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schencka
Attending class

Lovely to see misterskank's comment for this Inside Higher Education article.

I take attendance every day, as a TA teaching English 101 at the University of Arizona. Students that miss quizzes, etc. make getting an A very difficult. I only announce in a given class when we'll have a  quiz. I also typically only announce important details for major assignments in class. The students that don't attend class and don't follow these simple directions sacrifice their grades.

Let me just say this: call me "lax," but the University of Arizona accepts 80% of all the students that apply. This is why a bunch of semi-bright Southern California kids drive the five to seven hours to go to college here -- the California system didn't accept them.

My college experience

After attending a small college where I got lots of personal attention from PhDs, and was very involved in extracurricular activities, it's beyond me why a bright kid who'll probably get a humanities or "soft" science degree would want to come to to a massive, impersonal state university, and live in an apartment with other checked-out students.

Working while you're a student, unless it's in the academic setting, is a net loss for a student. I should know. I wasn't reading that Great Literature while working at GNC. But our economy basically demands it.

Grading Philosophy

The kids in my class that have excellent attendance and participate get an A. The kids that are especially bright but skimp on attendance also usually get an A. Everyone else gets a B, except for the kids that are both dull and do not attend many classes. They typically get a C, or limp to a D (and I doubt these will ever get a Bachelor's degree). The kids that attend but obviously went to high schools for the lower-class kids make me feel sorry for them -- they're beat down.

I had a bright kid tell me he would miss class because he was going to Mexico for a quick vacation. I told I wished I could do the same, but noted my relative poorness/impecunity. Didn't bother me.

I had a student have a personal breakdown. I just told her to do the work -- no need to sweat.

Reading

Read a good book. Listen to good music. Read Krugman, not...what's her name? ... Maureen Dowd (i.e. read the newspaper). Eat good food. Watch only good TV.

Get in the habit of being able to entertain yourself. Bored people are boring people.

All I can do for students is model the above behavior, make them think, "That's someone I'd like be like -- animated, entertaining, intelligent."

That's all one can do in terms of shaping the personality of someone else.
 
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