Classes have been finished for me for a little bit, but I haven’t had much time to blog about it. I had a final last Wednesday that was technically in class, but we had received the question earlier and could write outside of class. Because my handwriting isn’t so nice and I didn’t want to deal with writing in class and having the time constraint over my head, I wrote the entire thing outside of class and showed up for the last little bit of lecture and to hand in the essay.

The past few days (essentially, when entries ceased to exist) have been full of dance (to be written about later) and schoolwork. Schoolwork = paper writing = lots of time in front of the computer. Yesterday, the veins in my hands were especially plump from all the typing. I’ve been trying to give my hands and eyes breaks from typing and staring a screen, so blogging will be a minimum. I have two papers down and one more due this week; the fourth isn’t due until January 15th, so I’ll take a little break in between and hopefully have some time to work on my personal projects. For now, though, it’s paper writing time!

Advertisements

I’m about a week from being finished with classes and about 1.5 weeks from being finished, more or less. Although I’m not terribly worried finals for myself, I know some people are stressing a lot. I already wrote a list of advice for test-taking that should be applicable for many final exams. But what about handling papers, projects, and just finals period?

  • Organize yourself! I have a list of what’s due when in my calendar and have already begun to decide when I’m working (or can work) on what. Make sure you have everything you need as well.
  • Sleep, eat, etc. No one works or thinks well if they are not taking care of themselves. If you feel like you’re pressed for time now, imagine how pressed you’ll be if you are sick. If you do become sick, talk to your advisor or a dean to see about getting extensions.
  • Speaking of eating, eat well. A little indulgence in junk is okay, but I find almost always feel better when I eat healthy foods.
  • If you’re writing papers (like I am), I’d make sure you have adequate breaks away from the computer. After awhile, my hands need to not type and my brain needs to stop working so hard.
  • If your final exam is in-class open everything, be it a writing or math/science exam, review your notes and have everything organized. Open notes, etc. on a test can be a valuable tool, but they can be detrimental if you have no idea what is where. I like using these little sticky-note strips; they’re a sliver of the size of a sticky note and you can write on them.
  • Along the same vein, even with an open notes/book/everything exam, study before you get there. These items are only tools and are pretty useless if you don’t know how to use them or understand the underlying concepts before hand.
  • Address your grade concerns now. While my advice has always been to address grade concerns as soon as they come up, your grade still has not been submitted. Talk to your professor(s) about ways to improve.
  • My last piece of advice is DO NOT CHEAT OR PLAGIARIZE. The consequences can be very steep for cheating. I know people have successfully cheated, but there are plenty of people who have not. Not even looking at the ethics, the risk is not worth it. If you wish to collaborate with a student on something and are unsure if it is cheating, ask your professor!

Best of luck to everyone who is in finals or is about to enter finals.

 

I’m proud of my students; most of them actually appear to have taken to heart my advice on studying. Most students passed their finals with Bs or As. Not bad at all, considering some of them were not A or B students in this class. It was a pleasant surprise to say the least and a great way to end the school year. I don’t think I can emphasize enough how much I dislike giving a student a failing grade, even when that is what s/he earned.

Even though I’m iffy about teaching next year, I’m already thinking about what to do. Thinking about the advice another professor at the school gave me (don’t do more work than the students do), I’m considering not assigning homework formally. As most people know, the odd numbered problems have some kind of answer. My students typically don’t do homework (this is par for the course), and when they realize it’s a part of their grades, they do a rush job that is more about credit than understanding. I’m not anti-grades, but I’m more pro-learning than anything. My reasoning for considering this is that the students who want to learn and grasp the material will, they can check answers without consulting with me, the homework thing won’t hurt those who are super busy and may turn it in late, and it creates less work for me to grade something poorly done. I’ll still give quizzes, so they won’t totally be devoid of feedback. However, I am strongly learning towards this model.

Has anyone ever done a quiz/exam/attendance only for grades? I’m torn, but I also come from a world where homework saved my behind and I genuinely worked hard on it. The student population I work with is different (homework ended up hurting everyone’s grade, even those who did well on exams), so I have to figure out something that works for them.

You know it’s the end of the year when the tutoring center has people show up and suddenly, you get to tutor everything. I tutored for about 2 hours today. I did physics, calc, and English.

Since final grades are due Friday, I have a lot of work ahead of me. My math students are taking their final now as I type this entry. My physics students take their final tomorrow and Wednesday. I’m more or less set up to just grade the final and then have the final grades done. There is some leeway, but on a whole, I feel most students have performed consistently throughout the semester. I don’t look forward to the grading; I used to not mind grading so much, but there is always so much to be done.

Although I enjoy teaching, I’m looking forward to the summer. It looks like I have employment (I have to do one last interview/talk with some people this week, but my new advisor basically told me that the job is mine). The pay isn’t amazing, but it is indeed enough to get through the summer. I’m also looking at other small ways to supplement my income.

