Do The Professors Choose The Students They Teach?

Anecdote 1:
A professor who is very highly praised by students told her research group that she “weeded” out some students by requiring them to read before coming to class and giving a quiz during the 2nd week of class (right before the class dropping deadline). And the result is that she is able to work with smaller group of students who are more likely to interact with her during class, giving her easier time during teaching.

Anecdote 2:
Due to a financial crisis in a department, a professor ended up having a lot more students in her class than past years. She asked the students whether they want to drop the class during every lecture until the deadline for dropping the class passed.

Now, I am quite understand the struggle of these professors, they want to keep the class small enough to manage. My first reaction was however more sympathetic toward the students. The students want to take a class, and my view is, whether or not they got a good grade, they will learn something beneficial from the class.

No doubt, reducing the class size on purpose will limit the students’ chances of taking classes that are interesting to them. Would the students know that they are being weeded out by tactics from the professors? No, they will likely to think the class is difficult and they are very stressed. However, from the 1st anecdote, if students don’t read before a class, how would the students learn properly? If a professor did not force them to read by giving them a quiz, they will likely fall behind in class. So does it mean that this tactic will ultimately make the students better in learning? Not necessarily. The students who decided to drop the class will likely not to develop the good habits of learning on their own. On the other hand, it is not the professors’ duty to “require” students to learn on their own, it is the students’ choice and responsibility to discover new ways of learning in college.

What about the professors? There is little dispute that smaller class size increases the effectiveness of a teacher in that there is more interaction between the teacher and students, and the teacher can cater the material better to students. When the needs of the students are met, this obviously mean the objective of the teacher is effectively achieved. In reality, with less money to go around, the class size will increase. In this case, the professors have to adjust to a bigger class, but as from the 2nd anecdote, professors may request students to drop their class, which is not the point of college education.

So with professors trying to reduce the size of the class, the only people who would lose are the students who may have potential but could not keep up.

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What I Worry About For The Future Students

Did I say I will update my recipes? =P
I guess that will be pushed later again.

Students don’t ask or say anything (and blame the teacher for not reading their mind)

This is the most troubling thing I have encountered.  Although I made the students come up with a time for my office hours, even though they said they were available, they did not come, nor did they ask questions in class when I asked for questions.  I guess the latter can be explained by the students’ self image (don’t want to be embarrassed by asking an easy question), but the former is a mystery as I repeatedly reminded them about the office hours and meeting by appointments as necessary.  And all the while my TA, who was unfamiliar with the course material, was getting 30+ e-mails per week and gave up replying (and I got 5 or 6 e-mails a week and was always fast in response).

When I was a student (6 years ago as an undergraduate student), I was shy.  If I did not ask questions in class, I would try to find the answers from the TA or the book.  If I couldn’t find the answers, I tried more.  I asked questions when the professors were less intimidating.  If I didn’t do well in a class, I blamed myself for not trying hard enough.

From students’ feedback, I sensed something alarming.  The students are maybe 6 or 7 years younger than I am, but they asked for things like answers to the homework before the due date so they can check their answers, apology from me being rude when they came late to my office hours and I was with another student and they had to leave, dropping 1 out of 5 assignment grades, etc.  Overall I felt that students seemed very self-righteous, thinking that everything must be laid out in front of them for them to pick and choose!

What happened to introspection?  What happened to speaking out for oneself?  Maybe the solution lies with changing the way I approach students.  I should have more rules like participation as part of the grade, reading before coming to class, a sign-in sheet for office hours, a box for questions to be anonymously submitted, a colored flash card to show their understanding of the material, etc.  Although I felt these tactics are not motivating the students to be more proactive, at least this will cease the complaints for me.  But how then, could I teach the students to voice their opinions in the real world and fight for what they want?

