Monday, July 30, 2012

Small Small Posts

I have come to the sad, sad, sad conclusion that holding down 1) full time consulting gig and 1)half time teaching gig is not compatible with blogging.  At least, not when I feel compelled to write long, witty, amusingly illustrated posts.  So in the interest of continuing at all, I am going to introduce the MicroPost.

Posts about whatever crosses my mind.  In miniature.

For your inaugural micropost:

The first photograph I took in Alaska.  I was so excited about this discovery, I took a phone pic and instantly text messaged it to two of my good friends back in the lower 48.

The text didn't actually go through, as I was on a mountain somewhere in the middle of Alaska, but nevertheless:  Amazingly exciting, drumroll please........

Moose Poop!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Place Where the World Ends

In between fussing about my students, I thought I'd walk back into the past two months and write about some of that stuff I would have been writing about, if I were here, which I wasn't.

One of the reasons I wasn't here was that my husband and I were driving across Alaska. Not the whole thing.  We only had 10 days.  Alaska's big.  We drove the Kenai Peninsula, from Anchorage to Seward, Seward to Homer and back again.  That's pretty much all the paved road there is up there.  We hit it all.  And a lot of unpaved road, too.  The unpaved road is where they keep the loons.  But that is a story for another day.  Today's story is about a river, and the Place Where the World Ends, and Aslan's Country begins.

Our third day in Alaska, we were signed up with Alaska Wildland Adventures to raft the upper 17 miles of the Kenai River.  It was billed as a calm and scenic float tour with wildlife viewing opportunities and a few class II rapids.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Wiping brains off the laptop screen

My head just exploded.

In the five minutes it took to write that last post, this appeared in my inbox:

Dear Professer ,
Hello, my name is [name], i am a student of "introduction to oceans' of session D.
I added this course last friday, so I missed the fisrt three lectures. 
And i am now wondering if i can join a group of others because i don't have a group.

Also, I have read the PDFs of lecture1&2, but i can not find the lecture3 in Bspace, 
I think i need to read it before the next lecture, but i don't know how to get it.

Thanks so much,
 Clearly, I need to have a word with the admissions office.

Maybe more than one word.

Did I mention my class was already standing room only?  There are 107 seats, every single one full, and students sitting in the aisles.


Expect 5 more weeks of my head pounding the wall.

Lesson #1: Students should never, ever, have been given access to their professor's (or in my case, lecturer's) email addresses. 

Because when that happened, ridiculousness like this began to occur:

Email, dated yesterday, 11:30 am:
Dear Ms Rebecca

Nice to meent you!
I am a student whose name is [name] (student ID: [#]).

As I attended class from Tuesday, I decided to take this class and I
completed the changing class form on the document.

I hope you to enroll me in the class, and please send me the webpage
information of the class.

Tank you!

As I could not even begin to decipher what this person wanted me to do, I ignored the email.   Surely every student who's ever been to college knows that the person giving the lecture is not the person who handles enrollments, right? 

Saturday, 9:43 am, I get this email, from the same student:

Dear Ms Rebecca

Nice to meent you!
I am a student whose name is [name] (student ID: [#]).

As I attended class from Tuesday, I decided to take this class and I
completed the changing class form on the document.

I hope you to enroll me in the class, and please send me the webpage
information of the class.

Tank you!

What, really?  again?  And on a Saturday?  This time I respond:

Hello.  As far as I am aware, my class is now full.

But he/she is not done:

Dear Ms Rebecca

Thank you for your response!
Is that true? but I complete with my documents and now I have connection
with class webpage...
Perhaps I am already enrolled in the class...


Dear [name], I hope not.  Because if you are, you will continue to pepper me with inane emails at inappropriate timesFor my sake, I hope you will stop.

Then there were also several from students who didn't manage to come to the first week of lecture, wanting me to take time off from my weekend to get them caught up.

