Monday, December 12, 2005

Final Crunch

Unlike some of my faculty colleagues, I never put my home phone number on my course syllabus. But I'm in the phone book, and my name is, safe to say, pretty unique in town if not the entire country. (Even Google concurs.) So, a student looks me up in the book and calls me with a question late last night — unconscionably late — rousing me in mid-dream panic. (It was one of those crazy chase dreams.) After I snapped and crankily hung up on the fellow, he emails me this morning gushing with apologies.

We're all a bit tense this week: it's final exam time. I have a hundred students (forty master's, sixty undergrad) and I'm administering exams today and tomorrow. I'm also doing combat with an intractable blog post which I hope to have wrestled to the ground and ready for you in a day or two.

I like academia and will likely spend the rest of my life here. But I will never ever miss being a student during the week of final exams [shiver]: Far better to grade them than to take them.


Blogger Ed Garrity said...

Ain't that the truth! I remember writing my qualifying exam for our Ph.D. program. It wasn't a difficult test (I'm convinced the professors already know who they will pass or not) - but at the time you don't really know that. We had virtually all day to write these open-ended questions. You could assemble any material you wanted, but after going to the library and getting a few items, I actually went home and took a shower before I sat down to write. I can't imagine being that nervous about a test, but I guess I was.

At the other un-named school, I remember students were more bold than here, and we both (the ex) would get those kinds of calls from students. Then I started to list my name in the phone directory using my middle name as Edward James. I thought I was pretty clever. It was better than an unlisted number because not only couldn't people find you, but if you wanted to give someone your number, you could simply tell your friends where to look. Worked great, you don't have to pay for an unlisted number, very versatile too.
Of course, one day the operator asked if I would accept a collect call from a "so and so" and I said sure, but then the operator cautioned me that the call was coming from an inmate at Attica prison - I could here the guy in the background, he was a little impolite, seemed angry, ... and I said - "no, thanks," and hung up. Just my luck - I thought I had come up with a clever scheme - afterwards I kept imagining, hmmm, I wonder who this guy thinks I am, I wonder who Edward James is?

I'm back in the phone book as me, and fortunately I haven't had many phone calls like the one you just got. But I definitely don't want to be listed as somebody else anymore either.

December 12, 2005 7:46 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Aaron hangs out with Armond White and unfurls a new screen capture quiz series.

December 12, 2005 7:48 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Ed, I can see how "Edward James" would be pretty common.
Something weird about my name: the way it's spelled (my last name) is non-standard, and even in India, I've never actually met anyone who spells it like that.

December 12, 2005 7:53 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Collision Detection: A fascinating little science blog.
via Invisible Cinema.

December 12, 2005 8:10 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Man apologizes after fake Wikipedia post.

December 12, 2005 10:25 AM  
Blogger Nick Davis said...

Re: "I will never ever miss being a student during the week of final exams [shiver]: Far better to grade them than to take them," I must say that my current experience is forcing me to ask whether the same is true for final papers. I am inclined to say that it is not, in fact, true. ;)

December 12, 2005 10:35 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Nick: grading final papers? [shudder]
Couldn't agree more.

December 12, 2005 10:39 AM  
Anonymous Chuck said...

I stopped giving out my home phone number a few years ago, in part because it was relatively uncommon to share it at the university where I was working at the time.

I have a stack of final papers to grade, so I'm inclined to agree with Nick about grading papers. At least this semester, my students' projects are quite interesting.

December 12, 2005 11:07 AM  
Anonymous Darren said...

It's now been four years since I last had a class of my own. I miss terribly some aspects of the job -- the relationships with students, the performance of teaching, and those moments of "breakthrough" -- but never for a second have I missed the grading. Even when I was reading a really great paper, grading never felt like anything but work.

I'm now a bit nostalgic for the days of studying for comps. Reading three or four novels a week, taking a few pages of notes, synthesizing those thoughts down to a single note card that was then tossed into a thick stack and memorized -- it all seems an ideal life to me now. But, good lord, the anxiety I felt in those last few days.

December 12, 2005 2:58 PM  
Blogger JavierAG said...

Sigh. This is my last week of exams this year and I'm *this* close to losing it. What the hell am I even doing here? ;)

December 12, 2005 6:44 PM  
Blogger girish said...

I'm part-way through my first tall stack of exams.
"Far better to grade them than to take them."
Somebody please tell me:
What the hell was I talking about?

December 12, 2005 8:46 PM  
Anonymous Michael said...

Girish, do you give essay exams? I always gave essay exams to my history courses because (as I told them) history is about interpretation, about making arguments, and that the best way to do this was to write essays. Of course, when I actually had to sit down and grade 150 essays in a few days and do so thoughtfully (comments, etc.) I'd tell myself repeatedly: "multiple choice, multiple choice, multiple choice."

December 13, 2005 12:43 AM  
Blogger girish said...

How true, Michael.
I've never given a multiple choice test in my life.
Mine are usually short answer (a paragraph's worth each), and there are about a dozen of these on an exam. Plus a handful of quantitative problems thrown in.
Small blessings: I don't have to grade any final papers, though.

December 13, 2005 8:05 AM  
Anonymous Michael said...

I've never given a multiple choice exam either (goes against the grain of what I believe education is), but I have assigned term papers on top of regular written exams. That hurts.

December 13, 2005 1:50 PM  
Blogger pinholeman said...

10-4! My students have their final critics tomorrow. There have been five full-on melt-downs in the last two weeks. I remember being there myself. But hey, like I tell them, it's only a photography class. when it is all over with the world will still be turning.

December 13, 2005 3:22 PM  
Blogger pinholeman said...

hey! thanks for taking the time to look at my blog and comment. i look at your page through a link on friend of mines site.

December 13, 2005 7:52 PM  
Blogger Campaspe said...

I am always somewhat relieved to wake up on mornings in early December and recall that I haven't any papers to write. But to this day I get "the Student's Nightmare," where I am being given an exam in a class I never attended, and I have that dream more often at this time of year!

December 13, 2005 7:56 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Oh you're very welcome, Monsieur Pinholeman.

Campaspe, one of my reoccurring dreams is showing up in a mammoth classroom full of students and realizing that I've completely forgotten to make up an exam for them. I have a few seconds to hand out blank sheets of paper and reel off an improvised question off the top of my head. The students wrinkle their noses and whine loudly in unison: "But you told us that wouldn't be on the test!"

December 13, 2005 8:07 PM  
Blogger Shasta said...

I'm guilty of being one of those students, and it left me quite traumatized. The year was 2001. I had just returned from a mormon mission. I was so head-warped by the experience that I quickly and quietly left the church and jumped headlong into school and the art department. Because I had not been there the previous semester, I did not have the required prints to bring to the second day of a photo class for a special assignment, so I was the only student that had to come in and print. Because the semester had just begun, I also didnt have my keys/24 hour pass yet. When some security guards tried to kick me out at 11pm, I flipped out because I didnt have my assignment done. I called my incredibly intimidating professor (was on high?) and asked her to tell the guards it was okay for me to be there. Oh the horror. She was mad. Luckily, she forgave me and only teased me about it later.

December 14, 2005 12:05 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Oh that's a funny-traumatic story, Shasta.

December 14, 2005 10:50 AM  

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