I also learned that I can’t please everyone.  I try to be as friendly as possible, and students think it’s a sign of lacking confidence, forgetting that as a short woman, I am already approachable.  Another example is my advisor who was a tall Caucasian male, students thought he was arrogant.  In addition, when I realized from a survey that some student were confusing environmentalism and environmental engineering and tried to explain that I do not preach environmentalism in an environmental engineering class although I am an environmentalist, other students called it “ranting” and a waste of time.

Oh, how I worry for the next generation!

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Back From Teaching And Learned A Few Things

I have been teaching for the past 2 quarters.  That was why I was missing for this whole time.  Will update the recipes I have tried perhaps soon (notice I used “will” and “perhaps” in the same sentence).

By this time you would have already known that I am a female blogger.  I don’t know if my experience also resonates with male lecturers and professors, but the following is my experience.

Students want to test their boundaries and push you

If you haven’t read this article, you should.  More mature students (mostly senior students) will accept your authority more easily, for juniors or younger, they like to push very hard and test your limits.  Even if you wrote everything in a guideline, they will scream for their lost points, even if you reason with them, they will blame you.  Now, I don’t know if it is because of my shorter stature or me being young or female, but I have to spend extra time to establish my authority with my students.  This included wearing high heels that give me annoying discomforts for 2 hours walking about in the classroom and dressing up for every class.

I highly recommend not to argue with the students.  Tell them you were fair with everyone, tell them it was written clearly in the assignment guidelines and let them vent.  There is nothing else you could do but telling them you were there to help, and they could have checked with you earlier before the assignment was due.  And hopefully you established the reason for the assignment well when you give it to the students.

One problem I had in my class was that the students were on their computer and phone in the class.  I don’t even know why they bothered to come to class in the first place.  I tried asking questions in class to make the class answer, but few students responded.  When a question was posed to everyone in the class and if nobody answered I tried calling on the students who were on the phone or computer, basically they were just digging a hole for themselves after they realized they didn’t even know what question they were supposed to answer.  However, if you had better advice, please share with me!  Next time when I teach I will make participation part of my grade.  I really hate to have students not use their electronic devices because some students use them to take notes.

The REALLY uncomfortable feeling when students might have a crush on you (and said inappropriate things)

Students don’t know it is uncomfortable to an instructor or TA when the students have a crush on them since their flirting actually undermines the authority of the instructors or TA.  However, there is an unfortunate culture encouraging students to rate the professor/TA’s appearances, such as the “hotness” meter on RateMyProfessor.com.

A male student has been constantly showing his lack of respect for a friend of mine (also had short stature and was young) in the class.  Although he did not attend a lot of lectures, he would ask her questions on a tangent that is not really related to the class material.  Toward the end of the quarter he wanted to meet with her to talk.  When he told her his issues, he asked her not to do anything for him.  And during the review the day before the final, he and other students stayed for more questions.  When she mentioned that students were copying from the solutions manual for their homework so she was a bitch to create assignments to make them work for the points, this particular student asked her if she needed a hug to which she answered no but he (much taller) still bent down and gave her a hug, of course there were still other students present.  Right after the review when they bumped into each other after leaving the building, he mentioned he thought she had a nice butt and it was distracting but added he was kidding.  And before leaving he asked for her number.

Signs to look for

  • When students are asking you to meet privately without any particular reason or requested action on your part
  • Close proximity to you
  • Sudden friendliness toward you when few people are around
  • Inappropriate comments about your features
  • Asking personal information about you
  • Knowing some of your information that you have not shared with the class
  • Possible stalking (when the student shows up everywhere you go or leaves notes for you)

