Thursday, November 06, 2008

Welcome to Week 12 of the Semester

This is the point in the semester where we allow the inevitable to play out. During the next few weeks, you will meet the fate that you have been preparing for. I have counted: I have to prepare exactly eight more lessons (total, for all my classes). The rest of the time is filled with exams, review, oral presentations, other filler. I've already written the final for one class.

When I talk to students with problems and complaints, they fall into two distinct categories: The ones where it is very easy and pleasant to solve their problems and give them exactly what they want and the ones that I can not help at all. All of the students who I'm talking to are failing math.

The former class of students accepts their fate. They know that they are failing. They plan to take the class again in the spring. Unfortunately for them, the registration system (yes, this same system that can't enforce prereqs or placement) will not allow anyone to sign up for a course that they are currently enrolled in until after the F is posted to the official record. What I can do is to crank out a form letter to the registrar's office giving the student the department's permission to sign up for another attempt before officially failing. This is good for us because we would like to know sooner rather than later what the enrollment numbers are going to look like for the spring.

The latter class of students are harder to deal with. Most ask for things that we never do, some of which are impossible. While, yes, there are database techs on campus who can do whatever they want to your records and your student account, that doesn't mean that any of these things should be done. When someone has made several unsuccessful attempts at a wide variety of math classes taught by an assortment of instructors with varied teaching philosophies, the student's concerns about math classes are not easy to address. Especially not this close to the end of the semester.