Sunday, April 8, 2018

The End of the Semester

As the semester ends there are a variety of emotions from the students …. And me also.  The one part of the semester I don’t like is assigning grades. I feel that students should assess themselves based on how much they think they learned. But of course, no one can honestly assess themselves with objectivity (even instructors sometimes don’t assign grades with objectivity).

I don’t know what happens to the students by the 3rd exam. Its only then that they realize how they are doing in class, and then I have students writing to me, asking me personally what they can do to improve their grades. But after the 3rd exam its really tough for anyone to improve drastically to change the letter grade to one higher. I get reasons like: I spent one hour solving this one problem, and I wonder – WHY? Why would anyone spend so much time on just one problem? I have learned to move on to other problems and then come back to that one problem I could not do before. I even tell them to do this – why don’t they learn to move on? 

Then there is the classic, “I am getting As in all my classes except yours”, well….I don’t know. I cannot comment on that one until I see their transcripts.

Another one, which is probably a little more honest, I did not give this class enough time.

I just don’t know how to guide these students anymore. There is so much going on in their lives: classes, work, family and of course the ever present, phone. I just cannot believe them when they say that they study 2 hours for my class and still get only a C. It means they are just not studying the right way or they think that opening the book is considered studying. And one has to think themselves and realize, what am I doing wrong if I am studying this long and not getting the grade? They should think about getting help early on. But there is a general feeling of self confidence (or lack of it) that does not let them get help.

The other culprit I think, is work. They work to pay for the course (maybe?). But the problem arises when the work takes precedence over education. Some students can manage it all, but most cannot.  One of the things I really like about our Indian culture is that studies are done in the first 25 years of the life. And I can see the benefits of it. One has to get education out of the way before you start a family or work. How can you give education the time it needs when you have kids or if you are reporting to a boss? And I see that conflict all the time in this college. And there is nothing I can do about it.

But one other problem I have with about 70% of the students is their lack of study skills. Study skills include taking notes, practicing problems, copying notes from one notebook to another, scheduling the right amount of time to the right subject. I will confess that I was never a high IQ student, but I did put in my time to learn the material. And I never shied away from getting help. I hardly get anyone during the semester for help.

The end of the semester brings in the typical question, “is there any extra credit”? And I never understood that question. I never had that when I was going to school. You are supposed to do everything for the given credit. If you cannot do that, then how can you do extra credit? Extra credit is supposed to be intellectually difficult – so I don’t want to give something even more difficult to do if someone cannot do the normal stuff.  And then it suddenly becomes my problem that I am not giving them extra credit.  Last year I broke down and I did give extra credit – out of 36 students, only 2 took advantage of it. So there goes that idea!

I am at a loss as to how to motivate my students to do better and show them that education is the only solution to all problems. It gives one a better life and a chance to succeed. If they are going to college, they must realize that aspect. Chemistry is a hard subject, no one takes it for fun, so one must be ready for the time they have to spend on it too. And I think that if you cannot handle the heat, get out of the fire. It’s possible that chemistry is not for everyone. But how do you say that to a student?

Every semester I go through the same emotions.Every semester I feel that the students should have the responsibility to take care of their education and the acceptance of whatever they get as a result of their work.

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