Monday, December 13, 2004

The Instructor is Now Officially Off Duty- Well Almost

With the exception of two of my grad students, all my grading is done and my grades officially recorded...and amazingly (for me), in advance of the deadline...days in advance. What a marvel.

As an adjunct, I am pathetically paid, and despite this, I'm unable to overcome my predisposition to make a lot more work for myself than the money would seem to warrant. By this, I mean I refrain from doing things like giving only multiple choice tests using Scantron sheets. If I did, I could just drop them off at Testing Services, conveniently located in my building, and 10 minutes later, they're graded. But I don't believe you really learn anything other than how to use process of elimination as a test-taking strategy. Most people I've asked report that they really don't retain the info for much time once the test is over.

I can't separate myself from the awareness of why I am in the classroom, what I am doing, and for whom. And I truly love my students. I really care about them. I know that not all of them are in my classes because they care about the subject. (Sometimes they're taking a course because it's required for their major or because the class was the only elective that fit their schedule.) And I care about the ones that don't care, too, but I do what I do for the ones that do care. And I think they realize this. So, this means I give essay tests, written assignments, and projects, all of which require an application of the material. Though I will lecture some of the time during class, I always bring the points around for discussion and application. And we have some fun and lively discussions. And I make my own multi-media supplements as well. (Sometimes badly, as was the pathetic little film of my studio with original music recorded in it playing in the background. It called it The Swirly-Whirly-Vertigo-Studio Tour. The students kind of liked it for its lack of production value, which is a very kind way of saying that it was perhaps the worst film I've ever made.)

Grading is painstaking. Because I know I am not perfect and that I may not have explained everything perfectly, I read each and every answer on every test or assignment before I write anything on them. That way, I can get a feel for the whole class's comprehension of a concept. If no one really got it, I know I failed to do my job and I won't penalize anyone for that. And, as Richard speculated a while back in a comment, yes, I do write insightful comments on every test, even at the end of the semester when I don't know if any students will come to retrieve them later. I think everyone deserves to know why they lost points... or did a fantastic job.

And to keep myself as busy as possible, I give students who did poorly on a test or assignment the opportunity to make it up by demonstrating in some comparable way that they now understand the material. This means I have to grade those as well, but here's how I see it: the grade you get for the course should accurately reflect your knowledge of the subject at the end of the semester. Maybe you didn't quite get it by the mid-term exam, but maybe it clicked the next week. In this case, if the mid-term is 30-50% of the final grade, your final grade will not reflect what you know. But if you can show me that you really get it, I think your grade should reflect that at the end of the semester. It's an option for anyone willing to rise to the occasion. I never give mercy or sympathy grades. You get what you earn. And students say my tests and and assigments are tough but fair. That's good. But it's all quite a bit of work for me.

So now you know why it causes me to disappear every now and then.

These are some of my Music Marketing students from this past semester. They were a great group! The best yet, as a whole, though last year's section had some great students as well, Eric being one of them. I shot this with my camera phone while we were on a break and about half of the students were out of the class. (The class is from 6:00PM -8:45 PM once a week. Some students come straight from work or have been in class all day by then. But they were quite lively this semester, despite my sleepy guy in front. We were on a break, after all.) I was amazed by the incredibly positive feedback I got from students this semester. I mean incredible! The best EVER! Superlatives a-plenty. I'm humbled by it. But happy to know that I am definitely getting better at all this. Hooray!

Sometimes I wish I were teaching a subject that allowed me to address more weighty issues with life lessons attached. But now that I think about it, they need someone like me teaching marketing in a business school. Marketing is criticized for it's lack of ethics and if you define it this way, then I am the Marketing Antichrist. I constantly emphasize ethics. (And this is customarily the position of the academic side.) Unethical marketing is a short-term strategy and will cause more harm than good in the long-run, assuming you intend to be around for the long-run.

Okay. Enough already! Bottom line, I'm out of grading hell, unscathed, and will be posting more regularly.


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