Monday, April 27, 2009
I teach "Art History," and invariably get cries and moans about study guides...so I give them one.
I prepare a one page sheet that *literally* just lists every artist and work of art we have talked about in the class (I even throw in a few extra--I figure, what the hell? They probably weren't paying attention the first time through.) I hand out copies the week before the test, and my snowflakes are super-duper happy about it, even though it is completely useless in pedagogical terms. I think it is just the ritual of the review sheet that they are used to...and I am more than happy to play my part, since it helps keep insane statements like, "We never knew what questions were going to be asked on the test!" off of my evaluations.
Hell, I even throw a review session for each exam. And this is where it gets good. It is always at some ridiculously early hour (like 7.30am). I always blame the time on classroom scheduling, since our uni is notoriously overcrowded (the students just shake their head knowingly when I explain to them how I spent an hour on the phone trying to get the classroom schedule opened up so we wouldn't have to do it at 6am). I get to school at that time anyways, and this helps to cut down on the "slacker factor". I make it a BIG DEAL...I schedule it weeks in advance, make an insane amount of flyers (or rather, I give some keener 5 extra credit points to make them) and then post these ALL over our part of the campus. The students are allowed to bring donuts and coffee (I tell them it is against the rules--which it isn't--but that I will look the other way in this case...for them), and being present at my "Super Kool Review Session Party" becomes a (reluctant) point of pride among many of my students. My administration loves it -- I look like the most dedicated proffie ever, and the student evals often suggest just that.
What's more, it is extremely "student centered" (GAG! Sorry, I just puked into my mouth a little bit...). The students have to prepare questions to ask ME during the session--no questions, no review. It took a while for them to get that part, especially those that like to skip the class all semester and just show up for the review. The first time, we sat in complete silence for 25 minutes (I spent that time reading RYS on my laptop!) until some kid realized that I meant it and started asking questions.
Here's the kicker: I will only answer "Yes" or "No" questions. Seriously. It is a REVIEW SESSION...I will help you check the notes you took in class, nothing more.
"Is Van Gogh spelled G-O-G-H?"
"Is he French?"
By the third or fourth question, I am completely out of the equation -- the students start answering each other's questions (sometimes with sighs and rolls-of-the-eyes, "Van Gogh was NOT French, you douche!"), and I only have to chime in with the occasional "No" when someone tries to share some bad info (I do have some heart). For most of the sessions, I sit there--like a sage--and quietly sip my coffee.
...and revel in my delight.
And why am I so happy? Because I get to see my snowflakes blossom into full-fledged little snowmen? Because, for one brief, shining moment I get to glimpse the potential of these bright young minds?
Because I have beat them. I have used their neediness, their immaturity, their institutionalized laziness against them. I have turned the system back on itself. In a world in which these snowflakes expect to be the center of the universe, I put them there--and walk away.
I do *absolutely nothing*, and get LOVED for it -- NOT. ONE. THING.
I realized a long time ago that my doctorate gives me one great advantage over these kids:
It means I am FUCKING SMARTER than they are.
Once I realized that, I put all of the powers of my intellect towards one goal: tricking them into doing shit that they should be doing anyway, while giving me all the credit. I mean, think about it. We spend most of our time trying to convince students that they should be responsible, intellectually curious, self-reliant...and what's the result? They say we are "not available for help enough," "too hard," or "unfair." Fuck 'em. I would rather just use my advantage to get the same results. I mean, if I can't outsmart some 20-year old frat boy...should I really be teaching anyway?