Monday, May 10, 2010

They don't believe me.

It kind of amazes me, you know? I guess I was really compulsive as a student, because when the prof happened to say, just off-hand, in class, "This is an important topic" I'd circle it in my notebook and write a note to myself that "prof says this is important" - meaning, study it extra hard because it will be on a future exam.

And that was just an offhand comment in the middle of lecture.

With some of my students, not only did I give them a sheet listing the important topics, but I told them, "Specifically study THIS TOPIC, you have not been tested on it before, it will make up a big part of the final exam."

So what questions do I have people skipping?

The topic I told them specifically to study.

Also: it alarms me how many of these students are confusing acid and alkaline. I thought I went to great lengths to explain and to show the differences. (Interestingly: this is the class I teach that's a cognate for another major. OUR majors all got the acid/alkaline thing right; it's the other department's majors that are screwing it up. And thank God, no, it isn't Chemistry that my class is a cognate for. In fact, basic chemistry is a prereq for this class so I really wonder what they're learning before they get to me).

I don't know. The general "narrative" we get in education is that when people royally screw the pooch on a test, it's somehow OUR fault. That we didn't teach 'em "good enough." Or that we failed to rap the topic, or have it all animate-y on the screen, or ask them how they FEEL about it. But I think when you're 20 years old, your prof goes over acid and alkaline, it's in the book, and there's a big honking statement on the review sheet that you'll need to know it, and you're one of five people (in a class of 20) that don't, it's not the prof's fault.

I just hope those kids don't wind up in jobs where they have to clean up spills, or anything.

But it really makes me wonder: was I just such a bizarre, atypical student, or have people gotten lazier and less-prepared in the past 20 years?


Kate P said...

"OUR majors all got the acid/alkaline thing right; it's the other department's majors that are screwing it up." That sounds about right. Whenever the LIS and IS grad students met in a mixed class, it was pretty easy for me to pick out who was studying what. And sometimes our forum posts looked like the O.K. Corral.

I feel as if we in education walk a fine line when it comes to "nobody in the class got this concept." Did we teach it wrong? Are we using the wrong modalities? (We seem to have so many options nowadays it appears impossible that none of them would drive the point home.) Or are they all looking out the window at the flock of geese on the lawn while you're saying, "This is important"? I don't know!

Mr. Bingley said...

Not to in any way tarnish your virtues as a student, but my money's on Choice "B"

Kate P said...

Also--thanks to self-esteem stuff and the litigious '80s, I think--it is ALWAYS "somebody else's fault."

Dave E. said...

My biology for pre-med prof introduced himself with something along the lines of, "I am not your babysitter. Pay attention to what I say at all times." He was a great teacher and worked hard to help those who paid attention and worked hard too, but he was merciless with the slackers. It's not you.