They ranged from at least polite and coherent to downright ridiculous:

I'm sorry for absense of yesterday.
  I was at a travel and due to few reasons, I could not returen at time.
And I heard that you made the group to make presentation. However due to absense, I have no group.
 So could you make me take part in any group which is lack of members?
I don't know any one in the class so I need your help.
This student didn't miss one lecture, he/she missed 4, and is apparently trying to make it seems as if it missed only one.

Hello [name],

Considering that you have missed 1/6 of my course, which is rigorous, demanding, and fast-paced, I think it would be best if you registered instead for a class you can attend, or at least a class that does not require attendance.  You have missed four lectures, as well as the opportunity to join a group.  That material will not be repeated.

 Sigh.  It's going to be a long six weeks.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Is it ok to say if a Chinese man says it??

Ummmm (sheepishly)  hi!  (Waving).  Can we skip right over the part where I'm a bad blogger, and chalk a two month's absence (oops) up to a combination of vacation where there was no internet, extreme overwork, and technical difficulties??  We can?  Ok thanks.  Moving right along then.

In the summers, I cut back at my day job for a few weeks to immerse myself back into my college days - but from the opposite side of the podium.  These days, instead of the nerd in the front seat taking frantic notes, I'm the nerd with the wooden pointer, talking so fast that no one can take notes.  I teach Introductory Oceanography, which was my all time favorite class in college.  I have 100 students, and because it's a summer course, about 60 of them are on exchange from various Asian countries. China seems to be the biggest contributor, this year. This makes for some awesome exchanges.  Like this one, at the end of today's 2 1/2 hours of lecture (yes I'm hoarse now, thanks for asking):

Asian man gets to the front of the line of students, queued up to add the class or ask about the grading policy or recap a lecture point.

Me: [smiling encouragingly] Hi.
AM: Hello Professor.  I just want to say to you thank you.
Me: Thank you? [Have I changed his world in one lecture?  Good going, fast work.]
AM: Yes.  Thank you for the ... exciting lecture. In China where I come from, the teachers, they not...interested in what they teach.  They not... make interesting for us.  This is new thing, I like it.  So I say thank you.
Me: Oh. Thank you... well...I'm glad you enjoyed it. [What the heck do you say to that?  "I'm sorry your entire country's educational system is dull?" or "What, really?  Interesting lectures are a NEW thing?" "In a country of a BILLION people, you haven't found a single lecturer interested in their subject? They all teach like robots? This is the way it is done?"  The mind boggles.]

So, AM, you are welcome for the exciting lecture.  I'll try to keep up my game.

I also ask each student to turn in a sheet with their name, major, and the answers to a couple of questions, to get an idea of how much background knowledge they're coming in with.  It's usually a pretty mixed bag, but the answers I most enjoy are to the question "Can you name three tidepool  organisms?"

This answer is adorable:
"Not right now, but will do more research about it!"  She gets an A, doesn't she?

And from those who've never heard of a tidepool but are game to give it a go, this answer is representative:
"tuna, dolphin, sharks."    Well, at least they hit three marine animals.

This one didn't quite get that far:
"frog, swan."  Umm, no.  He needs my class very very badly.

This English-speaking, American, engineering major explains that he has derived that "tidal" comes from tidal waves, therefore I must be asking about underwater creatures, and gives me "sharks, kelp, salmon."  Good logic, well explained. What are they teaching in high school these days???????

Next the students who, misunderstanding the point, resorted to their laptops or smart phones for answers during the mid-class break:
"cowfish, actinaria [sic], starfish."
"brachiopoda [sic], alga [sic], shells."  Nice. Research on the fly.  I like it.  You have no idea what you are talking about, and no idea how obvious that is.

And finally, those who charged ahead boldly with their lack of answers.  An exchange student who listed her major  as  "Money and Banking" did not, like many of her compatriots, apologize for her lack of knowledge or leave it quietly blank as if they didn't notice the question, she just wrote "no idea."  That's ok. Short of a Castaway -style marooning, she likely won't need to know.