Friday, March 14, 2014

Bob from Bennington, who is a great teacher, brings us an AWC Playlet double feature

This wouldn't be much of a scene in a real play because the conversation was conducted entirely by email (everything sent Reply All) between Bob (that's me) and two students (#1 and #2) working on a project in my class.

Bob: We need to meet to discuss your progress on the project.  I can meet any time between 8 am and 2 pm, any day next week.  Let me know what fits your schedules.

Student #1: I can meet Friday at 4 pm.

Bob:  I am not available at 4 pm on Friday.  Can we meet at a time that is within the range I provided you in my previous email?

Student #1: Sorry, my mistake.  I can meet you Thursday.

Bob: What time on Thursday?

Student #1: I can meet at 2 pm.

Bob: I am not available at 2 pm.  I am available beginning at 8 am and ending at 2 pm.  I am not available after 2 pm.  We could meet at 1 pm and finish our meeting by 2 pm.

Student #1: OK, I can meet then.

Student #2, having received eight emails by now: Fine.

Odds are, one of them will forget to attend the meeting and the other will show up without the materials they are developing for the project.  We'll definitely be done by 2 pm.


In this scene, we observe the conversation between a professor (that's me) and a student who turned in his homework late.  I'll spare you the details of the conversation - you've all heard it before.

Bob: How can I help you?

Student: I forgot to turn in my homework until after the due date.  What is the penalty?

Bob: OK. We grade it with a 50% penalty.

Student: But I did it before it was due.  I just forgot to turn it in.

Bob: I apply the late penalty to all student work that is turned in late.  Make sure you pay attention to the deadlines.

Student: You mean that I'm the only one responsible for making sure my homework is turned in on time?  It's my fault if it's late?

Bob: Yes.

As the student leaves in a huff, Bob reminisces about the time he taught this lesson to another student, his son, who was in fourth grade at the time.


  1. Reading comprehension -- or, rather, failing to take time to read carefully enough to comprehend -- seems to be the issue at the heart of Playlet 1.

    My students are either hyper-schedulers who propose one 20-minute slot out of the whole week (which would require a 100-120-minute round trip to campus on my part just for that meeting), or evanescent will-o-the-wisps (i.e. flakes) who simply can't be pinned down as to time and place (but who, if appearances by my office mates' students during my office hours are any indication, probably stop by my office when I'm not there pretty regularly). They do, however, have a pretty good record of showing up for scheduled conferences on drafts of the final, high stakes assignment (I provide the schedule -- which makes it clear just how many people I'm seeing in a relatively short time, and how much time I'm spending on the endeavor overall -- and they sign up), especially when I make it clear that they should show up even if the draft isn't complete.

    For those who are both eager to meet and apparently unable to actually show up to appointments, I'm glad to be able to offer Skype these days. Although I'm still chained to my computer for the promised time slot, and somewhat distracted by holding myself ready to be interrupted, at least I don't have to travel, and I can still get work done.

  2. 'Tis the season, apparently, for dealing with the issues in playlet #1. See today's post from Notorious Ph.D..

  3. I feel the angst rising! :)

    My students struggle with scheduling meetings, too. I think their parents have made appointments for them their whole lives so they don't quite "get" it. When I tell them to program a change to the schedule (i.e. if we're meeting somewhere other than the classroom the next day) into their phones, I also have to tell them to set their alert for 10 minutes BEFORE the change, otherwise they will be late. They look at me as if I've opened the clouds and revealed heaven for thinking of how to make it to an appointment ON TIME. And then half of them end up going to the classroom even if they've programmed a reminder in their phones. They sheepishly say, "I couldn't remember why I'd put that in my phone." Sigh.

    Other students ask me how long appointments last, when it's clear that they've signed up for a slot from 1:20 - 1:40.