Tuuli Mustasydän
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So I just started my B.Ed, and I'm in a third-year sociology of education class (which operates under the Department of Educational Policy Studies) this semester. I find that I'm actually learning the most in this class... about how not to teach.

It's my first class in the morning (8AM), twice a week, and so much about the pedagogy in this class annoys me that I can feel my blood boiling by the time the 80-minute period is over, which rather ruins the rest of my day. Now, sociology was my minor in my previous degree, and it's not like I'm forced to take this course, but it really is the teaching that's ruining the material for me.


Week 1
Day 1
The instructor is a graduate student from China. This is slightly irritating because I'm the only Asian student in a class of ~30, and she speaks with a very strong accent (and I find Chinese accents rather annoying - probably from growing up around too many people with such accents, whereas I'm born and raised in Canada and have native fluency in English).

She passes out the course syllabus, then proceeds to read it to us, spending about a minute each summarizing the theme of each of the article readings (and there's three pages of these - approx. 30-50 pages of reading for each lesson).

We play introductions games and make name tags for ourselves, and she comes around the room with a camera taking mugshots of each student and his/her nametag.


Week 2
Day 2
Our instructor delves into her lecture and goes very quickly through it, reading the Powerpoint slides, mispronouncing a lot of long words (and some shorter ones besides). I'm trying to think of an example but none comes to mind right now.

She breaks up the class into four groups, asking each group to 'debate' a different fundamental consideration of sociology: 1. individual vs. society; 2. agency vs. determination; 3. stability vs. conflict; 4. positivism vs. interpretive analysis. We're given six minutes to do this and report to the rest of the class about what the group decided on.

If you know anything about sociology, each of these considerations is a lot like the 'nature vs. nurture' debate. It's not best to take either extreme but a middle ground. In any case, this activity takes a whole lot more than six minutes, and my instructor goes back to blazing through Powerpoint slides.

Though I lament the habit of students copying down notes from slides, even I was just barely keeping up with writing notes in my own words. One student (hereafter "Notes-person") asks if the slides will be posted on the Blackboard module online. Instructor says "no, because if I do, you won't listen in class." Students ask, then, if she could at least slow down a bit so people can write stuff down, and we have to keep reminding her of that every once in a while.

Five minutes before the end of the period, she hasn't finished her lecture yet, so she calls it off and wants us to sign up for our oral presentation times. These presentations are based on the reading material for the day, and since there were two readings on Asian-Americans, and as the token Asian student in the class, I felt like I had to get one of them. Regardless, she takes out her signup sheet and says that she's going to pass it around the room (in five minutes?! Yeah right.), to which I put up my hand and object that, if choice of date dictates choice of topic, then the students at the back of the room should not be disadvantaged (I was sitting at the back of the room).

Therefore she begins to call out each of the topics/readings by title, again providing a brief summary of each. She doesn't make it through the first page of the reading list before it's the end of the period. Students are getting really antsy. Some of us need to get all the way across campus and we need the full 10-minute class-change time to get there. I state something to this effect and she says "okay we'll continue this next class."

Day 3
First thing this period is to finish up the presentation signups. She puts the current list up on the overhead and to my horror, someone had signed up for the topic that I had been eying! I question when this had taken place, and got the answer that this student had signed up after class last time. I said that it's okay, I've got a second choice, but it really isn't fair that you continue to take signups after class when people may not have the time to stay.

One effective way of handling presentation signups without using class time is to post the signup sheet on one's office door and have students come by on their own time, first come first served. This also allows students some time outside of class to figure out group members and stuff without needing to pick a group on the spot. It doesn't alleviate the timing issue, since some people may have full days of class and can't get to the signup until later, but at least it's not wasting class time. It worked really well for my German classes in the past.

She talks a little about "How to do your oral presentation" and just reads out, again, the section on the course syllabus about the presentation, adding nothing new, except to stress that the presentation content should focus on part of the reading rather than the whole thing.

She seems to have decided on some form of compromise and has posted a one-page outline of Day 2's lecture on Blackboard. Someone asks if future lecture outlines will be posted prior to lecture so that they can be downloaded and typed in during class. The answer to that is also "no."

She then goes on to "How to learn effectively in this class" (my notes here say "...be taught effectively in this class"). She stresses coming to class for the discussion (what discussion!? The questions have been hardly really thought-provoking) and that it's not so important to take notes from the slides because they're just from the readings anyway.

In fact, they're verbatim from the readings. Her idea of a lecture is to pull out these quotations, read them to us, and then try to explain what they mean but ending up just going over and over the words in the quote because she doesn't know how to otherwise explain them!

She fails to finish the rest of this lecture also, and therefore we run out of time to watch the video she wanted to show. I'm pondering dropping the class, but since elective courses in the faculty of education are few, and I like the way my timetable looks, there's not a lot of places to go.

====

If you're reading this, thanks for making it to the end. I've still got three more days to write up, but I need to take a chill pill and go to philosophy class for a bit.

