Wait! The end of the semester isn’t all that bad!


There are a few good things going on right now — they’re all extra work, but it’s the kind of work I don’t mind.

We’re in the midst of a job search — we’re hoping to hire an ecologist. Last night, and twice next week, we get to experience the dreaded Job Seminar, where some poor candidate gets to suffer through a long day of meetings and then present their work in an intense environment where we’re going to judge them and possibly reward them with employment, or not. It’s utterly miserable for them, as I recall from the long ago days when I was in the hot seat, but it means I get to sit back and listen to cool, interesting stuff from a candidate who has worked long and hard on their presentation. Also, I’m not on this search committee, so I don’t have as many responsibilities. So I got to ‘work’ a bit late and be entertained by a fine seminar on prairie ecology and diversity.

Then, today, I volunteered to teach a course for a colleague who has a lot on their plate right now. This wasn’t just generosity — I’m a developmental biologist who rarely gets to teach developmental biology, because in these small departments we have to be responsible and teach obligatory courses outside our main discipline a lot, and this year and next year I’m all about nothing but cell biology and genetics…which is fine. I usually smuggle in a few lectures on developmental genetics in both. But today I get to talk to first year students about the philosophy and history of embryology! Easy, I can do it in my sleep, but I also hope I can inspire the new students to want to join a lab where they can explore development, too. Which is only my lab here.

Both of these things are additional work on top of a heavy load, but I’d rather do that than make students suffer through the grueling end of semester grind. How about if I just tell all my students to forget studying, I’m handing out free As on the final, and we just have to hang out and talk about cool science for the next week? (I don’t think the university administration would approve, unfortunately, and there’s also the obligation to make sure the students are prepared for the next course in our curriculum.)

I got a suggestion to have a Q&A on YouTube. Would anyone else be interested in just talking about science informally this weekend?

Comments

  1. says

    How about if I just tell all my students to forget studying, I’m handing out free As on the final, and we just have to hang out and talk about cool science for the next week? (I don’t think the university administration would approve, unfortunately, and there’s also the obligation to make sure the students are prepared for the next course in our curriculum.)

    In the German university where I studied linguistics, some professors allowed students to choose their preferred exam form. I always chose oral exams whenever allowed. Basically this meant spending 30 minutes chatting with the professor. Of course, they mostly asked questions that I had to answer, but often I also got an opportunity to freely talk about those aspects of the course that I found especially interesting. Thus sometimes those exams were actually fun and enjoyable.

    Written exams where I had to spend an hour in the classroom writing answers to a list of questions were plain boring. Not always stressful, just really boring.

    Long essays that I had to write at home were the worst. I don’t mind writing, I’m good enough at it, it’s just that at the end of the semester 5 different professors would each tell me to write long essays at the exact same time. How was I supposed to produce that much text within just a few weeks? That was really stressful.

  2. says

    Make sure you save some energy for the War On Christmas! Those holidays aren’t gonna be happy unless someone ruins them for christians by wishing them a pleasant season.

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