Archive for the ‘teachers’ Category

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Ten Ways NOT to Prepare for College Advising

March 13, 2008

For about a dozen hours during the last two weeks, I’ve had the honor and pleasure of advising undergraduate students who are in their first or second years of college. Though several of them came to their fifteen-minute advising appointment extremely well prepared, most did not.

Below, you will find a list of ten things NOT to do when you are being advised.

  1. Don’t show up. That’s right, several students were no shows for their appointments. (That wasn’t really a surprise, but it was disappointing.)
  2. Come in and say, “Okay, tell me what I need to take next semester.” Whatever happened to being responsible for your own learning?
  3. Make excuse after excuse why you have withdrawn from class after class — and still expect that a professor might give you an override to get into a full class. Yes, there are definitely some reasons to withdraw from classes, but when it becomes a habit, it begins to reflect poorly on your ability to manage your schedule. For every class from which you withdraw, there probably was another student who wanted to get in before the semester started, but could not because the class was full.
  4. Spend more time looking for ways to avoid taking your core classes than actually taking the classes. Everyone in the university needs to take a core of similar classes. Even you. And don’t expect that your advisor will tell you “which ones are the easy ones.”
  5. Don’t look in the college catalog to see what will be required for your major; expect your advisor to know all the details off the top of his or her head. It surprised me that several students “knew” they wanted to major in a certain subject, but did not have any idea what courses would be required for the major, or that a certain GPA was required.
  6. Don’t check out the online registration service from your college to see when your earliest registration date and time are. Find out when your registration time is, and make your advising appointment before this time, so that you can register at the earliest possible moment. Many classes fill quickly, and the earlier you can register, the more likely you can get in.
  7. Expect your advisor to be able to counsel you on which major you should choose AND help you choose classes for next semester, all during your allotted 15 minutes. Choosing a major is an important, perhaps life-changing, decision. Make an appointment with a professor or advisor in the majors you are interested in far ahead of the advisement period.
  8. Give your advisor a blank stare when he or she asks you, “So what steps are you taking to bring up your grade point average?” As the old saying goes, “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.” Many majors have minimum GPAs required for admittance to their programs; make a plan to exceed that minimum by as much as you can. Utilize the many services your university has to offer for study skills, tutoring, etc.
  9. Respond to text messages while your advisor is talking. Come on, the appointment is only 15 minutes. Couldn’t that wait? And if it couldn’t, would it be so hard to say, “Please excuse me for just a moment. There’s something urgent I need to do”?
  10. Leave your iPod earbuds in your ears so you can continue to listen to your music (and use your pencil and pen as drumsticks on the desk) while the appointment is going on. Seriously. As a 20-year career educator and parent of four, I don’t shock easily, but the rudeness of this took me aback. And it happened not once, but twice, with two different students. At least neither of them hesitated at complying when I asked them to focus on our meeting rather than their iPods.

Now, it probably sounds like I don’t ever want to advise students again. Not quite. . .

During my “dream appointment,” and I did have one of these, this is what happened:

A young woman walked up to me confidently, put out her hand to shake mine, and said, “Good morning, my name is Katey. Thanks for meeting with me today.” She and I walked back to my office, chatting about where she is from and why she chose her major. Katey sat down, reached into her backpack, and took out her planner. She turned to a page where she had marked up the core requirements sheet with classes she’d already taken and highlighted those she was considering for the next semester. Katey turned serious when she noted, “I know I need to take the second English class in the series, but I looked online, and the classes are already full.” Hmmm. This was intriguing! She had done some significant preparation for this meeting. We worked together to come up with an alternate plan that took into account what to do when Plan A wasn’t going to work. We looked ahead to required courses to her major and selected two that are prerequisites for many other courses. We briefly discussed how she could get involved on one or two campus organizations related to her major. And the whole meeting took less than ten minutes.

If only there were more Kateys! Maybe there can be if students can know what to expect of the advising appointment.

