Saturday, February 19, 2005

Pet Peeves

The first week of school my students are made painfully aware of my three major pet peeves:

1. Putting your feet on the desk in front of you. Don't do it!!! It's annoying to the person in front of you, especially when you're tapping away at a song with a different beat than the one that's in their head. Additionally, you're eventually going to be scraping the mud off your shoes onto the books that are on the rack that you're using as a footrest. But the biggest reason: your parents taught you to keep your feet off the furniture.

2. Wadding up papers. Imagine that ideal scene where all students in a class are quiet and working intently (it happens, honest!!!), and then one person wads up a piece of paper and wants to play for the Sacramento Kings. If the noise from the paper didn't get everyone off task (one piece of paper is actually quite loud) then the celebration or dejection from the success or failure of the basket attempt will. Additionally, the one day a week I hand back papers, that's 160 students getting up to 4 papers each. My two little garbage cans won't hold that many wads, but they will hold that many smooth, pristine, flat pieces of paper. I insist that students gliiiiiiiiiiiiide their unwanted papers into the garbage can.

3. Confetti. Those little shreds of paper, the remainders after the paper is ripped out of a spiral binder, will inevitably end up on the floor or just left on the desk. Why our students have such a problem with picking up after themselves I do not know (actually I do, but I don't want to say it here), but the confetti drives me nuts.

I've let students know about those pet peeves each year I've taught. Now, for the first time, I'm ready to add another.

It seems common, at least at my school, for students to come in late to class with a note from another teacher asking them to be excused because they were finishing up a test or quiz. I have students who ask me if they can stay into the next period to finish. No! Do your English during English class, do your chemistry during chemistry class, and do your math during math class. To everything there is a season, or something like that. If you don't finish a test/quiz during class, and the teacher wants to allow you to finish, they should give you time during *their* class the next day, not unilaterally decide that the test or quiz they're giving is more important than what's going on in my class.

This wouldn't be a such a big deal for me if it were infrequent, but it's not infrequent. It's common. In fact, it's so common that I'm ready to tell students that I won't accept notes from other teachers because other teachers do not have the authority to excuse students from my class. When students ask me if they can stay after the bell rings, I tell them to go ask their next period teacher--and if it's ok, they can come back and finish. At least then the teacher knows the whereabouts of the student and can mark the attendance sheets accurately. But to me it's just a courtesy that I extend to my colleagues, allowing them to make the decision if a student can miss part of their class.

I feel much better for having gotten that off my chest :-)


Sherwould said...

I think you just rose some eybrows on those teachers who keep their students after class! Let us know if you get any feedback - either verbal or otherwise.

Quincy said...

Darren, you let students turn in work that has been ripped out of a binder? You're not nearly as strict as a commenter on your post on grading made you out to be.

I had an English teacher in 7th Grade who would insisted we turn in work on 8.5x11 binder paper, not 8x10.5, and would refuse to grade assignments on paper where the holes were torn or which had been ripped out of a spiral notebook. We would get credit for turning it in on time, but would have to mend the hole or recopy it on paper that conformed to her standards.

What were her reasons for doing this? First, in the real world, neatness counts. "People will laugh at you in an office if you hand them something that looks like this!" she would say. Second, when work was done on 8x10.5 paper, it was much more likely to get lost, causing headaches for both student and teacher. Third, the confetti problem.

As it happened, people caught on to the program pretty quickly. (They had no choice really.) After the second week of class, no one complained about lost papers, and there wasn't a shred of confetti in the room.

While I'm sure this wouldn't help your image with your classes, it was effective, and might be worth thinking about.

Darren said...

Sherwould: I'll post here if I get any such feedback.

Quincy: Did you read my post about California's Ed Code? It's actually illegal for me to "require" students to provide their own paper. So since I don't give them what I would consider to be "appropriate" paper, I'm not going to compound that by telling them what kind of paper they need to provide for themselves!

Partly for the same reason, I don't use graphing calculators in my trig classes. I can't legally require them to have one--and if I could, which one would I require?--so I don't use or teach with them at all. And you know the school can't afford to provide them. Of course, the other reason is that I want students to know those curves on their own, without the need for a machine.

I don't raise a stink when students ask to borrow a pencil, because even though they know they *should* have one, it's illegal for me to require them to provide one. For the same reason, I don't harass students when they ask to borrow one of my 3 scientific calculators during a trig test (I don't expect them to memorize sines/cosines of every angle!).

Quincy said...

Didn't see your ed code post. I'm not surprised though.

Also, good call on the graphing calcs. I live in a district where almost everyone could afford one, and my trig teacher in HS still didn't allow us to use them, precisely because he wanted us to know the curve without a machine.

As long as you're fair and consistent with your policies, you're doing great in my book. One thing that always pissed me off was teachers who would bend the rules for certain students. (I, of course, was never one of them.)

Joshua C. Sasmor said...

As far as keeping a calculator for student use; I keep two calculators available for my students - my Dietzgen slide rule and my HP32S calculator (the 32s is reverse Polish notation). They can borrow either one >:)

Joshua C. Sasmor

Darren said...

Joshua, I have an HP16C for use at home. It was issued very early on in my days at West Point (summer 1983), and even though I was an applied math major who took many science and engineering courses, if memory serves I've only replaced the batteries once in all that time.

Of course, now I only use it to balance the checkbook :-)