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Does the math teacher make the difference?

by MathHeroine
Tags: difference, math, teacher
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Intervenient
#19
Mar7-12, 12:22 PM
P: 49
Quote Quote by bpatrick View Post
not that this has to due with the quality of teaching ability, but this story is more about the general quality of the professor and how little he cared about the students he was teaching:

I have always been a self motivating learner. when I took ODEs freshman year of college, the prof said we didn't have to come to class, so I didn't. I came for the review sessions before the exams, then got As on the exams and went on with my life, no worries, got an A in the course.

sophomore year came and I enrolled in (sophomore level) classical mechanics. the prof started the lecture right away after handing out the syllabus (and not talking about it at all). The syllabus stated that attendance was optional and grades will be determined: 30% exam 1, 30% exam 2, 40% final. I did the same thing I did for my ODE class, went to review sessions, got an A, B+, and A- on the three exams ... so I should have been looking at probably an A- for the course right?

I ended up getting an F on my transcript and thought it was some mistake, when I got back to school in January, I talked to him, and the chair of the physics department. Evidently the first day of class, the prof mistakenly distributed the syllabus from when he taught it two fall semesters before. I had noticed the date on the top of the paper (because I frequently referenced it throughout the semester as I read the proper sections in the book) but i thought the prof was just too lazy or didn't notice he forgot to change the date when he reused the syllabus.

The man never informed me that he had changed the syllabus! ... now how bloody hard is it to send an email with the change? or when you administer the first exam to say, "hey, [bpatrick], i haven't seen you in class, don't you care about your participation grade? ... even with straight As on the exams you'll only get a D given the weight of attendance and homework!", but not a single word for the professor the entire semester, hell, I even went to his office hours once and asked for advice on solving a problem I was working on. All he said was, "we did something like this in class last Wednesday, why don't you come to class or get notes from another student."

I never ended up getting the grade changed (the university gave an option to retake up to 2 courses that you received a C- or lower in), but by the next fall, I had already completed my minor in physics and the same prof was teaching the course again. I had no desire to be in the same room with that man for an entire semester wasting my time on stuff I already could do, and needed to be taking another course that fall in my major that was offered at the same time.

overall, i say that's a pretty awful teacher and just an ahole in general. Until then, I was thinking about double majoring in physics and possibly going to grad school in physics, but when that happened, I ended up focusing on my music instead. It's amazing what a single teacher can do, haha.

Yup. Giant ahole because YOU decided you were too good for lecture, and this professor didn't kiss your *** to get you to come to lecture. That's your responsibility brosef, not his.
mathwonk
#20
Mar7-12, 12:41 PM
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I do believe the teacher can make a difference, but the same teacher will not make the same difference to every student. The thing to seek is the good relationship, or the good match between student and teacher, since not every student learns in the same way, nor seeks the same outcome.

Thus I found the study mentioned by Moonbear completely in line with what I have observed over my career, When I read teacher evaluations of professors in order to give awards or promotions, I observed that overwhelmingly, the highest evaluations went to the professors who gave the highest grades. Those professors apparently had the happiest students. In some cases those professors were also excellent at explaining the material, but they tested that material in a far less challenging way than others did. In those cases their grades did not discriminate at all between merely average good students and really excellent ones as essentially everyone got an A.

There were also exceptions however. There were some professors who were both challenging and excellent and this was noted by the students who said the professor's class was not easy but they felt the professor went out of her/his way to give the students every chance to learn as much as possible. When awarding prizes for teaching I looked for these latter instances, but they were only a small subset of the teachers.

Indeed since promotions and raises and hiring depend in many cases at least partly on these evaluations, most teachers have apparently learned to placate the students with easier classes, and not to make the grade depend on really excellent performance.

So as Moonbear made clear, the meaning of the term "good teacher" depends on what the evaluator is looking for: clear explanations, deep insight, more advanced versions of material than found in books, higher grades than average or than deserved, willingness to overlook lazy performance or absences, concern for the student's needs and feelings,....

Years ago I wrote an essay "On teaching" that was published by request of one of my students then in the math ed department. It is #8 under class notes on this page:

http://www.math.uga.edu/~roy/

In it I refer to the passage in scripture where Jesus rebukes a follower for calling him "good teacher", responding none is actually good except God.
daveyinaz
#21
Mar7-12, 01:32 PM
P: 225
Quote Quote by Intervenient View Post
Yup. Giant ahole because YOU decided you were too good for lecture, and this professor didn't kiss your *** to get you to come to lecture. That's your responsibility brosef, not his.
Actually, bpatrick is not the ahole in this scenario but rather the institution he attended is and possibly you for not understanding that the syllabus acts as a contract between the professor and the student administratively. Since he was given a false set of guidelines to follow, he should not have been faulted for doing what he was fully within his right to do under those specific terms.
Intervenient
#22
Mar7-12, 02:29 PM
P: 49
Quote Quote by daveyinaz View Post
Actually, bpatrick is not the ahole in this scenario but rather the institution he attended is and possibly you for not understanding that the syllabus acts as a contract between the professor and the student administratively. Since he was given a false set of guidelines to follow, he should not have been faulted for doing what he was fully within his right to do under those specific terms.

