Spring semester begins tomorrow!

I’d be panicking more, except that I’m only teaching two classes (genetics and a writing course), and I’ve actually got the first two weeks of genetics all neatly laid out and ready to go.

Nah, I’m still panicking a little bit. I’m trying some different things in the lecture, so there’s a bit of a gamble going on this term.


  1. says

    I’m teaching three classes and one of them contains several students from a previous class in which the instructor wigged out and got replaced after weeks of chaos. I hope those kids didn’t get too screwed up by their experience because that class was a prereq for the new one they’re enrolled in. Yeah, I’m a little worried.

  2. redwood says

    This is actually a good time for me because the university academic year here in Japan ends in January. This means I have one more week of classes (I’ll do final tests in them) and then I’m finished teaching until the second week of April. I’ll have meetings and entrance exams that I must attend, but they aren’t much trouble. Of course, I then have to teach until the end of July, which isn’t much fun, so maybe it evens out in the end.

  3. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    Oh, it’s likely it’s a scientific writing course – including how to cite sources, that sort of thing. They do it in law school and medical school even though we’ve all had english professors before. Not at all surprised if they do it in biology departments.

  4. carlie says

    I have two new preps, both upper-division. *runs around flailing*

    But I do have one more week before they start, not that I have any time between meetings to do class prep…

  5. says

    Yes, scientific writing. It’s a different beast.

    Everything this term is old and familiar, so no new preps, which means I can think about changes to improve the course.

    All bets are off next year. We got accepted into the HHMI sea phage program, which has some heavy demands on faculty load…depending on how best to juggle our capacity, I might find myself involved in a radically different, team-taught course next spring.

  6. Trebuchet says

    PZ is teaching a writing course? Doesn’t UMM have any English instructors?

    Just red-blooded ‘Murican instructors! We don’t need no stinkin furriners!

    When I was in Engineering school, I had to take a technical writing course taught by the English department. The main thing thing students needed to know about that course was that writing that way would get your paper sent back for a do-over by pretty much the entire technical faculty.

  7. iknklast says

    I tried to feel for you, but I’m teaching 7 classes, 3 of them labs. Wish I was at a research school. I don’t have time for the research project I’ve been trying to work on!

  8. sugarfrosted says

    Good luck everyone. Personally school doesn’t start for me until the 20th, unfortunately I have two qualifying exams for the PhD before they start: one on Tuesday and one on Friday. Each are six hours.

    I don’t have any teaching responsibilities next semester, but I’m in 4 graduate math courses and grading twice as much as I did last semester. I’m kind of nervous about the grading, because it’s for one of the department cochairs.

  9. says

    This isn’t a research school — we teach the standard 3/2 load for our tier. I know people at research schools: their load is ONE course per YEAR, or less. For some, it’s one lecture per year.

  10. xuri says

    Our quarter started last week. Two classes for me. 200-level physics and 100-level Physical Science. This term I put the “No laptops/phones/tablets in class. Ever.” policy in the syllabi. In previous terms I’ve made this the policy but did not document it. Last term I spent far too much class time telling them to put the toys away, so this term I made it part of the “read and understood” quiz on the class website. A few students are howling about this. Also a few of my colleagues. I really don’t understand why this is controversial. Zuckerberg can have their labor for the other 163 hours, just not in my class.

  11. sugarfrosted says

    @11 Some people do actually take notes on their laptop, at least in certain math classes. Granted if you’re banning this in some lower division class, the chances of someone actually taking notes on their laptop is near zero.

    I also think you should have some case by case exemption for single parents, if you have any nontraditional students in your class. No tolerance policies should always be controversial.

  12. congenital cynic says

    Also on the 3/2 plan here, but my term started a week ago. Winter is always better than fall, for me.

    Students who are on their smart phones texting in my class get told to leave. Short of a dying parent or sibling, nothing is that important. And I only take that excuse if they approach me ahead of time.

    I have also taught the technical writing course in years gone by. It’s not like literary writing, and you don’t get a lot of gain in a term. Writing takes time to learn. I hated teaching that course. I’d rather teach two technical courses than that one writing course.

  13. birgerjohansson says

    Coincidentally, Swedish Tv just showed the episode of the Simpsons, where Homer has time off for a nervous breakdown, and it coincides with spring break.
    Inevitably Homer imitates the worst drunk student capers. Hope PZ does not get into the same kind of trouble with the law.
    PS Leave the crocodiles alone.

  14. xuri says

    @sugarfrosted #12

    I also think you should have some case by case exemption for single parents, if you have any nontraditional students in your class. No tolerance policies should always be controversial.

    Interesting idea. The implementation would be tricky. Paternity tests, divorce decrees, death certificates…lots of documents for someone to collect and examine. Not sure who the school would put in charge of that.

    There are many things which students may not do in class, about which there is a completely uncontroversial policy of “zero tolerance”. They may not talk out of turn, they may not eat, they may not smoke, etc. The glowing screen of a tablet or laptop is a distraction to every student with line-of-sight to it. The little blue “f” beckons to them. “Give me your data!” It says. “People are liking things and friending each other!” It says. “You are missing out!”

    Also no one “takes notes” on a laptop or pad. A good typist might take dictation, but note-taking in lecture is more than stenography. Students using a stylus or a finger to try to copy the diagrams and formulas that fill the board are distracted by this task and are not engaged in the lecture.

    No, my class is — and will remain — a refuge from that noise and nonsense.

  15. sugarfrosted says

    @15 Wow, way to strawman. GJ. Maybe you live in a place where sick kids don’t exist. I wish I lived there.

  16. xuri says

    @ sugarfrosted # 16 — Where is the strawman? You proposed an exception. Exceptions are administered by various offices of the administration, not by the instructors. For instance, a student with a disability which requires accommodation presents a letter from the office of Students with Disabilities. That office has the responsibility for this. They collect documents and make phone calls and check-up on the student’s condition and claims. They decide what kinds of accommodation must be made. The procedures and policies are documented and transparent. I am not allowed to take the student at his or her word, not matter how obvious the disability may be.

    And I am not sure how a laptop in my class would aid a student who had sole responsibility for a child (who is now suddenly a sick child)?

    Not sure what kind of bad argumentation that is. An appeal to emotion? A loaded question?

    Which is all beside the point. I exclude the devices from my classroom because there is no legitimate use for them in my classroom, and they always interfere with the only thing that is supposed to happen in my classroom.