For another “what NOT to do,” see How to Fail a Class Without Really Trying.

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How to Fail a Class (Without Really Trying)

January 19, 2008

Now that winter semester is well on its way, I took some time to reminisce about all the ways that students can do well in my classes. But instead of sharing those with you today, I’ll instead offer the flip-side: what you should do if your goal is to FAIL a class. I promise you that I’ve had a student at one time or another who has done every one of these things. Luckily, there is no one student who has done all of them . . . yet. (Please don’t take this as a challenge ) )

Assignments

  1. Think of the assignment guidelines provided by your professor as mere suggestions, not requirements for success.
  2. Consider each assignment as discrete entities. Don’t apply the constructive criticism you’ve received from your previous assignment to your next one.
  3. Since Microsoft Word will catch all your mistakes (grammar, APA style, Associated Press style, etc.), there’s no need to proofread your assignments before turning them in.
  4. Plagiarize often and flagrantly. After all, your professor won’t think to check the Internet (or other sources) to see if you’ve copied anything.
  5. Reading homework assignments before the class when they will be discussed? Why bother?

Grades

  1. Don’t bother to check your grades in WebCT Vista, even though they’re posted in there throughout the semester. And don’t bother to keep your graded papers to doublecheck the grade’s accuracy.
  2. If you have a concern about your grade, wait until the last week of class to ask your professor for ideas on how to raise it.
  3. Ask in class every day, “Can we get extra credit for this?” Or, when or if extra credit is offered, turn it down. It won’t make that much difference in your final grade anyway.
  4. If you’re pretty sure you won’t pass the class (or get the grade you’re hoping for) before the Withdraw Date, go ahead and stay in the class anyway, but just don’t bother showing up anymore.

WebCT Vista

  1. Wait until five minutes before an assignment is due on WebCT Vista before trying to log in to submit it.
  2. When there’s a discussion question posted on WebCT Vista, don’t answer it. Or answer it superficially with one or two sentences. Or say, “I totally agree with what Kyle said in his response.”

Classroom Decorum

  1. When in a class in a PC lab, check your Facebook or e-mail, or surf the web, while class is in session, even if your professor has said that it’s time to turn all monitors off.
  2. Wait until you get to your classroom to consider printing something that is needed for class that day.
  3. Be the first one to answer every question in class, every time. (I will tend to call this student Horshack, either behind or in front of his or her back.)
  4. Attend class only when you feel like it, and be sure that others know you have better things you could be doing with your time.

Communication

  1. Don’t check your e-mail for messages from your professor. Or mark your professor’s e-mail as that of a known spammer, so his or her messages automatically are delivered into your bulk mail or spam folder.
  2. When you’re confused, assume that you’re the only one, so don’t ask for clarification or explanation.
  3. Avoid your professor’s office at all costs.
  4. Only discuss grade-related information with your professor. Or even better, only talk to your professor to ask, “Did we talk about anything important in class the last time we met? I wasn’t here.”
  5. Don’t listen, and that means don’t listen to your professor, your classmates, your advisor . . . What you think and feel is way more important.

Creative Commons License
How to Fail a Class by Barbara Nixon is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

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A Teaching & Learning Philosophy

December 11, 2007

Several years ago, a colleague shared with me this quotation by longshoreman and philosopher Eric Hoffer:

“In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”

This quotation struck a chord with me. Put simply, my overarching goal in teaching is to ensure that our world has more learners than learned. I am fortunate to be in a role in life where I can have an impact on our future world leaders.

What do I expect from my students?

  • Students should be fully read on all of the chapters (or other reading assignments) and to be ready to discuss any part of the readings.
  • Students should raise questions when they are uncertain of the material we are discussing, including questions that I will have no easy (“pat”) answer for.
  • Students should make every effort to gain the most value that they can from the class. They should want to become independent learners.
  • Students should become aware of not only how what happens in the world (current events) impacts them, but also how what they do impacts the world. Campus is not a cocoon.

