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hashslinger last won the day on May 4 2014

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  1. Yes. And when you make students meet with you in person to discuss grades, they're usually less likely to "go off" or argue with you anyway. Most people do not like to argue with their teachers in person. I did have one guy who went off on me a long, long time ago when I first started teaching, and it was after 24 hours had already passed. (He accused me, among other things, of keeping him out of medical school--apparently the B- he got on a paper had a chilling effect on his potential to make it in the medical field.) But by and large students tend to get more upset over email where they feel more empowered to say things that they wouldn't otherwise. That's why I remind my students constantly that I don't discuss grades over email (and I use FERPA as my excuse here).
  2. I know a lot of people who implement the "24 hour rule." If it works for someone, then more power to them. But I'm personally not a huge fan of it. There's what you're saying and then what they're hearing. You're saying that they need to cool down for 24 hours (for their protection more than anything); they're hearing that they did terrible on this test or exam--so badly that they might not be able to control themselves. They're also hearing that YOU are the one who they will obviously be angry with because you have that kind of power. They're hearing that you're the antagonist, not the impartial person who simply evaluations their work in an impersonal, detached way. When I give back papers, I tell the students that there were "many wonderful papers" but that, yes, some of them needed some work. (Telling the students that some of them were good lets the others know that it IS possible to get a good grade and that other people in the class know what they're doing). Then we take a little time to go over the issues. Then, before I pass back papers, I remind them that I'm available in office hours and that they should feel free to bring their papers by to chat. I also tell them that they can email me for an appointment time if they can't make my office hours, and then I remind them that I don't discuss grades over email. I tell them once more that if they don't understand my comments, or if anything is unclear, that they should not hesitate to come see me. Surprisingly this works; I have had very few students who blew up at me or who wrote long screedy emails. Only one in the last 5 years, I think. (And I teach somewhere between 40 and 80 students a semester.) I just think that sometimes when you institute a rule like "no talking to me for 24 hours!" it kind of makes you look defensive, and it seems to tell them that you're expecting the worst of them. I also wouldn't use the word "dispute" when talking about grades. Because there's nothing to dispute. There's your grade, and their understanding of the rationale for that grade. The point of any kind of after-the-fact conference would be to gain a better understanding of how the paper or exam went wrong and how it might be improved. Basically, it's a feedback conference. But if it works for you, then by all means do it. I just wanted to offer a slightly different perspective.
  3. I loved in Columbus before going elsewhere for graduate school, and I thought the city actually had a sizable population of Muslims for the Midwest. I know that it's got the #2 population of Somalis in the US (#1 is Minneapolis). So it's not all that unusual to see women walking around with the hijab. Certain neighborhoods, of course, are going to be more accepting than others. Anywhere close to campus you'll find people who are more tolerant and accepting--large LGBT population, international population, etc. You go farther out to the suburbs and you're also largely okay. You go farther out than that, though, and you are in Godly America.
  4. You need to talk to your professors and your DGS as soon as possible. One B sounds like bad luck; two B's sound like a problem; three could mean that they're trying to get rid of you. But only you can figure this out for sure. The general understanding is that a B is not a good grade if you're in graduate English coursework, but this can vary from professor to professor. I had a professor one time who relished giving "honest" grades, but she was very much the exception. Since you're only in your first year, you might be able to turn this around. But you absolutely must talk to the people in charge to find out what you need to do. Getting into a top 20 program is tough for people in the most generous circumstances. I would recommend focusing your grad school efforts on schools outside the top 20.
  5. Have to agree with klondike and TakeruK. I don't think it's necessarily weird or bad that quizzes/participation are worth 30%; it's weird that 30% of the student's grade is tied to the practice of self-evaluation. Now his question of "were the quizzes graded?" makes much more sense.
  6. This is absolutely true for some universities--namely mine, which is a huge research institution. Even in a "teaching heavy" discipline, we have hired several people in the last few years who have maybe one semester of experience teaching their own class. Teaching portfolios were never requested. Evaluations were never requested. (Most of the people at my institution don't really think evaluations say anything about someone's teaching.) Research trumped all. Ironically, those of us who graduate from this same institution have A LOT of teaching experience--by the end of our second year, I'd say we have more teaching experience--in terms of number and diversity of classes taught--than most of the people we hire. We typically get jobs anywhere from SLACs to R1s to R2s and very teaching oriented colleges to community colleges. Most of the time we get jobs at places where teaching is emphasized, and often times teaching experience is instrumental to getting these jobs. Even so, research program matters a great deal. In this day and age of a cutthroat job market, even R2 schools and SLACs won't hire someone if they haven't published. So ... does teaching matter? Yes and no. Depends on the hiring situation. I read somewhere--and I believe that this is true--that quantity of teaching matters less than the diversity of courses taught. It's better to have taught only four classes if those four classes were totally different and requiring different syllabi than to teach 12 sections of freshman comp. I've also heard that there's a "law of diminishing returns" when it comes to teaching. Teaching more and more and more doesn't really help you all that much on the job market. After a certain point it just doesn't matter or impress. No one cares that you taught yourself down to the nub. In fact (and I've experienced this myself) teaching too much leads to a kind of fatigue. Your evaluations seem to plateau. Your creativity kind of lags. Teaching wears you out and takes time away from your research. So ... going to a school where you teach 2/2 for six years in a row is not necessarily going to translate to a big advantage on the teaching-oriented job market. In an ideal world, you should try to go to a program that offers meaningful teaching experiences while giving you "time off" to finish a dissertation.
