in class, had trouble coming to class on time, had trouble turning in work by deadlines, wouldn’t raise their hand before speaking, dominated the class discussion, went off on tangents, etc….. but really cared about the class and was clearly trying their darndest to do well.

My heart always goes out to these students, because they inevitably share stories of disappointments in classes and having to work so hard with professors who are less willing to follow their lists of accommodations (something I don’t understand, since these should be guaranteed to them by law).

I worked hard with this student, and was very proud of her performance by the end of the summer course. I observed a noticible improvement and substantial grasp of the course material, and saw how proud they were about their performance and enjoyment of the course. At the end of the term, my ADHD student thanked me profusely, saying that they’d planned to buy me a gift card for the local coffee shop in thanks for all my effort (of course I declined; no bribe needed, but the thoughtful gesture was definitely appreciated).

Unfortunately, on the last day of lecture, when my student went off on a tangent that took up quite a bit of course time. I did my best to divert them to get the class back on topic, and did fairly well…. but out of the corner of my eye, caught one of my neurotypically-normal students rolling their eyes and elbowing their friend in a clearly nasty way.

I almost lost it, not because of the nastiness, but because of the *nerve* it took to be nasty when this student has been nothing but open with their classmates about their disability, and asked for their patience with their quirks (something they didn’t need to do by any means). This same neurotypically-normal student had sent me an entitled message the night before challenging my grade on their paper, as well as my comments about their sloppy writing. When I replied that I stood by my comments, they indicated that I’d hurt their feelings and stomped on their pride.

It just goes to show that it’s not one’s strengths or weaknesses that determine their worth as a person. This “typical” student had the gall to be mean to somebody who has been nothing but kind and hardworking, as well as the guts to demand that I don’t “stomp on their pride” by giving valid criticism on their writing. All my student wtih ADHD wanted was to have adequate support to accommodate her learning needs, and was grateful to get it in a respectful fashion.

Now if only the rest of the world could understand this basic lesson…

ah, summer….

I haven’t blogged in over two months, and of course the reason is that I’ve been busy. It’s a common misperception that academics “take the summer off.” I can assure you that this is definitely *not* the case.  I’ve been in this line of work for a decade, and even my mom still thinks this a little bit (i.e., she’s bugging me about coming for a visit, but I don’t know how I’m going to make it fit in my schedule without having to pull all-nighters. This would be very, very bad…).

How I spent my summer “vacation”: I taught a summer class in May and June (and will post about an experience in this class soon), dealt with 3-4 Masters theses, took a few days’ off last week before the 4th of July, and have spent this week working on a paper and doing grant reviews. I’ll do the same tasks next week, and then will spend a few days in DC finishing the grant reviews. The week after that, Hubby and I go to Hubby’s home country for a week-long holiday (badly needed!). Once we return, there’s only a couple of weeks until the new semester begins. I’ve taught my two fall semester classes before, but one requires a bit of reprep, an assignment requires fairly substantial revision, etc. All of this work takes time.

It feels like summer is over before it’s really even begun. I’m trying not to think about this too much because it makes me feel sad and burned out. It also makes me feel like I haven’t accomplished anything (totally untrue, but still…). For example, I’d planned to get at least 2 papers out this summer, but now I think I’m going to have to forego at least one because I’m doing these grant reviews.

At least the weather is nice, and I get to enjoy it because I’m doing most of my work from home! If only the weather and summer could last just a couple weeks’ longer…

self-destructive students

There are certain aspects of the undergrad mentality that I just don’t understand. Some of these were certainly also true when I was an undergrad over a decade ago, but I didn’t understand typical undergrad quirks then, either. I mean things like:

  • Doing one’s hair and makeup, then donning sweats for class
  • Viewing class as an annoying interruption of one’s social life, and thus attending as few sessions as possible
  • Starting papers the night before the due date, then expecting to earn an A
  • Expecting professors to respond positively to greetingless, rambling email messages
  • Expecting professors to like being called by their first names, even when they’ve introduced themselves as “Doctor” or “Professor,” and so forth.

This list was topped this week. I had an unprecedented interaction with an undergrad student who clearly just doesn’t get it.

I’d already had run-ins with this student (who will hereafter be referred to as “Super-Student” or SS), who has struggled in class but rarely attends. A couple of weeks ago, when I met with SS privately for a make-up exam (which SS demanded, not requested, an hour before the exam was scheduled to occur), SS told me to my face “I don’t see the point of the latter 3/4 of your class, as it’s not relevant to my major.” SS then continued on to say “The fact that your class is at 5 p.m. makes it so hard for me to concentrate on the material… It’s just hard for me to stay awake and make myself come to lectures because it’s Thursday night and it already feels like the weekend.” I responded with something along the lines of  “This is no longer the case once you leave college and are functioning in the adult world.”

SS’s response: “What, Wednesday already feels like the weekend?”

My response: Stunned silence. Uh, grown-ups typically work on Friday!!!

Earlier this week my students completed course evals at the start of class. Per the standard operating procedure at my university, my grad assistant adminstered them and I waited outside in the hallway until she was finished. About 10 minutes after the start of class, a thin trickle of students starts filing out of the lecture hall, and I heard my grad assistant announce “You’re still having class once we’re done with evals.” A minute or so later, SS left the room with a friend, and I caught just the tail end of hu’s sentence. SS said “… and those in-class activities are just so stupid!”

