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Author Topic: Respect for Professors  (Read 3549 times)
heybeerman
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« Reply #15 on: January 07, 2013, 12:31:14 PM »

Quote
Always playing with smart phones in class, want the least amount of work. Just 10 years ago I used to read a whole book to prepare for final exams with no study guides. Now, I spend weeks summarizing them and preparing lecture slides (15 ppt files overall). I tell them the exam will contain questions from these slides. They want study guides even for that, they can't even read just 15 ppt slides? I tell them that is their study guide and they get mad and rip me off in my evaluations. The only thing I can do it just give them the final exam questions (which I am not going to).

With all due respect and sympathy, you are playing right into their hands. 

Stop spoon-feeding them.  They are not customers, they are students.  You set the tone for expectations and behavior in your classroom.  Make your standards clear at the start, and then be tough as hell about enforcing them.  Tough but fair, I should add - students despise capriciousness more than almost anything.  You don't have to be a drill sergeant - friendliness and high expectations work quite well hand-in-hand.

I'm at a similar type of university, with pretty similar students.  Most are working-class or lower-middle class, many first generation college students.  They haven't yet grasped the concept of education beyond career prep or meeting requirements (and, educated in almost 10 years of No Child Left Behind testing, why would they?) So they are often not self-motivated.  What motivates them is grades.  Make it very hard to get an A in your class, and fail students on assignments where they really do fail to complete the requirements.  Again, clear standards (rubrics and such) will help them see what's required, and that you are basing it on something that's not entirely subjective.

Also, it's up to you, but I would stop with the extensive powerpoints, especially if they are text-heavy outlines.  I learned this lesson the hard way early on in teaching.  First (as you've noted) they are a gigantic time-suck.  Second, students who are fed the PPt slides beforehand have little incentive to pay attention in class (thus the smartphone playing) and, in my experience, come to devalue the professor and their expertise.  (Why does the professor matter?  He/she is just summarizing what I already see in the PPt slides.)  I don't even give an outline any more, because they're programmed to only write what's on the outline and then wait for the next slide.  For me, PPt is used only for the lecture title and guiding questions(s), and then visual supporting evidence - maps, charts, pictures, etc.  I don't do study guides any more either - they're in class, they're taking notes: that's your study guide.  Students that don't like it can drop the course.

I know you're probably thinking this will kill your student evaluations even further, but I don't think that's true.  Mine have only improved the more I've implemented these kinds of practices.  In my experience, 90% of students in college want to be there and will rise to the level you set, but if the respect (and a bit of fear) isn't there, the slacker default mode kicks in.  And "slacker default mode" will sink them in the future economy.

Good luck - and kudos to you for avoiding cynicism and working to improve.  Hang in there, and do dial down the hours.  You need a life outside of work!
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dr_evil
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« Reply #16 on: January 07, 2013, 4:06:11 PM »

On exam reviews: I offer you a trick that has worked well for me for many years.  The class period before the exam, add to the homework assignment that they must bring 3 questions to class to test their classmates.  Set up the last half of class period (or more, with a larger class) so that they ask each other the questions one at a time so all can hear. (Julie calls on Jay, who answers, and if his answer is approved by Julie, he then gets to ask his question to Susan, who answers, and if approved by Jay, get to ask hers... so on; if a student answers badly, not approved, he/she is stopped but can ask for an assist from another student. All must have spoken before anyone gets to speak twice, though, so weak students quickly learn to answer early before the questions get too hard or they have no more assisters). You merely moderate and direct traffic (and correct egregious misapprehensions).  THEY are thus responsible for a good exam review.  

