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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Meg Worley teaches the Middle Ages...

[UPDATE: It appears Prof. Worley's policies were mischaracterized by the NY Times. In fact, she simply reminds students that it's a good idea to thank professors and to answer emails from professors, both perfectly reasonable suggestions.]

...and demands a thank you.

My response:
a) I'm not trying to instill manners in my students.
b) Until I have tenure, it would be detrimental for me to attempt to instill manners in my students.
c) The vast majority of students are perfectly pleasant people.
d) Not creating arbitrary rules means not having to enforce arbitrary rules and mete out arbitrary punishments.
e) Anything that would cause me to roll my eyes will inevitably cause my students to roll their eyes.

I do, however, want students to like the material I teach, so that's where I concentrate my effort. The way I reckon it, doing so will increase the chances of their liking me and therefore of their giving me good evaluations, which is what I care about most. Student evals are what my school primarily uses to assess my pedagogical performance, so there's no point pursuing any policy that is going to cause evals to go down--like enacting overly persnickity policies.

Plus, at least 98% of of student emails are fine and really not that hard to answer. That other 2% can definitely be a problem, but that's an issue the NYTimes article doesn't address.

  • At 2/21/2006 03:14:00 PM, Blogger Hieronimo wrote…

    I agree about persnickety policies. In fact, I decided that any policy that based final grade for the course on some maximum number of absences after which the student's grade drops or the student fails altogether needed to be reclassified as "persnickety" after the first semester I tried it and realized half the class had failed according to my policy.

    Money persnickets quote:

    "One of the rules that I teach my students is, the less powerful person always has to write back," Professor Worley said.

    I do love power...


  • At 2/21/2006 04:22:00 PM, Blogger Simplicius wrote…

    My revised absence policy after one term: "More than four unexcused absences will be grounds for failing the course." Note that my policy now allows students to miss as many classes as they want as long as they have an excuse. What's an excuse according to the university? Anything I want it to be, which means anything the student can convince some deanlet to view as a justified reason for missing class. And not that my policy does not say they will fail the class; it just says five or more "will be grounds for failing."

    I should also mention that this policy covers the first day of class, sixteen other class meetings, one day for the midterm and one day for the final. So really I'm only asking them to show up for class 75% of the time.

    Strict policies are for untenured suckers.


  • At 2/21/2006 09:34:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote…

    Not to get wonky about attendance policies, but I just do a strict percentage, and you'd be surprised how many people it sinks in terms of a grade (it counts 10% of the final grade), and it's basically unassailable: if you came to class 50% of the time, that's the attendance grade you get. The logic is too simple to be arguable.

    I have yet to have someone who never comes to class get higher than a C. Most of them end up with Ds or Fs.

    Okay, that's my two cents


  • At 2/21/2006 10:30:00 PM, Blogger Simplicius wrote…

    Hermione's mom, a quick question: Do you distinguish between excused and unexcused absences?

    I was told this is about the only requirement my school insists on. I basically wanted to do your policy, but I was given one that was more in line with the school's expectations. And who am I to fight the Man?


  • At 2/22/2006 10:10:00 AM, Blogger Hieronimo wrote…

    I excuse anything vaguely resembling an excuse. The key thing is not to have to learn anything about their personal lives, so I don't get too deep into the nature of the excuse.


  • At 2/22/2006 01:53:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote…

    I give everybody 2 or 3 excused absences (depending on how many times the class meets in a week), and then tell them I don't want any doctor's notes, etc. They have those absences for whatever they want: nursing a hangover, legitimate sickness, family obligations, etc. After that, everything counts. My line is that we're all adults, and I don't care how they use those absences: they make their own choices.

    There is the rare occasion (like this semester) when someone is *really* ill (I have one student with cancer, one with meningitis), and that's a whole other ballgame, but those situations really are rare. Mostly people want to be excused for colds, etc. and present me with a slip from the health service that says the student went there. Whether they went there because they were sick or because they needed condoms the slip never says. I can't be dealing with that shit--my time is too precious and my puppy dog too cute.

    So that's my policy, and I've yet to get an argument about it.


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