Coming up next (later tonight):
* Technology -- it works, bitches! (or not.)
* How not to encourage learning


Oh, did I mention that academic literature in critical analysis (within which Marxism and feminism operate) just sounds like endless whining?
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Paul DeStefano
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Re: Things that annoy me about my sociology class. [long. REALLY long.]
kyrasantae wrote:

The instructor is a graduate student from China. This is slightly irritating because I'm the only Asian student a class of ~30,


This escapes me. I fail to see this actually meaning anything.
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Tuuli Mustasydän
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Re: Things that annoy me about my sociology class. [long. REALLY long.]
Geosphere wrote:
kyrasantae wrote:

The instructor is a graduate student from China. This is slightly irritating because I'm the only Asian student a class of ~30,


This escapes me. I fail to see this actually meaning anything.


It'll become significant later ... but also is to explain the accent annoyance and lack of vocabulary.

(She asked us how to pronounce the word "command" yesterday.)


Edit: I should also mention that this kind of minority situation necessarily causes tension because it draws more attention to that minority. Kinda like when, say, a group of male workers + one female worker has a female manager (I had to deal with that this summer too).
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Chris Tannhauser
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Re: Things that annoy me about my sociology class. [long. REALLY long.]
kyrasantae wrote:
graduate student

There's your problem right there. In my entire seven years at university I had one teacher.

One.

At that level the idea of true teaching is secondary, at best.
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John Culp
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Re: Things that annoy me about my sociology class. [long. REALLY long.]
HiveGod wrote:
kyrasantae wrote:
graduate student

There's your problem right there. In my entire seven years at university I had one teacher.

One.

At that level the idea of true teaching is secondary, at best.


that's awful. I think I had 1 class taught solely by a grad student. several labs administered by grad students, but almost all my classes were professors or "instructors" (that for 1 math course)
 
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Chris Tannhauser
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Re: Things that annoy me about my sociology class. [long. REALLY long.]
Oh, I had plenty of professors, but only one teacher. He could give a four-hour lecture, without notes, and keep you on the edge of your seat the whole time. Everyone else was in a godawful hurry to get back to their research.
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John Culp
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Re: Things that annoy me about my sociology class. [long. REALLY long.]
well, I can honestly say that I only had 2 professors like that. now, the quality of the others varied, but most of them genuinely cared that you learned the material.

but I did belong to a small(well-funded) department at a large university
 
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Stephen Dunne
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Re: Things that annoy me about my sociology class. [long. REALLY long.]
Sounds like a lousy class really.

All of my professors use the blackboard system for the powerpoint slides in class. I can pull down the lectures for the entire semester to my laptop and then just pull up the appropriate material for the lecture. Which the professor uses as a teaching aid for the lesson, not the lesson itself.

If things get too bad, would it be possible for you to withdraw from the class and take it with a different instructor? There is no point in frustrating yourself for the rest of the term with this kind of nonsense.
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Ookami Snow
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Re: Things that annoy me about my sociology class. [long. REALLY long.]
I worked as a GTA for a couple of years at K-State, and here is my advice. Go talk to the head of the department or the director of the classes about the performance of the GTA. Chances are the GTA just has much bigger things to worry about than teaching this class, and if that is the case then the Dept. should either get the GTA to realize that teaching is important or find someone who can teach better.

It usually worked in my department (Statistics) with the GTAs, however I must admit that my department rocked and they made their decisions based on logic and reason, which my be hard for some other departments to do.
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Tuuli Mustasydän
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Re: Things that annoy me about my sociology class. [long. REALLY long.]
I've had lots of grad students teaching my courses, and for the most part they're not all bad. For example, my philosophy instructor (whose class I just came back from) does a good job of allocating class time for activities and lecturing, posts all of his notes online (he uses Moodle though), and DOESN'T READ OFF OF THE SLIDES!!!

Echo2112 wrote:
Sounds like a lousy class really.

All of my professors use the blackboard system for the powerpoint slides in class. I can pull down the lectures for the entire semester to my laptop and then just pull up the appropriate material for the lecture. Which the professor uses as a teaching aid for the lesson, not the lesson itself.

Precisely. So far, the student oral presentations haven't done much better on this point, either.

Echo2112 wrote:
If things get too bad, would it be possible for you to withdraw from the class and take it with a different instructor? There is no point in frustrating yourself for the rest of the term with this kind of nonsense.

Registration deadline has already passed, and the other section of the course doesn't fit in my schedule either. I'd take it in another term, but my program of studies is already two years long and I've spent enough time here already. I spent 5 years on my B.Sc. and I just really really want to get out there and be independent and all that so I can move to Finland sooner rather than later.

kinross_19 wrote:
I worked as a GTA for a couple of years at K-State, and here is my advice. Go talk to the head of the department or the director of the classes about the performance of the GTA. Chances are the GTA just has much bigger things to worry about than teaching this class, and if that is the case then the Dept. should either get the GTA to realize that teaching is important or find someone who can teach better.

