Jane Haddam’s WordPress weblog

Not Really Here

with 4 comments

I wasn’t going to write a blog post today.  I’m really very aware of the fact that I tend to be crabby and unreasonable during exam weeks, and that there really isn’t a whole lot of point to it.

But it’s very early in the morning, and I woke up to find an e-mail from a student in one of my upper level classes that just floored me.

This is, remember, an upper level class, and the student who wrote me is probably the best one in it.  I suppose that that explains why she wrote, and nobody else did.

Our exam is today, and the questions for that exam are up on a site called Blackboard, where serves as a kind of website for the course while it’s going on.

I have used Blackboard extensively over time, but I’m getting less and less enamored of it.

More and more students seem to think that there’s no point in coming to class or doing the reading, because “it’s all up on Blackboard,” and they can get anything they need from there.

The question concerns a section on the final about how different kinds of mass media are funded–lots of different kinds of mass media (music,  movies, broadcast television, cable television, web sites, etc)?

I spent three days going over this stuff in class, because it’s very complicated, it differs depending on the media type, and it’s often counterintuitive.

(For instance:  first run movie theaters receive NO money at all from ticket sales for the first two weeks a movie is in their theater.  Any money they make for those first two weeks must come out of popcorn and other snacks.  That’s why a small coke in a movie theater costs more than your hernia operation.)

Anyway, I went over and over and over this stuff, and kept telling them on and on and on that it would be on the final–and it just didn’t matter.

Not only did the student who wrote me have no notes, but none of the other students in the class that she’d talked to had notes, either.

Now, this class is not a required course. It’s an elective.  Nobody has to be there.  Nobody requires this and only this for graduation. 

Theoretically, at least, students are there because they want to be there.  They’re interested in the material. 

Or something.

I spend a lot of my time telling myself that the problems I have in Composition courses arise at least partially from the fact that they’re required, that students are not automatically interested, that  they often don’t know why anybody at all would be interested in what they’re required to learn.

I don’t understand people any more. 

I can pick up a stray textbook left behind in a classroom and become totally absorbed it reading through it.  For all the carping I do on this forum, I’ve at least given a shot to most of the things I THINK I’m not interested in when they’ve crossed my path.

I don’t think I ever signed up for a course I then totally ignored for the semester, whether it was required or not.

I don’t know what is going on with my students, but I do know that the more of it I have to put up with, the less pleasant I am as a human being.

And now I have to go make sure we remembered to put the garbage out, because those are the garbage trucks coming down the hill.

Somehow, it seems like a metaphor.

Written by janeh

December 15th, 2011 at 8:24 am

Posted in Uncategorized

4 Responses to 'Not Really Here'

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  1. Hmmm. Never skipped a class on purpose, and always took notes if the material looked even remotely testable. Never dropped a course either, and I had at least three complete time-wasters–Sociology, Ethics and Poly Sci–and another three almost as bad–Micro Econ, Macro Econ and Environmental Bio.

    That fragment of your course sounds more interesting than any of those, but perhaps I can suggest a reason why I stuck with poorly-chosen electives, which might help you understand some of the students.

    There isn’t as much choice as you’d think. Say you’re working 2:00-6:00 five days a week, with Guard Drill on the weekends. (That’s most of my undergraduate career, actually.) Three course in the major kill MWF mornings. I have to have two hour and a half Tu-Th courses, which must be over no later than 1:00. They can’t have a prerequisite I can’t meet, and I’d really like to avoid a lab. Even on a fair-size campus, this doesn’t give you a lot of choice. If you’re an upperclassman, your options are even fewer: you know to avoid several departments, you took Econ I last year, and Dr. Kline in English is not going to forget the crack about Joseph Conrad after last semester’s final. So if it turns out that the labor history course is about natural childbirth, maybe you’d better stick with it. You didn’t like the other choices either, and you’ll like them less starting two lectures late.

    But whatever I thought of a course, I can’t imagine hearing a professor say “this will be on the final” and not writing frantically.


    15 Dec 11 at 6:57 pm

  2. Yeah, what Robert said.

    I really, really prefer teaching graduate and professional education.

    Cathy F


    15 Dec 11 at 8:32 pm

  3. Oh, and don’t you remember April telling us about her Intro Physiology class where she writes the cranial nerves on the board the first day, tells the students they must know them all by heart for the final, leaves them on the board for the rest of the semester, erases them the day of the final and asks the students to name them–and a bunch of them fail, every year?

    I mean, really.

    Cathy F


    15 Dec 11 at 8:34 pm

  4. Perhaps those who earn F’s will get over foolish behavior. Perhaps not, but eventually particularly foolish individuals do stop turning up in college classrooms. However, more always turn up. Fire up the Starship Kornbluth? Not.

    Jane: not for your phone.


    16 Dec 11 at 10:19 am

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