SS obviously hadn’t seen me standing in the hallway, and this was just too good of an opportunity to pass up. I had to call hu on it, and replied “So, they are stupid, huh?”

Look of panic crosses SS’s face. A few seconds later, hu and friend had reached me in the hallway and SS started back-pedaling. “Well, I mean, just your homework assignments are stupid. I don’t mean you’re stupid. You’re kind of cool. But it’s dumb that we have to be in class to get the points for the assignments.”

I repeated the same line I’ve always used for these assignments, which is “In-class assignments are included in the grade because I’m rewarding good behavior. Requiring students to be in class in order to get or do the assignment encourages students to be responsible by rewarding them for regular attendance.I don’t allow make-ups because they’re a pain and having a make-up option allows students to be irresponsible.”

SS didn’t respond to this, although hu did look a bit sheepish. All hu said next was “Can I take our final early? It’s a total pain for me that it’s scheduled for Saturday of exams week. I know you didn’t pick the time, but I really need to be gone by then because my family is leaving for our spring vacation that day.”

I kid you not. Apparently somebody didn’t bother to check the exam schedule before the family booked their plane tickets. How irresponsible can one person be, even at age 19?

I didn’t say this, but could only think “Thank you for making final grade calculations just a little bit easier. I am now certain that if your points are on the borderline between letter grades, I won’t even need to consider rounding up.”

I’m letting SS take the exam 4 days early, mostly because I want to wash my hands of this situation. My only consolation is that I just posted the study guide yesterday, so SS will have far less time to prep for the exam than my more responsible students.

Thank goodness summer is coming! I need a break from so many irresponsible children!

the end is nigh

It’s the last week of the semester. Hooray 🙂 I anticipated getting to do some research this week, but things haven’t quite worked out as I’d planned.

Instead, in the 400-level class for majors, I have:

  • Graded 40 papers
  • Caught 8 students plagiarizing on their papers
  • Rebuked 4 of them in person over their offenses
  • Been impressed by their maturity when meeting with me about their plagiarism (two even apologized for making my job harder!)
  • Offered an incomplete and extra help to a crying student completely unprepared to do work at the 400-level
  • Given 1 exam
  • Not yet graded 5×40 short-answer questions

In the next 48 hours, I will

  • Grade those pesky short answer questions
  • Give an exam in my 100-level course
  • Calculate & post grades for both courses
  • Finish assembling my first year review packet
  • Finish commenting on a draft of a masters’ thesis
  • Make notes on my syllabi so I remember how I want to change them for next semester/year
  • Return to the research paper I last worked on about 2 months ago & hopefully finish it enough to send it back to the 2nd author
  • Halfheartedly clean the house in anticipation of my brother-in-law’s arrival on Sunday
  • Do all of our holiday shopping (three cheers for the internet!)

dealing with students with ADD (or students who possibly have ADD)

I’m having trouble to varying degrees with 3 students, 1 of whom has a ADD/ADHD diagnosis, and 2 who don’t but quite possibly would qualify. The problem is that all three are struggling, but don’t seem willing to do the  work necessary to be successful in college.

It bugs me that I think this because I know that with ADD this isn’t really the case…

My diagnosed student had a major meltdown around the time of the first exam, so I cut hu some slack and let hu retake it a few days after the class. Hu did better, but still barely passed. Now hu thinks that they can call me by my first name (‘Addled’ versus ‘Dr. Academic’), and has requested additional accommodations above and beyond hu’s official letter from the office for students with disabilities. I’m ok with obliging, provided the student does better and passes my course without my having to entirely gut my standards.

The two students who aren’t diagnosed have all the symptoms (“I can’t listen to you in class and take notes simultaneously!” and “I can’t read the book without falling asleep!”) but are very resistant to even considering an evaluation (Certainly I don’t push the issue, nor mention why their statements raise red flags for me personally…). They just want accommodations without a diagnosis or documentation. The “book sleepy” student showed up in my office the day a paper was due and I had to walk hu through it section by section before hu saw that hu had missed a major portion of the paper entirely. The “distracted note taker” spent a large chunk of time tonight telling me all about hu’s upbringing in gristly details (TMI to the extreme). Both have significant testing anxiety issues, and both are struggling in the course.

I just don’t get it…. from my perspective as a good student, if there was something out there that could help me do better, I’d want to learn about it and consider it. These students are clearly concerned about their performance, but just don’t seem open to taking the initiative and responsibility for their own learning.

But they’re really  not unique in this respect. Nearly all of my students are whiny, lazy and irresponsible.

Maybe this feeds in to why so many “neurotypical normals” view ADD as an excuse for laziness… they’re really all lazy, but the fact that some people have a medical label for it somehow “confirms” that it’s somehow more true of some people than of others.

A paper was due in one of my classes today, and 1/3 of the class failed to turn it. One of my students turned it in despite being ragingly drunk. Interestingly my “add likely” students both turned theirs in on time. I am dreading listening to all the whiny excuses the remaining third will try to spin tomrrow…