So after the fiasco that was the first quiz, I sent an email to my class. In it, I explained that they could redo the quiz and turn it in on exam day. The exam was today. One of the reasons I gave them the redo, outside of the fact that they were unprepared, is so that they can get a taste of success and know what it takes to be successful. Another reason was to try convey a message (through yet another medium) that they are in college and that their ambitions require work.
Here’s the email and after it is what happened during the week.
Hi ya class!
So, we had quiz one yesterday. As many of you found out, the material in this class is hard if we have not be doing daily practice. And this is college, so I leave the practicing up to you. This is why I don’t grade homework, but I also know that very few actually do the homework in the absence of points.
To make a very long story not as long, here are a few things:
Do not treat this class (or any of your other classes) as a “point hunting” class. What do I have to do get my points? Will I get my points if I do this? If I don’t do that will that affect my points? Will my points affect my points? If you want points, the easiest way to get them is to learn — not cram, but to learn. If you keep your focus on learning, the points will come in spades. If you keep your focus on points, odds are you’ll get a bunch of points, but you will learn nothing in the long run. And the academic death spiral will continue. You will push yourself out of your major. Then you’ll be in your mid-50s and see your kids doing the same thing you did. You’ll get angry at them — the circle of life.
If you are cramming for exams and quizzes, you’re doing it wrong.
What is “it”? “It” is school. If you’re cramming, hunting for points, etc. you’re playing school.
Many of you have real ambition and desire. I heard all sorts of majors on our first day. This is why I asked! Marine Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, Business, Finance, Computer Engineering, and so forth. These are not fluff topics! They are real topics. And it is awesome that you have a desire for this! But desire is a small part of the equation for success. At some point, you have to put in your time! That means, being a student, not a point hunter / gatherer.
Learn! Every week I ask if there are questions, and there are none. With the exception of one or two students, I have received no emails from anyone else about the course material. I’ve been teaching long enough to know that homework, etc. are not being done. But! You are all coming to class! So clearly you care about learning! Or do you care about points?
Remember, not one of us would give away a single penny of the only $23000 we have for the rest of our lives. Yet, we are throwing away four hours at a time every week when we come to class. One penny is about fifteen minutes.
Some of you have approached me about dropping the class. I’m not a good test-taker. I got As in my other math classes. I don’t know how to use my calculator. I can’t read my own notes. Folks, I’ve heard all this before. You have a choice right now! A choice! Choose: do you really want to pursue the major you said on day one? Are you really into it? If you are, if you are genuinely interested in your future and doing what you want, then I advise, implore, plead, that you start being good students.
Make time for this class regardless of points. Learn! This stuff isn’t easy! But that doesn’t mean you can’t do it. There are millions of people in the world who can do this. If those millions can do it, so can you. Don’t let self-doubt creep in. You can do this. You just have to give the course material the respect it deserves. And that respect means that you have to start focusing and being diligent. Practice daily. Ask questions in class. Come prepared. Tinker.
If staring at a few symbols of math has you vexed, treat it like it is a full page of text. How long would it take you to read a page (8.5″ by 11″) of type-written text, single spaced, 10 point font with 0.25 inches margins? Ten minutes? Then spend ten minutes reading the equation. Read it out loud. Read it forwards. Read it backwards. Don’t glance at it and hope you’ll magically divine the information out of it. Think!
This is a decision for you to make.
Here’s a decision I’ve made. Quiz number one is now on online under the section called “Quizzes”. If you want to redo this quiz and turn it in next week when we meet, you are welcome to do so. It’s up to you. You have a full week. I don’t care if you get help, if you work with others, if you work by yourself, etc. Redeem yourself.
As we get older second chances come less frequently and tend to be increasingly more expensive (metaphorically and financially). At the end of the day, if you want to get an education that is suited for you, start doing your part. If you want to pursue the things that you want to do and not end up in a situation where you will end up doing what you have to do because of the constraints you’ve created for yourself, then start working for yourself now. As students, working for yourself means studying, learning, living and breathing your courses. These courses aren’t here for arbitrary reasons. There is a lot you can learn if you open your mind to learning.
Less cramming, less point hunting, less “do I need to learn this?”, less all that stuff and more learning. Open the book. Read your notes. Find information online. Go to the math help center. Email me. Work with friends. Stay after class. Learn. Think.
We’re in college now. This isn’t 13th grade.
I got a number of messages from students. One was grateful for the opportunity at a redo. Another said that they learned their lesson. So far so good. Sometimes it just takes a kick in the pants.
But then I received these messages (not exact quotes):
How are you going to grade the redo? Are you going to average it with the other quiz?
Can I just turn in the questions I think I got wrong?
Did you grade the original quiz? I ask because I want to know if I should redo it, depending on the grade.
If I do worse on the redo, will you use my original quiz grade?
Oh my head. Also, sadly, I received no technical questions about the quiz. Only bureaucratic ones like those above. Before the start of the exam today, I announced that the quiz can be turned in with the exam as I didn’t want too much shuffling around. Some students looked confused.
– What quiz?
– The one from last week.
– Oh, but I turned that in.
– Yes, but I sent a message saying that you can resubmit it.
– Oh, was that in an email?
– Oh, I didn’t read any of my emails.
Violins! I want my violins!! A student at the other side of the room was chuckling to himself.
But it wasn’t all doom and gloom. The exam was designed to take an hour and a half. I gave them four hours. By my rough, non-mathematical estimates, of my 30 or so students, three finished within an hour and those exams looked good. Half the class was done by the two hour mark and the exams were mixed — some students gave up. Six students remained at the three hour mark. And everyone finished by the four hour mark.
But more comedy:
Anyone have a calculator?
And a very kind, thoughtful statement from a student upon turning in the exam:
Thank you for the redo. That really helped. I think I get it now.
I’ll keep a steady drumbeat of “work for yourself, not for points!” throughout the semester and hopefully the handful of students that seem to have gotten the message now, will eventually become the whole class. Next up, grading!
And so the semester continues …