Countdown to Finals

My first semester teaching a college course in more than thirty years is rapidly drawing to a close. The weeks since school started have flown by. The last day of class will be here in no time.

The teaching I’ve done for more than thirty years is dramatically different from teaching a college course. Participation in the workshops I’ve taught in the past is voluntary. There are no grades, and I rarely see anyone twice or for longer than a few hours.

Seeing the same students every Tuesday and Thursday for 15 weeks is a nice change. I look forward to each and every class. A few of my 46 students show up only on test days — if then — but most are never absent.

Skipping my class is a bad idea. Attendance is ten percent of the course grade. Missing even one class impacts test scores too — and not in a good way.

After abysmal grades on the first test, I changed my approach. Grades were better on the second test — the average score jumped 6 percent. That most of the students did better was reassuring, but twice as many failed too. Upon closer inspection, those who didn’t do well tended to miss a lot of class.

The third exam is tomorrow. This time, I shifted things around to free up the class before the test for a review. I dumped the slides for all the lectures into one file, deleted any that weren’t important, and made sure to cover every single question on the test.

Experience has tempered my expectations. Except for one who came to the review, I predict those who failed exam 2 will also fail exam 3. Everyone else should do better.

Students with low test scores still have a chance to pass. Half the grade for the course is based on exams. Attendance is 10%, assignments make up another 20%, and a comprehensive final is 30%.

Though I’d love for every student to get an A or B in the course, there’s only so much I can do. The students have a role too. Call me old fashioned, but I’m not in the business of giving away grades. Good grades have to be earned.