My SO is working at an overnight summer camp right now for middle and high schoolers. They have very strict rules that I believe are a result of the law; the counselors cannot reveal that much about themselves, should not correspond with their students via email, befriend them on social networking sites, etc. Violation of any of these rules can result in the counselor’s firing.

One of the students Googled both my SO and another counselor, found my SO’s website, and found both counselors’ Facebook pages. This is just another reason why one should be careful about their web presence. Neither of them has anything salacious, but things would’ve gotten sticky had they had questionable content. If anything, teenagers being teenagers, I’m sure the job would’ve been more difficult if the student had found something more interesting than he had. As always, it’s smart to lock your Facebook profile, be aware of what’s on the intern about you (I Googled myself again after hearing about this), and if you do things online that you don’t want an employer to find out about, I would suggest using a pseudonym.

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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.

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!

I’ve seen that question bringing people to my blog. Well, it really depends on how you do it.

If you enter the conversation condescending and belligerent, it honestly annoys me. I don’t care for arrogance in general or people who are hostile. While I maintain professionalism, they aren’t pleasant conversations for either side. I think generally that it’s incredibly disrespectful to tell someone who has more experience/knowledge in the subject how things should be graded. I really recommend entering a grade dispute conversation calmly and respectfully.

If you enter the conversation with respect, I hope you also enter with a valid point. People who are petty really do bother me, because the issue appears to be based not on merit. Merit goes a long way with me, because it means you actually thought about why you’re arguing what you’re arguing and that it’s beyond wanting a better grade.

Timeliness also plays a huge role for how I feel about grade discussions. The responsibility is on the student to know his/her grade (if the professor isn’t returning work regularly, that’s a different issue). You should have a relative idea of how you’re doing in a class by that work. If you’re failing everything, you shouldn’t expect or demand to pass.  If you start talking about the unfairness of your overall grade at the end of the semester, I generally find that desperate and without merit. I hand out a syllabus, which is my contract/grading policy for students. Every last point is calculated and a general discussion of how the class is formatted is included. An argument about the overall grade being unfair seems even more invalid to me when people in the class do receive good grades.

So there you have it. There are obviously exceptions, but pretty much all grade disputes that I’ve had to deal with have been people who really do not have a leg to stand on. Again, as a final piece of advice, I really emphasize the idea of being respectful. Even if you have perfectly valid reasons for not respecting someone, you still have to demonstrate some kind of respect; you’re more likely to at least be heard and maintain a positive standing in that person’s eyes.

When I teach, I try to make things accessible. If at all possible, I like to bring in current research to let them know that physics isn’t this archaic thing and there’s still plenty of work to be done. They’ve brought up some interesting questions, one of which is how science contradicts religion.

I’m not the best person to ask this. I have a decent knowledge of religion (not great but not terrible), but I’m not a religious person myself. I do know that there are plenty of religious people in science. My high school biology teacher believed in evolution and is a practicing Catholic. My research advisor for undergraduate was somewhat Catholic, and one of my friends in undergrad earned a physics minor and is becoming a rabbi. From what I remember, the organization and the structure science has makes her believe that there is a higher being.

If anyone out there believes both in science and their faith, how do you explain it to people?

I had only one incidence of cheating this semester, thank goodness. However, I’m still interested in the subject. Without trying to be a goody-goody, I don’t think I’ve ever cheated on anything in my life.

I read this article today discussing cheating. The author is absolutely correct that there isn’t much of a policy at many schools; it’s frustrating to be a lone fighter in anything. You end up being the bad guy, regardless of whether you did the right thing.

Although I agree cheating really shows through on the exams, I don’t agree with taking a casual attitude towards it. I know personally that homework can save your grade and that some people understand things but don’t do well on the exam. And then, what about classes without exams, such as English classes? I’m not for an immediate failure for small infractions (I’ve been told that foreign students often don’t understand what plagiarism is), but I think something should be done.

In many ways, the policy where I teach makes the most sense. Your cheating activities are documented in an office so the dean knows where to go with the offenses. The policy is pretty cut and dry. Zero on the first offense, failing the class for the second, getting kicked out on the third, regardless of the year it happens. I think it’s great. Of course, it means that professors have to be pro-active (not sure how that can happen), but at least it exists and many of the professors here need to be pro-active towards catching cheaters.

I hope universities and colleges take cheating more seriously than they have, but I’m doubtful. Cheating isn’t anything new, it’s just getting easier.

I feel very lucky to have a job. I feel even luckier to have job I enjoy. Granted, I don’t enjoy every day. Teaching is difficult, because- well, I’m a rookie, and I think students are always students. We have cheating issues, deal with motivating the students to come class and do work, etc.

Every year, the school has a technology competition where student and faculty teams participate in a few events. This year they put together circuits, built little cars, and had built bridges prior to today that were supposed to hold lots of weight. Very cool things. Today was one of those days I realize how great my job is. Environment is HUGE factor for me when it comes to work. I’ve had very boring jobs that I adored because of the people and jobs that were identical that were awful because of the people. The environment I work in now is very good, particularly today. The energy was fantastic; the students were genuinely excited to be there, as were staff.

And it was all voluntary. I had offered my students a bit of extra credit if they participated. The ones who did follow through did well; they won one of the competitions and put their all into it. The staff was there by choice as well. I chose to be a judge rather than a competitor. I feel like it was a good decision. Competing looked fun, but I really loved taking in the amazing interaction and seeing the teamwork, as well as the students who came to watch. The community is truly wonderful, considering that the school offers mostly 2 year degrees and is highly commuter.

I hope to stay involved with the school in some capacity as long as I’m in Boston. As I was telling my SO, I know they aren’t perfect, but they seem to do a lot of things right.