Thanks for this suggestion.  I love this idea and plan to give it a try this term.
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mediumrare
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« Reply #17 on: January 08, 2013, 11:57:18 AM »

Most students does not seem to care about, pretty much anything and lack respect to the faculty. Few examples:
1. They want jobs (graduation) /internships (during summers to fulfill degree requirements. I work my rear end off to bring tens of employers through career fair and I announce it to all the students. Only a tenth of the students show up and the no-shows reasons for not showing up: (a) I had homework due (b) I had house chores (c) I had work. A 60K job (on their backyard) versus a 5 point homework or a house chore? Then few weeks from graduation they come to me and blame the department for not getting jobs.
2. Employer recruiting speech and interviews, only 3 out of 40 show up. Similar reasons as above. I work hard to bring these employers to campus and I end up being embarrassed. When I ask students to show up even with extra credits, they don't.
3. Always playing with smart phones in class, want the least amount of work. Just 10 years ago I used to read a whole book to prepare for final exams with no study guides. Now, I spend weeks summarizing them and preparing lecture slides (15 ppt files overall). I tell them the exam will contain questions from these slides. They want study guides even for that, they can't even read just 15 ppt slides? I tell them that is their study guide and they get mad and rip me off in my evaluations. The only thing I can do it just give them the final exam questions (which I am not going to).
4. When I give them advice they do not follow it or even acknowledge (when sent through emails). They never take initiative to do anything such as student clubs, etc.


Just my two cents... This has little to do with respect.

Regarding no. 1: The excuses given may be legitimate. Remembering my UG days (and being still a grad student), if I have an assignment and only so much time left, I'm skipping the non-required event to do homework. I can't tell my other professor "I didn't do your homework because I went to a job fair/brown bag seminar." And house chores and work ARE things that need to be done. At my UG university a lot of students had part time or even full time jobs. They're willing to take time off work for exam studying and finals etc, but certainly not for extra-curricular things that won't significantly count towards their grade. Missing an hour or two of work might not seem like a big deal but when you live off $20 a week for food, it IS. This is just a matter of prioritizing.

Understandably you have gone out of your way to try to get them things they want, however, there are very real constraints that students live with. They may genuinely want to attend, but are overwhelmed by Life. Freshmen have a lot of adjustments to make and they're learning how to manage their time.

The ones that complain the dept. isn't doing enough are going to complain anyway. You just have to know that you've done your part to assist them and that's that.

2. Same as above. Most UGs don't have a real concept of what work is yet. Most likely only your seniors will be interested and they are probably a) feeling overwhelmed with their final year, after having found out that they will not be graduating on time because they failed to take X requirement and now they have to take an overload semester or b) they are in denial about having to find a job and they are holding out for some FABULOUS offer to come their way magically c) they are considering grad school and so they don't think this is pertinent to them or d) they are going to move back into their parents' basement and are not interested in getting a real job or e) Uncle Joe already promised them a job until they can find a "real" one.

3. It's irritating but it's going to happen. If it's any consolation, they also "disrespect" each other the same way. When another student is giving a presentation or speaking the texters don't stop. It's equal opportunity disrespect.

4. I hated student clubs as an UG. They were boring and time consuming. They usually end up being very clique-y and generally, I was not part of whatever clique it was running the club. With that said, it might be a matter of location and timing... Campus settings are not always conducive to socializing and networking.

My dept's UG and MA cohorts were quite socially compatible and we ended up making our own socials: Thursdays at a local bar near campus. Professors were welcome and sometimes they came. Most of us were doing the same minors, taking the same classes and a lot of academic networking got done there. People told stories about their study-abroads and their language programs. I'm proud to say that I got 2 people to sign up for a prof's Study Abroad program after chatting with them at the bar. We shared info about grants and scholarships. We talked up new courses that professors were trying to promote. Seeds were planted and often bloomed afterward.Through this avenue we got several people to apply for FLAS grants; most students knew they existed but did not consider applying until they found out that someone "just like them" had gotten one last year. 

My point to you is that students do listen to advice and they do act on it, but it's not always obvious to professors when or how; and there is often a period of mulling-over that needs to happen.

About email acknowledgements, that's a cultural/generational difference. A lot of people don't reply to emails unless a question has been asked. If your email says "hey, this is a good idea. Why not try this?" it doesn't lend itself to justifying a reply. There's a thread in the grad student life forum about email etiquette on playing "thank you" email tennis you might want to check out.

Also keep in mind that advice given does not mean it has to be taken.