  7. The quizzes were worth 30%, though. That's a significant assignment. Not doing them, in this situation, seems like it would the equivalent of not turning in a major paper or showing up for a final. So that's how I would look at this: the student didn't complete a major course requirement. Changing the weight of participation grade after the fact seems unfair to the students who DID do the quizzes. Even if the percentage breakdown seems to give too much weight to the quizzes over other forms of participation (and I'm not saying it does), it would be unwise to make a major change like that after the class is over.
  8. Well, not to be too flippant, but what did he think the quizzes were for? Your own personal entertainment? He evidently knew they existed. The other students did them, so you know the failure wasn't related to your instructions or syllabus. This sounds like an unfortunate situation, but you can't really do anything at this point. He came to you too late. In your reply to him, i would emphasize that. I would say that he was responsible for his own grade and that the other students had no issues with completing the quizzes on time. It is basically his fault that he wasn't able to follow the instructions--even if there's some disability at play. Having a disability (if that's even what he has, since evidently it's not documented) doesn't excuse his complete inability to accomplish what he needed to accomplish. I know it's hard to believe in this day and age of intense hand-holding, but you're not required to keep after all your students. I too suffer from intense guilt when something like this happens. But it's really not our fault, and there's nothing you or he can do about it at this point. Just give him the grade he earned and move forward.
  9. I think this sums it up quite well. It's really unprofessional to gossip about another TA, even if you know for a fact that they have conducted themselves unethically. It's one thing to ask casually, "What ever happened to Mr. Smith? I haven't seen him lately." It's another thing to roll up and ask about someone's cheating or academic misconduct, especially if you're privy to the information because you were the other TA in the course. At my school, we also aren't allowed to discuss a student's plagiarism case (or its outcome) because of privacy issues. I assume that TAs, as students, are protected under the same rules. Some schools have different protocols when it comes to academic misconduct. At my current school, a TA or professor isn't allowed to give a failing grade for plagiarism or cheating, even for one small assignment--that's for the board to decide. As TakeruK said, you just forward the information to the board and they examine the evidence and make the decision. It's not up to you how or if they're punished. You just present the evidence, no editorializing allowed. At another school I attended, cases of academic misconduct were handled at the discretion of the instructor. You could decide whether or not to fail someone for the assignment or for the course while keeping the decision "in house" and not involving the authorities. Or you could forward their case to the board and fail them at the same time. (This was viewed as a much more extreme measure as board cases left a black mark on the student's transcript.) At that school, it wasn't uncommon for people to just handle academic misconduct on their own--either by failing a student, failing their assignment, or forcing them to do the assignment over again. In any case, academic misconduct is between a student (or, in this case, a TA) and the professor and whatever authority. No other TAs need to get involved unless they have new information.
  10. It's not, but one can't really draw any conclusions based on his presence. We typically don't punish people publicly in academia, and often times "first time" offenders get off with no more than a warning. If Mr. Smith has been mum about it, and his adviser hasn't said anything, then you can't know if he's been sanctioned. His presence in the department might indeed indicate that the matter was swept under the rug. Or it could indicate that the professor and the chair were satisfied with giving him a warning. Or it could indicate something else, that there wasn't enough evidence or something, or there was enough doubt, or there was a technicality. (At my university, you can only punish someone for academic misconduct if you can prove before a judicial committee that they knowingly intended to commit an act of fraud. There's a reason why only the most obvious and glaring plagiarism cases get forwarded.) Or perhaps he's being monitored really closely right now. I have friends who got into some trouble with their teaching their first year; they didn't get fired but the supervising professor watched them very closely, sitting in on their classes and putting them through intense evaluations. My point is that you can't really draw any conclusions based on the fact that he's still there and teaching. Moreover, there's privacy to think of. Mr. Smith is still entitled to his privacy, even if he did something wrong. Beyond all that, I'm not sure what the OP would do with the information if they discovered that Mr. Smith hadn't been punished to their liking. I'm also not sure that any TA is in a position to know what constitutes "appropriate punishment" here because we don't have all the information. Why did Mr. Smith do such a thing? Well, maybe he's got a mental illness. Maybe he just carried away in wanting his students to like him. Maybe he is indeed a sociopath who planned the whole thing. It's difficult to say because there didn't seem to be anything "in it" for him. It's not like these instances in K-12 where standardized test scores are tied to a teacher's employment status. I don't mean to make light of the situation--it sounds like it was pretty galling for all involved. But I think the OP needs to just be about their own business. This happened more than a semester ago and there's no way to change the outcome in any real, tangible way. Since the students weren't the ones perpetrating the academic misconduct, their grades won't change. And Mr. Smith's punishment or non-punishment is Mr. Smith's business and not a matter of concern to another TA. The OP needs to worry about their own coursework and their own success in graduate school.