And what can my students expect from me?

  • Because I am aware that students learn in many different ways, I will not lecture at my students daily from behind a raised podium. Instead, I will provide instruction to them in an interactive manner. In a typical week, students will experience partner discussions, small group discussions, Internet scavenger hunts, and even crossword puzzles, in addition to short (less than 20 minute) lecturettes. “Death by PowerPoint” will not happen in my class.
  • I will provide them with the most current information I have available. I stay current on topics and trends in the industry.
  • I will stay abreast of current technology and apply it in the classroom whenever it adds to the learning experience. (Examples include current software, Vista, podcasts and blogging, to name a few.)
  • I will make every effort to help guide students through the issues that they raise, and we will seek resolution together.
  • I will make every effort I can to make sure that students understand the issues and concepts my courses present.
  • When I have positive feedback to share, I will share it openly in the classroom and call attention to students by name in the process. My goal in this is to enhance or maintain the students’ self-esteem, not to break it down. There are plenty of other places in the world where their self-esteem may be diminished. Constructive criticism will still be provided to students, but not by name in front of a whole class.
  • I expect for us to have fun in class. Laughter and learning go hand in hand in my book. If we are not enjoying ourselves in class, there’s something amiss.
  • And perhaps most importantly, I will listen to my students so that I can learn from them, too.
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10 Ways Educators Can Listen Better to Their Students

December 7, 2007

This week, my semester ended at Georgia Southern University. And as I do with the end of almost everything that I’m involved in, I like to take some time to analyze my successes and also determine what I might want to do differently the next time. One thing I plan to focus on for spring semester is listening better to my students. Oh, sure, like most people, I think I’m a pretty good listener. And I also know that this is something that I can improve upon. I remembered reading a list that a former board member at the International Listening Association wrote about listening to his students. Daryl Vander Kooi shared with me 10 ways that teachers can listen better to their students. Let’s see what he had to say:

  1. WAIT. Wait-time is important for students to analyze, to evaluate potential response, and to formulate that response. If you want to listen, wait. If you really want to listen, wait even longer; try to wait at least five seconds after a student finishes talking before responding.
  2. SIT. Place yourself in the physical position that encourages the student; sit at his/her level. This is important not only for teachers of young students, but also those who teach high school and college.
  3. TALK OFTEN. In order for students to recognize that you are indeed interested in what they say, talk with them frequently, and not only about school-related information.
  4. ASK OPEN-ENDED QUESTIONS. Many discussions with students can lead to important information about them, but those discussions need questions that promote discussion, not end it.
  5. REMEMBER JANIE . . Remember the student and the student’s background so that you can listen for more than the surface comment and immediate answer.
  6. REMEMBER JOHNNIE CAN’T READ. The point is that, if the student is unable to communicate well in reading and writing, you might have to listen more carefully—go beyond the stumbling style and disheveled syntax.
  7. PUSH FOR CLARITY. Good speech style encourages good listening. Help your students improve style including clarity by paraphrasing and restating. You can help his/her future listeners.
  8. LISTENING IS MORE THAN HEARING. It includes seeing and reading. Many assume that listening is the mental parallel to the physical activity of hearing, but all listeners should continually remind themselves that they should see the speaker’s actions and other movement; they should see the facial expressions; they should see the visual aid. Listen beyond simply hearing.
  9. REMEMBER GEOGRAPHY. Just as the teacher should remember geography when teaching geography—know the content area; so too remember also the content area, the context, when listening to students. However, also recognize that students are likely to shift the content or topic without announcement. Catch the shift and remember the prior information about that topic. This is especially important when working with students with ADHD or similar disabilities.
  10. WATCH FOR BEEN THERE; DONE THAT. It’s easy to think that this issue has been discussed many times before; but remember that those were different times and different students. Your present student probably wasn’t there and didn’t do that.

— Daryl Vander Kooi, Ed.D., Professor Emeritus, Dordt College