Again, just my opinion.
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discipleofdfw
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« Reply #18 on: January 08, 2013, 12:56:59 PM »

My opinion on the matter from someone just going into their second teaching semester after having a large learning curve in the first one:

I'm trying a no-nonsense approach during the first two weeks of class. I want the students to know I mean business and I'm setting a high standard for them. I even wore a suit to class (something I never imagined doing) during the first day. My hope was that this would present to the students the idea that I took the class seriously and that they should do the same.

I am going to make sure to repeat vital instructions such as my laptop policy and how to address am email to me during the first few classes. I'm also going to repeat that this may be a difficult class for some people and that they should stay on top of the work. In my opinion, I don't think the class is that difficult, but I want to instill in them an expectation that they need to stay on top of their class work.

My hope is that after two weeks of being strict that the students will understand that they should respect the class and my policies.

After the first two weeks, I plan to loosen up a bit. Maybe give a bit more leeway; make some jokes in class. First impressions go along way. I'd rather come off as a hardass first, then someone they can walk all over in an easy class.
« Last Edit: January 08, 2013, 12:58:24 PM by discipleofdfw » Logged
seniorscholar
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« Reply #19 on: January 08, 2013, 4:56:50 PM »

Elementary-school teachers were once told "don't smile until Thanksgiving" -- good luck with the two weeks.
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bioteacher
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« Reply #20 on: January 08, 2013, 6:31:40 PM »

Don't soften too fast. Two weeks isn't nearly enough to establish your tone. And even when you soften, don't do so by much. Cultivate the reputation of being strict and consistent. This isn't a popularity contest.
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cine_elle
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« Reply #21 on: January 08, 2013, 11:56:28 PM »

Just a note that you don't have to be a grumpy authoritarian to be strict and consistent. I have a fairly casual demeanor, but I'm also matter of fact about my expectations and policies. Never had any issues with respect. It's not necessarily the suit that leads students to take you seriously; it's treating them like responsible adults, being clear about what you expect, and then enforcing whatever policies you have. No need to glower at them. You can smile and be strict at the same time.
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dr_evil
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« Reply #22 on: January 10, 2013, 2:45:06 PM »

Just a note that you don't have to be a grumpy authoritarian to be strict and consistent. I have a fairly casual demeanor, but I'm also matter of fact about my expectations and policies. Never had any issues with respect. It's not necessarily the suit that leads students to take you seriously; it's treating them like responsible adults, being clear about what you expect, and then enforcing whatever policies you have. No need to glower at them. You can smile and be strict at the same time.

+1

One of the best complements I had was when I was told that my reputation was that I was tough but fair.  I did that without dressing up fancy and frequently tell jokes (usually bad ones).  I am, however, always strict about deadlines and rules - especially lab safety.
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tuxedo_cat
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« Reply #23 on: January 10, 2013, 3:10:08 PM »

In my earliest years as a teacher (grad school, new professor), the respect thing drove me nuts.  I was pretty demanding, tough grader, etc.  Some brat went directly the Chair during my first semester of teaching, and I really wanted to throttle her.  These kids were there to learn, dammit, and by gosh I was going to make sure they learned sumthin' in my classes, even I had to drag them kicking and screaming into the realms of enlightenment!

Yeah, that's exhausting, and not very effective, as you're discovering.  So here's my advice, which may or may not be useful for everyone: try being Super Dork Professor, a bit of a nutball, a bit unpredictable.  And enjoy yourself!  Be unabashed about why you find that particular poem by John Donne completely insane and beautiful and perverse (that's just an example from my own teaching -- I don't recommend references to John Donne if you're teaching Chemistry).  Last semester in a momentary frenzy about the idiocy of the Oxford comma debate, I accidentally pulled a corner of the blackboard off the wall.

Students are less likely to give you a hard time or ignore you if they don't really know what you're going to do next.  This persona does not mean surrendering any of your academic standards -- you can still be very clear about what you expect from them, you can still be a tough grader.   When a student comes to see me in a fit of discontent about that "C" on the first paper, I do a little melodramatic routine:  "I know. . . you've never gotten anything less than an A on any paper in your whole life!  I am the most horrible mean professor of the universe!!"  And they smile a little bit because they understand that I making fun of them in a gentle way.  And then I say, "I promise, you will recover from this trauma.  But you have a lot of skills to work on.  You will do better on the next paper.  And you will also do much better on papers in your other classes -- you are eventually going to be happy that I'm being so tough on you right now."