  11. You have no evidence that the professor did something wrong. You say "it seems" the professor "covered it up" in order to protect their own tenure situation and grad student. Where's your proof? Based on the language you're using here, I'd say you're just speculating. You are operating under the assumption that the professor is behaving unethically, and that might not be the case at all. For all you know, he or she has dealt with it with integrity and professionalism. Trust that they know what they're doing. Maybe the TA didn't get punished because he just made an error in judgment; maybe he is being punished and is in a world of shit right now. If I'm going to speculate myself, I'm going to assume that they *have* dealt with it. No one's going to jeopardize their tenure over some stupid grad student. Give the professor the benefit of the doubt and move on. No one likes a snitch; more than that, no one respects a conspiracy theorist. Go with the evidence: professor knows about the cheating; the cheating was stopped. The end. I'm not surprised that Mr. Smith's section ended up with higher grades: the professor could not take those grades away from those students because they didn't do anything wrong. *They* weren't the ones cheating. Just let this alone. Do you really want to be known as the grad student who tried to cost Professor so-and-so his tenure? Or who tried to get Mr. Smith kicked out? ETA: Oh, and if you do go to an authority, you better have more than a hunch. You better have a smoking gun. I wouldn't ever, ever go up against a professor in this kind of situation unless I had really hard evidence.
  12. You're going to have bad days. You're going to have bad days a lot at first, but even after you've been teaching for 5 or 10 years, you're going to have bad days then, too. Just accept them and move on. Related to that, if your students don't like your class or your subject-matter (or even you), don't take it too personally. Remember that you're an "authority" figure in a required class, and that people don't really like authority figures or their "required" courses. (I know that nothing is really "required" in college, but students often perceive general ed classes as a chore.) More importantly, students lose a lot of respect for instructors who seem to take student disinterest really personally. Be open to student feedback (in the form of midterm evaluations) but don't chase after their approval. That just makes you look desperate. Resist the temptation to grade too hard or too easy. Devise a rubric (or borrow one from someone) and stick to it. If it's a choice between being kind and being fair, be fair. Don't lose sight of your own work or the reason you came to grad school. Don't let teaching eat your professional or personal life.
  13. I think this is a good approach. But FWIW, I take a slightly different approach. I, personally, would not ever, ever change a grade I have already given unless I clearly miscalculated or overlooked something or made some obvious and quantifiable mistake. Grades are indeed subjective: I might assign a slightly different grade to a paper based on when I grade in relation to the other papers (before or after I've seen how other students completed the essay, for instance), and to obviate this issue I reconsider grades multiple times before returning the essays. But I do think we need to trust our own professional judgment to some extent and not allow our own standards and grading scale to be "moved" based on the arguments that students might be able to make. I don't think it's necessarily about our egos (although no one likes to be second guessed); for me, it's about trusting my professional judgment so I can guide students toward writing a better next paper. I try to present grading as more a "learning experience": here is my professional judgment of your work, and here is what you can do to write a better paper in the near future. When I write comments, I generally conceptualize them as a list of recommendations rather than justifications. And when students come to see me in conference, I avoid defending my grade and instead present my appraisal of their work as advice for what to avoid or implement in the next paper or next assignment. Just taking this attitude generally works--students come into the conference asking to better "understand" what needed more work and to get advice for the next paper. Sometimes I let students rewrite their papers if they ask or if they clearly didn't understand the assignment. However, I would never change a grade or let students think the door is open for a grade change.
  14. I don't know what field you're in, so I'm not sure that this will be helpful, but I would tell you to approach your first chapter like it's a 20-page seminar paper. In other words, just sit down and write it. Just write it. It's going to be terrible. It's going to be bad. But no one can help you with it when it's still in your head. You have to produce SOMETHING in order to get to the stage where you can actually receive help on it.
  15. Yes, definitely, Depending on the level of the class I'm teaching, I spell that out, Unfortunately, explaining the technical reason for why something might be "awkward" is sometimes just as opaque to the student--they've got a misplaced modifier, the sentence is a run-on, the sentence is a fragment, the parallel structure is off, they're using a colloquial expression, they're not introducing quoted material in a grammatically sound way, etc. Sometimes these specific reasons for awkwardness are just as confusing for students if they don't have a grammar background. So it's still their responsibility to seek out further feedback if it's not clear, or to go to the writing center where they do workshops on avoiding "awkward" writing. I actually do pass out sample sentences from past classes and have us all revise them in class, but oftentimes students have difficulty applying what they learned there to their own papers.
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