The Screwup

Hi, and welcome to screwup week! Well, that's what it seems like.

First, I was late to a class this week. That's bad enough. But now I've discovered I've screwed something else up: the marking of some labs.

My teaching assistant and an assistant marker accurately followed my marking guide for a recent lab--but it was, er, wrong. So students were penalized for giving the completely correct answer. (I suppose students with the completely wrong answer received a mark that they didn't deserve, although looking at the marks, the average for this lab was almost one full point lower than usual. Duh!)

Worse, it took a group of very sharp students to notice this error and let me know about it. (To be fair, at least my marker noticed the problem, but forgot to tell me.) But wait--it gets worse.

I didn't write this particular question; it (and the standard answer in the marking guide) were provided to me by the creator of the online lab system. I accepted the answer without question, without thinking. I blab on and on about the importance of critical thinking--and then I go and make a screwup like this. Argh.

As penance, I re-marked the few dozen labs that hadn't been picked up by students yet. But I asked my marker to do the rest. (I'm not lazy, I'm up to my ears in marking essay exams which take first priority..and take a lot of time.)

So, what have I learned from all this? 1) Students are smarter than a lot of people give them credit for. I think they've learned the lessons of critical thinking better than I have...which brings me to: 2) I'm not as smart as I like to think I am--but I'm learning...

Why aren't you studying?

The Lateness

I was late for class yesterday. I was late by 15 minutes, and I apologize to everyone in that class.

I could come up with a whole bunch of excuses. I only left an hour before my class was due to start, and it took me three times longer than normal to get to campus. I should have left even earlier. The weather was pretty bad, and the roads were in poor shape. There was also a collision on the way (not in the direction I was going--but everyone else still had to slow down and rubberneck to get a good look at the crash). Surprisingly, the baby was not a factor in my being late--she was still sleeping when I left home.

None of this makes any difference. I was late by 15 minutes, wasting the time of about 200 students. Multiply 200 people by 0.25 hours, and you get 50 people-hours of wasted time. Yikes. Who am I to be wasting so much time--the government?

I try my best to get to all of my classes on time. I do leave home with enough buffer time to (usually) prevent being late. When I'm in my office, I actually have a little clock program that sounds an alarm when it's time for my next class. I try to be very time-aware, but sometimes, well...I'm late.

I'm going to try extra hard for the rest of the term to not be late to that class again. And I'm still going to try not to be late to anything else--classes, meetings, appointments...oops! Look at the time. Better get going; don't want to be late.

Why aren't you studying?

The Office Hour

I love my office hour--I get a lot of work done. Sometimes, I read a magazine or scientific journal. Oh, and sometimes I see a student.

Years ago, I used to have a lot of office hours--more than 10 a week. That number has dwindled over the years. Now, I have only one office hour this term. That's partly due to the fact that I have to help my wife look after our kids; she's got her hands full with the baby--not to mention our other daughter who is feeling sadly neglected. But a big reason is that there's not much point to having a lot of office hours.

Even with the single solitary hour I've set aside, I hardly see anyone. Oh sure, I get a lot of emails. But not many people actually trek through all the construction to get to my palatial office.

So occasionally, I agree to meet with someone outside of my regularly scheduled office hours. This is not easy to do, with my other commitments like committee meetings. When my wife goes back to work after her maternity leave, we'll "trade off." This means that as soon as I'm done work, I'll race home to look after the kids so that she can go to work (and vice-versa). In a situation like this, it's really hard to set up a meeting with a student outside of office hours: it requires that I ask my wife to change her work schedule, which is not easy to do and requires several days advance notice.

We did the "trade-off" thing with our first child, and I tried hard to meet with students. And this is what happened, more often than not. My wife changed her work schedule so that I could meet with a student...and the student never showed up. No message, no apology, no nothing.

So if I'm not available much outside of office hours, the reason is that previous students have wrecked it. Oh well, there's always email.

Why aren't you studying?

The Cold

The good news is that the baby finally had a good night over the weekend, sleeping for 5 hours in a row (!) at night (!!). The bad news is that I'm sick with a cold, so I wasn't able to sleep.

Instead of snuggling in my nice warm bed and trying to take a nap and eat chicken soup, I dragged my sorry self to work today. The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends this: "If you're sick, stay home!" What about the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control? "Stay home when you are sick..." And even the U of A says, "Stay home when you are sick."

Yeah, right.

If I had some kind of substitute or something, suuure I'd stay home. But I don't, and midterms are coming up. What, should I delay the midterm? How will I fit in all my lectures in the classes that remain? Should I just skip that lecture content? But I've already made up the exams and had them printed.

What do you think? Should a sick instructor still come in to teach? Do you appreciate the effort that's being made? Or would you prefer that the sicko stay home so that you don't get what's going around, too? (Yes, I figure you'd prefer a day off from my long-winded, boring, blah-blah-blah. But try to put that aside for a moment.)

Now I'm going to drag my sorry self back home and change some diapers...
Apologies in advance if I cough into the microphone in class.

Why aren't you studying?

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