Anyhow, that's what I finally learned to do.  I picked this technique up partly from one of my grad school advisors when I was her TA.   She was a Legitimate Weirdo, but very smart and interesting and students loved her, partly because of her unpredictable antics.  Hmmm, I'm now wondering if I have simply become Legitimate Weirdo Professor instead of just pretending to be one. . .
 
« Last Edit: January 10, 2013, 3:11:46 PM by tuxedo_cat » Logged

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mountainguy
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« Reply #24 on: January 10, 2013, 3:22:09 PM »

Don't soften too fast. Two weeks isn't nearly enough to establish your tone. And even when you soften, don't do so by much. Cultivate the reputation of being strict and consistent. This isn't a popularity contest.

Chime.

My experience has been that students will be very compliant with rules during the first two-three weeks of the semester. It's around week four when they start acting out.

On Preview: I love Tuxedo Cat's super dork metaphor. One of my favorite grad school professors did this to good effect, although I think it takes several years of practice to pull it off well.
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cc_alan
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Caution! Nekkid Zamboni driver ahead.


« Reply #25 on: January 10, 2013, 9:56:47 PM »

Don't soften too fast. Two weeks isn't nearly enough to establish your tone. And even when you soften, don't do so by much. Cultivate the reputation of being strict and consistent. This isn't a popularity contest.

Chime.

My experience has been that students will be very compliant with rules during the first two-three weeks of the semester. It's around week four when they start acting out.

I see that from a few students after they get the results from the first exam.

Alan
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heybeerman
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« Reply #26 on: January 11, 2013, 10:18:00 AM »

Yeah, that's exhausting, and not very effective, as you're discovering.  So here's my advice, which may or may not be useful for everyone: try being Super Dork Professor, a bit of a nutball, a bit unpredictable.  And enjoy yourself!  Be unabashed about why you find that particular poem by John Donne completely insane and beautiful and perverse (that's just an example from my own teaching -- I don't recommend references to John Donne if you're teaching Chemistry).  Last semester in a momentary frenzy about the idiocy of the Oxford comma debate, I accidentally pulled a corner of the blackboard off the wall.

Students are less likely to give you a hard time or ignore you if they don't really know what you're going to do next.  This persona does not mean surrendering any of your academic standards -- you can still be very clear about what you expect from them, you can still be a tough grader.   When a student comes to see me in a fit of discontent about that "C" on the first paper, I do a little melodramatic routine:  "I know. . . you've never gotten anything less than an A on any paper in your whole life!  I am the most horrible mean professor of the universe!!"  And they smile a little bit because they understand that I making fun of them in a gentle way.  And then I say, "I promise, you will recover from this trauma.  But you have a lot of skills to work on.  You will do better on the next paper.  And you will also do much better on papers in your other classes -- you are eventually going to be happy that I'm being so tough on you right now."

Anyhow, that's what I finally learned to do.  I picked this technique up partly from one of my grad school advisors when I was her TA.   She was a Legitimate Weirdo, but very smart and interesting and students loved her, partly because of her unpredictable antics.  Hmmm, I'm now wondering if I have simply become Legitimate Weirdo Professor instead of just pretending to be one. . .
 

"I call it the Madman Theory, Bob. I want the North Vietnamese to believe I've reached the point where I might do anything to stop the war. We'll just slip the word to them that, "for God's sake, you know Nixon is obsessed about Communism. We can't restrain him when he's angry—and he has his hand on the nuclear button" and Ho Chi Minh himself will be in Paris in two days begging for peace."
-Richard Nixon, explaining his approach to foreign policy to Chief of Staff Bob Haldemann
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prytania3
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« Reply #27 on: January 11, 2013, 2:21:30 PM »

Elementary-school teachers were once told "don't smile until ThanksgivingChristmas" -- good luck with the two weeks.
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