Winter Quarter 2011 is finally, finally done. Or perhaps I should say, it’s all over but the whining.
Every quarter, there are some students whose world was rocked in a really positive way, and whether frosh or senior, these students are so gratifying to work with. I generally know these students pretty well. They are highly interactive, come to office hours, ask lots of questions, and seem to relish sparring with new ideas and the lecturers who present them.
Every quarter, there’s also the tail on the other side of the bell curve. I don’t know these students at all until after grades are submitted, but once they find out they’ve somehow gotten a D or an F, they really make themselves known. Somehow, despite the barrage of questions I ask every day in class, the midterms, the projects, the review questions, and all the other means of feedback, they remained unaware that they were bombing the class—so I never saw them, never got an email, never heard a question, their graded exams remained uncollected. Only after the grades have been submitted do they acquire an awareness that they need to pass the class in order to graduate or avoid expulsion. And so, I get a handful of emails wondering if there’s anything that can be done, surely there was some mistake, I forgot there was an assignment, I missed class those days, I worked so hard…
When I’m grading, I always try to “temper justice with mercy.” I generally feel like crap giving an F. I view it as partly being a failure of my efforts—was there something I failed to do that would have gotten them to pay attention and think? I have to tell myself, as I tell the desperate students, that making that grade was their quarter’s work.
The other part of the post mortem is about my quarter’s work—I’ve yet to teach the perfect class. So, I spent an hour talking with Dr. D___ about what I’d do differently next time. Ironic, since this class was a one-off for me. Not wasted effort though. It’s always useful to be conscious of what one’s doing and how it can be done better.