Possible actions to take

  • Of course, keep the door open when meeting students individually.  If students insist on a private meeting, meet with the students in a large open area or in a hallway or ask them to walk and talk with you while you are getting a coffee so people can see you
  • To keep a distance from students, or rather make them keep a distance from you, I personally don’t take mints or gum when meeting with a student, that seems to make them want to keep a distance from me (wink)
  • Friendly touch can be interrupted by repeating your protest again if you voiced it out earlier, or just mention it is inappropriate to give the students a warning.  This is the same with unwanted comments, warn the students that it is inappropriate first, if it persists, then you have to talk to someone like the department chair or supervisor
  • When asked about personal information, you can simply state that you don’t talk about it with students or you don’t share it with people.  When asked about contacting you outside of class, stick to e-mails, it leaves a record and it is usually a public knowledge
  • If students know information about you that you didn’t share, you should inquire calmly how they acquired the information, depending on their answer, the action taken may include a warning to the students and/or informing your department chair or supervisor about it
  • When you think someone is stalking you, don’t confront them head-on for your safety reasons, it is best to talk to your department chair or supervisor about it first and then determine the action you should take to warn the student and/or other options
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The Vegan Table: Sauteed Broccoli Rabe With Olives And Toasted Pine Nuts

The is a spicy but addictive preparation of rabe (or as I bought from Trader Joe’s, baby broccoli).

Again, I did not use truffle oil and Chinese mahogany instead of garlic.  I also just used chipotle instead of crushed red pepper.  I think I really like chipotle.

Sweet, spicy, satisfying.  Easy to prepare.  My only recommendation is BUY MORE RABE and start with a lot of rabe and enjoy it and share it with others!

By the way toasting the pine nuts did not help with my pine mouth.  I really have to boil the pine nuts…

People who tried this recipe seemed to like it, too!  But I can’t really find a lot of people who tried the exact recipe:
http://chayg.ca/sauteed-broccoli-rabe-with-olives-and-toasted-pine-nuts-day-116125-128-recipes-down-122-to-go/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/39881480@N06/3803836599/

Posted in autumn, broccoli, Chinese mahogany/toona, chipotle, Food and drink, nuts, olive oil, olives, orange, Recipes, spring, summer, truffle oil | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Dining At The Vegan Joint

I have wanted to try The Vegan Joint for a couple of months now, and at last!  I did it!

If you are in the area, they have all sorts of vegan desserts and goodies for you to try!

It has a very homely and friendly staff.  They were very helpful and accommodating.  We ordered the nachos, pad thai, house fried rice, and curry.

The pad thai is a must try!  Although it does not have as much goodies as other vegetarian pad thai, it was seasoned just right and will not disappoint!

I also recommend the house fried rice.  Don’t be fooled by its looks!  I thought it was going to be blend, but I was so wrong!  It was flavorful and got me hooked!

The curry is also packed with flavors and was very satisfying!

Note that there are multiple chains of The Vegan Joint.  This is the one I went to:

10438 National Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90034
(310) 559-1357

Posted in Food and drink, restaurant | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Dining At India Sweets And Spices Chai Cafe Vegan And Vegetarian Food

This a great restaurant to visit if you are in the Palms/Culver City neighborhood!  Of course, along the street Venice there are a lot of vegetarian and vegan Indian food options.

It is a small buffet-style cafe/grocery, but it is very good!  The people were knowledgeable and very nice!  There is an option to skip the onion and garlic!  That is a plus for me!

9409 Venice Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232
(310) 837-5286

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The Vegan Table: Orzo Pilaf With Roasted Red Peppers And Peas

This recipe is AMAZING, really easy to prepare and really delectable!  Fast and not too much preparation.

 

Instead of garlic, I used truffle oil and Chinese mahogany.

It is very similar to risotto, so yummy!

This is a very popular recipe and gets a really good review from others who tried it:
http://epicureanvegan.com/2012/06/05/orzo-pilaf-with-roasted-red-peppers-and-peas/
http://chayg.ca/day-38125-53-recipes-down-197-to-go-orzo-pilaf-with-roasted-red-peppers-and-peas/
http://vegantickles.blogspot.com/2010/01/orzo-pilaf-with-peas-and-boston-baked.html

Posted in bell pepper, Chinese mahogany/toona, Food and drink, orzo, pea, Recipes, truffle oil | Tagged , | Leave a comment