Monday, February 4, 2008

Spreadsheet Steve Stiffens His Resolve.

One of the reasons I like academic life is that most people (except deans, who don’t count) aren’t too fussy about paperwork. And I’ll be honest; I’m not the best at keeping records about attendance, participation and all that sixth grade shit.

Mostly, this attitude derives from my idea that a university is an intellectual community and that each class is a smaller version of that community. Supposedly, everyone is motivated by a desire to learn and contribute to the learning of others. You may ask, “What are you smoking?” Just call me an old idealist, I guess. But I am changing my ways.

My idealism has lately been so crushed by grade-grubbing whiners who want to dispute every singly percentile of their grade that I am turning over a new academic leaf. I am about to become the whiners’ worst bureaucratic nightmare. Of course I have always had an attendance and participation policy on the syllabus, but I’ve tended after the first few weeks to let it slide. We’re all here to learn, right? (Yeah, right.)

So I have a sign-in sheet that goes round every day so I don’t waste time calling the roll and after class I put a check mark beside the names of folks who spoke up and contributed. Every week I enter the results into a simple spreadsheet. What I’m discovering is that by holding students to account I feel a greater sense of self-respect.

Who knows? Maybe all these months of reading RYS has stiffened my resolve. Maybe the real reason I let record-keeping slide is that I had lost my belief that it mattered, or that what I was doing was important. In any case, I can hardly wait for the end of the semester when I post my grades & I have to opportunity to go over the numbers with some whiner who wants me to believe he earned a B instead of a C. “Well, yes, now, let’s take a look at the spreadsheet . . . “