The professor updated the syllabus saying so. It's common knowledge that syllabuses are subject to change during the first few weeks (My stats syllabus reached it's final version in week 4). If he's going to prance about like he's better than the institution, it'd have been wise to show up to class every once in a while. It was not the professors job to reach out to one of his many, many students (especially one that never showed up to reach out to him).

Deserved the F, next.
daveyinaz
#23
Mar7-12, 03:34 PM
P: 225
Quote Quote by Intervenient View Post
The professor updated the syllabus saying so.
You must have read some other post that is not mentioned here because I didn't see anything bpatrick saying that he was informed of the mistake or change.

Quote Quote by Intervenient View Post
It's common knowledge that syllabuses are subject to change during the first few weeks (My stats syllabus reached it's final version in week 4).
I didn't realize the fact that your particular stats syllabus was revised a number of times made it common knowledge to all students in all colleges and universities everywhere.

Quote Quote by Intervenient View Post
If he's going to prance about like he's better than the institution, it'd have been wise to show up to class every once in a while.
Where did you get that bpatrick was implying that he was better than the institution? Must be the same invisible post you are referring to above.

Quote Quote by Intervenient View Post
It was not the professors job to reach out to one of his many, many students (especially one that never showed up to reach out to him).
From the information at hand, bpatrick said that he went to the professor's office hours for homework assistance, if that ain't reaching out, then I don't know what else is.

Quote Quote by Intervenient View Post
Deserved the F, next.
Here's what I think went down, assistant chair ahole professor knew bpatrick was not attending class and knew he was taking the tests, even so far as to let him take the final with full knowledge that he was going to fail him and then hide behind some bs like his job title or the fact that he made a mistake in handed out an old syllabus. The appropriate response as an educator or a man with any sort of integrity would to observe the absence pattern and warn the student beforehand of the situation that is about to occur should they continue down a course of wrongful actions, in this case, not attending classes.
Intervenient
#24
Mar7-12, 07:31 PM
P: 49
Quote Quote by daveyinaz View Post
Here's what I think went down, assistant chair ahole professor knew bpatrick was not attending class and knew he was taking the tests, even so far as to let him take the final with full knowledge that he was going to fail him and then hide behind some bs like his job title or the fact that he made a mistake in handed out an old syllabus. The appropriate response as an educator or a man with any sort of integrity would to observe the absence pattern and warn the student beforehand of the situation that is about to occur should they continue down a course of wrongful actions, in this case, not attending classes.



Are you like 5 years old? I'm 100% positive that a professor has a MILLION better things to do then to punish one student who didn't go to lecture.

Do I think that it's stupid that someone who performed well in the class got an F because he didn't go to lecture. Of course. But did bpatrick not have the responsibility as a student to make sure that this was ok? He noticed he got a syllabus with the wrong year at the top, it would have been a good idea to clarify with the professor that this was indeed the correct syllabus, especially if he planned to never go to lecture at all.

I have ZERO sympathy for the guy. Sucks, but if you're going to take a semester long vacation, it'd be a good idea to keep up with the professor. The professor is teaching hundreds of kids I'm sure. It isn't his job to make sure that one student who never bothered to class showed up.


Anyways, this whole discussion is off topic, and I apologize for making it so.
Nano-Passion
#25
Mar7-12, 08:33 PM
P: 1,306
I think professors make the only difference pertaining to raising someone's interest, in my personal case at least. I don't want a professor who teaches by a book, because I can do that myself. But I would like a professor who connects bits and pieces together and gives the bigger picture.

Quote Quote by Intervenient View Post
Are you like 5 years old? I'm 100% positive that a professor has a MILLION better things to do then to punish one student who didn't go to lecture.

Do I think that it's stupid that someone who performed well in the class got an F because he didn't go to lecture. Of course. But did bpatrick not have the responsibility as a student to make sure that this was ok? He noticed he got a syllabus with the wrong year at the top, it would have been a good idea to clarify with the professor that this was indeed the correct syllabus, especially if he planned to never go to lecture at all.

I have ZERO sympathy for the guy. Sucks, but if you're going to take a semester long vacation, it'd be a good idea to keep up with the professor. The professor is teaching hundreds of kids I'm sure. It isn't his job to make sure that one student who never bothered to class showed up.