In terms of next year with the school, I hope to teach one or two classes. Since I’ll be a full-time student, I can’t swing a lot. However, I want to stay actively involved with everyone here. I enjoy the environment a lot, and I’d like to become a better teacher. I’m not sure if I could ever teach full-time (I’m hoping to do more education research), but I think that part of me will always like teaching. Besides helping guide people in their education, I like that teaching helps keep things fresh in my brain.

We’re in our last week of classes; next week is finals.

It’s hard to believe that we’re almost finished. In some ways, this is scary, since I kind of have a summer job. I haven’t accepted it, but without any prospects, it looks like I will be. The pay isn’t great, but some income is better than none. I’m still looking at ways to supplement my income, so hopefully I find something soon. On one hand, I’ll have somewhat financial security come August/September, but I still have to weather May, June, July.

While I did have an overall enjoyable semester, I look forward to summer break. Partially because getting up at 6 AM to ensure I arrive at school by 8 AM to teach is draining. I’m not a morning person, and waking up so early on dark, dreary days is difficult. I look forward to a bit of a later start.

In terms of next semester and teaching, because my classes are night classes, I will try to teach one or maybe two classes here. Besides the extra income and keeping a strong connection, I genuinely enjoy my job. The pay isn’t the greatest (this is adjunct work), but I’m lucky to wake up (even if it’s dead early) and work with people I genuinely like and respect. My coworkers are really interesting people that I like to socialize with on the office level. My students are challenging, but there are moments when teaching does feel worthwhile.

If I don’t post much this week, you’ll know why. I’m up to my nose in grading. Final grades are due about 2 days after I give my last final!

Everything was completed yesterday, just in the nick of time to go to dance class. It was also done in the nick of time for me to get sick today. I suspect it has something to do with my heat being broken. While I was planning a more productive day than lying around in bed, watching crime shows (I’m a fan of Law and Order: SVU and Castle), there are worse things to had. As long as I don’t leave my bed, I’m quite warm.

Actually, the semester cannot quite sleep soundly, I’m afraid. I had one student already try to argue his grade up because he wasn’t happy with it. Well, that’s not a good reason for getting a better grade; even though the holiday break has begun, he thought we should meet to discuss his grade. Final grades were due, and I don’t believe in grades being argued. This isn’t the movie Clueless, after all. I work out a rubric before I even begin grading. It’s simpler in the long run, and I think it’s more impartial; items are given various weights because I think they’re more important, not because a student I like did poorly on something and I think it shouldn’t be weighed as heavily as a result. I take my time grading and try to do things in their favor.

One of the biggest issues of contention for my exams was that I give them physics words or terms to give definitions to; unfortunately, the student who is upset about his grade is one of the ones who despises the whole vocab thing. I genuinely believe it’s important for people to articulate what they mean in science; otherwise, we’re just doing math. I think, if you have some genuine understanding of what’s going on, you should be able to write something. For this past exam, I wanted them to write things in their own words. I usually give definitions to them as an examples. The exam prior to the final- all the students memorized exactly what I gave them. I was surprised and not pleased; while I’m glad they took the initiative to study that part, memorizing definitions shows no understanding whatsoever. I can memorize Spanish or Arabic or a myriad of other languages, but I don’t know what they mean. They were not thrilled about this, but I genuinely believe that part of a class is communication and understanding what’s being communicated; you have to learn the lingo. Heck, I would be happy if they would write their own definitions prior to the exam, make sure they’re good, and then memorize the heck out of them.

I heard that it’s standard for some students to think that they can argue their grades and with time, they cool down and decide to concentrate their energies elsewhere.

Right now, my students are taking their finals. It’s my final day for finals. Tomorrow I get to grade their exams. I’ve simply been too busy to grade them now.

I am working here next semester, thank goodness. I get to teach Algebra 1 and conceptual physics. It should be interesting. I’m not 100% sure what these classes entail, but it’ll be a nice change of pace.

As glad as I am to have a job doing something related to my degree, I am glad the semester is over. I look forward to starting the first day of spring semester more prepared. My break will involve some relaxation, but some work. Preparing for my classes, still editing my thesis, etc.

Probably the most groundbreaking news in this post is that I’m looking at studying physics education research. I’ve realized this autumn I’m highly interested in undersanding and improving physics education. Not because I’m teaching now but in general. When I was a teaching assistant, I noticed common themes with the students. While some of them were simply students being students (whiny complaints), some were genuinely valid. After going to grad school and now teaching, I realized that there are some things I would like to better understand and/or change. I’ll write about this more later; it’s simply too early (9 AM) to go into the full rationale of why I think this is a great move for me.