Anyways, this whole discussion is off topic, and I apologize for making it so.
Actually, bpatric didn't assume that the professor changed any substantial rule in the syllabus. If a professor gave me a year old syllabus, I would think that he did it on purpose and not by accident. But at any rate, the fuel of this argument relies on differing beliefs, one is practical while the other is absolute. Therefore, this argument will go nowhere. And lets not attack others for different personal characteristics (lenient vs. absolute).
Jorriss
#26
Mar7-12, 08:45 PM
P: 1,072
Quote Quote by Intervenient View Post
Sucks, but if you're going to take a semester long vacation, it'd be a good idea to keep up with the professor.
It sounds like he wasn't if he got an A otherwise.
genericusrnme
#27
Mar7-12, 08:54 PM
P: 615
+1
Higher education should be about education rather than attending mandatory classes which may or may not help
mathwonk
#28
Mar7-12, 09:30 PM
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people who do not show enough respect to attend class deserve and receive absolutely no slack. Learn this before proceeding further. In my own case, I call absent students on the phone and make sure they know what is going down, and ask why they are absent, but I am totally unique in this respect. Again, if you sign up for a class and do not show up, you are going to suffer for that, and no responsible party in any appeal or forum will support you.
Nano-Passion
#29
Mar7-12, 09:57 PM
P: 1,306
Quote Quote by mathwonk View Post
people who do not show enough respect to attend class deserve and receive absolutely no slack. Learn this before proceeding further. In my own case, I call absent students on the phone and make sure they know what is going down, and ask why they are absent, but I am totally unique in this respect. Again, if you sign up for a class and do not show up, you are going to suffer for that, and no responsible party in any appeal or forum will support you.
If I may interject, I don't believe its a matter of respect. But rather, a matter of preference. Some use lectures as their prime tool of study, while others prefer complete independent study.
MathWarrior
#30
Mar7-12, 10:04 PM
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Quote Quote by Nano-Passion View Post
If I may interject, I don't believe its a matter of respect. But rather, a matter of preference. Some use lectures as their prime tool of study, while others prefer complete independent study.
I think if your paying to go to a school to learn something you should do both independent study and lectures.
Jorriss
#31
Mar7-12, 10:11 PM
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Quote Quote by MathWarrior View Post
I think if your paying to go to a school to learn something you should do both independent study and lectures.
Some people really do benefit from just independent study and for this student, when he needed help, he went to office hours.
mathwonk
#32
Mar7-12, 10:32 PM
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you are missing the point. no matter what you think is preferable, you are not going to succeed in school if you do not attend class. we are not discussing whether that is what you think is reasonable, I am telling you how to succeed. Besides, if you are paying tuition to a school where the lectures have nothing to offer, you are a sucker.
mathwonk
#33
Mar8-12, 10:23 AM
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To the student who got the low grade for missing class: it is possible you can appeal this grade and have it changed. At my university the university guidelines say that you can be dropped from a class for lack of attendance, so it is part of the written rules that attendance is expected. However I believe it is also a policy that the instructor must distribute a written syllabus in which he explains his attendance policy and the basis for his grading system. If this is the case at your university, I think you would have case that the written syllabus which was distributed should be the one that must be followed for grading that course. It is always worth a try, but you need to be polite to everyone involved if you hope to succeed. The first step in any such appeal is usually to simply speak to the instructor and make your case, as diplomatically, but clearly, as possible.
daveyinaz
#34
Mar8-12, 10:52 AM
P: 225
Quote Quote by Intervenient View Post
I'm 100% positive that a professor has a MILLION better things to do then to punish one student who didn't go to lecture.
How can you be so positive? Are you the professor whom bpatrick is referring to? It's kind of sad really that you think there are "better" things to do rather than concern yourself with helping a struggling student as an educator/instructor/professor/teacher/whatever, especially one who has clearly shown potential since he was able to get good grades without attending classes.


Quote Quote by Intervenient View Post
Do I think that it's stupid that someone who performed well in the class got an F because he didn't go to lecture. Of course. But did bpatrick not have the responsibility as a student to make sure that this was ok? He noticed he got a syllabus with the wrong year at the top, it would have been a good idea to clarify with the professor that this was indeed the correct syllabus, especially if he planned to never go to lecture at all.
I definitely agree with you on this point. There are a variety of routes bpatrick could have taken where the end result might have been different.


Furthermore, comments like this have no place here...

Quote Quote by Intervenient View Post
Are you like 5 years old?
I always chuckle at remarks like this because I'm pretty sure someone like you wouldn't have the sack to say it to my face in person.

Quote Quote by Intervenient View Post
I have ZERO sympathy for the guy. Sucks, but if you're going to take a semester long vacation, it'd be a good idea to keep up with the professor. The professor is teaching hundreds of kids I'm sure. It isn't his job to make sure that one student who never bothered to class showed up.
Making statements about having zero sympathy for people certainly tells more about you than anything else said in this discussion so far. To be so arrogant as to think that anyone was asking for your sympathy is mind boggling when it seems that bpatrick's intention was a "lessons learned" kind of story and not one of "feel pity for me". Plus you do not know the whole story as neither do I to conclude definitively what really happened.

Quote Quote by Intervenient View Post
Anyways, this whole discussion is off topic, and I apologize for making it so.
On the contrary, I don't think anything said so far has been so off topic that merited an apology. It is clear now that teachers do make a difference, in so far as much, as random strangers are debating them on this very forum.
mathwonk
#35
Mar8-12, 10:58 AM
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I think this is very much off topic. The gentleman made it about his personal gripe, instead of a general discussion.
daveyinaz
#36
Mar8-12, 02:06 PM
P: 225
Quote Quote by mathwonk View Post
I think this is very much off topic. The gentleman made it about his personal gripe, instead of a general discussion.
That's your opinion, I still stand by my statement that it was not. The issue is; does a [math] teacher make a difference? It was a personal story where the teacher did make a difference. [tex]\blacksquare[/tex]


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