I'm certainly having stirrings about talking to someone about it. But the usual course of action requires talking to the teacher first, and I feel like I've been towing the line since Day 3, so .... ooooooh intimidation barrier!
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Tuuli Mustasydän
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Re: Things that annoy me about my sociology class. [long. REALLY long.]
Week 3
Day 4
We had the first two student presentations today. The first group was actually pretty clever and made printed copies of their slides for everyone, and showed a clip from the movie "Lean On Me." The second presenter didn't have a fun movie clip like that but she focused on one part of the reading and did a lot of extra research into it, which was really really good.

After the presentations we watched the video intended for the previous lesson. I've kind of forgotten what the video was precisely about, but it was one famous sociologist spending 10 minutes talking about why it was important for teachers to study sociology of education or something like that.

There was then a lecture on structural FUNG-shin-oll-IS-um (functionalism) and some other stuff and all I really remember from it is that she asked us for participation in answering some questions which had already been clearly spelled out in the student presentation. And asking us if we knew what a self-fulfilling prophecy is.

There are no further lecture outlines posted on Blackboard - only Days 2 and 3.

Day 5
Coming into class, our instructor set up her computer but for some reason was really struggling to get it connected to the wireless network. It just wasn't working! There's an auxiliary Intranet network, I guess, which lets you access the installer that sets up your computer for automatic connection and login to the university connection to the Internets, and she kept clicking to connect to that Intranet instead of the whole Internets. After several minutes I approached and directed her to attempt to connect to the correct network, but it still didn't work, so eventually another student offered her own laptop, which was connected, for use during the class.

There was another presentation today. The presenters asked if it would be okay for them to email their Powerpoint file to the teacher and have her put them up on Blackboard.

Since the reading dated from the 1970s but was a very influential paper, after the presentation, the instructor tried to steer a discussion in the direction of whether the ideas in it still applied today. Since it was about the status culture/value of education, she pulled up some examples of Canadian lobby group TV spots campaigning for recognition of foreign professional credentials and stuff.

Then we ran out of time.

After class, she posts both the students' and her own Powerpoints on Blackboard, and writes us an email saying that we should read the rest of her slides and ask any questions at the next lecture, as she wasn't going to spend time to finish the remainder of the lecture.


Week 4
Day 6 (yesterday)
I found the TV in the classroom again when I came in early for class. Today's presenter was already there, setting up the same borrowed computer from last class.

Our instructor comes in on time and tells us that her plan for today was to do the presentation, then talk about 8 discussion questions, and then watch a video. I suggested that maybe it'd be more efficient if we did the video after the presentation before the discussion, so that we could actually get to the video. She says okay and asks if there were any questions regarding her slides from last class.

Silence.

Notes-person asks if the student slides had been posted. Yes, the instructor responds. In fact, she says, you really should check Blackboard every day for new stuff. "I check it every day for my other classes," Notes-person says. "But I don't check this class because you don't put your notes up."

Although today's presenter just read off her slides, the topic was on the history of educational organization in Canada and she managed to summarize the reading well.

After the presentation, the instructor went to start up the video. But she couldn't get the VCR to work, so in the interest of 'saving time', she goes to hook up her computer, boot it up, and pull up her lecture/discussion slides. Takes 5 minutes to explain the principle of historiography (but without using that word; it's basically the study of bias in history), including waving around the textbook used by the other section of the course.

She already lessens the number of discussion questions and only gives us five. But she reads out each of the questions and then rephrases all of them in different words just for good measure. This takes ten minutes, I think. Finally we get to discussing the questions among ourselves and she gets someone to bring in another VCR, which works. She gets that set up.

Is it really so difficult - especially when it's the first period in the morning and so no one uses the room before you - to show up a few minutes early and get everything prepared for the lesson so that it runs smoothly?

We regroup and share some of our responses. I think she realizes that we're running short on time and she zips - even faster than on Day 2 - through a few slides on some material that we immediately notice isn't from our textbook or readings and so many of us uncap our pens and start frantically writing or frantically typing on our computers. Without explanation, just reading.

It's on Max Weber's analysis of bureaucracy and legitimacy or something like that, and hey, it's new to me so I'm writing some stuff down to maybe research later, but I couldn't keep up at all. She notices the sudden panic and says "don't write this down, you won't be tested on it. It's just to give you some background for the video."
GREAT way to encourage learning beyond the classroom zombie

Well, after breaknecking through the slides, guess what...

...we're out of time.

We'll watch the video next class.


Coming soon [tomorrow is Day 7!]:
* Is the Weber material relevant to the video?
* Will anyone do a presentation that does not involve reading aloud from Powerpoint slides?
* Will anyone do a presentation without using Powerpoint at all?
* When do we find out more about the reflection paper due in October, and will there be more information other than that which is already on the course syllabus?
* Will we ever actually finish a lecture?
* How long will it be before kyrasantae gets a heart attack from this class?
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Samuel Sol
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Re: Things that annoy me about my sociology class. [long. REALLY long.]
The former Coordinator of the Undergrads, the person at the University responsible for our course, uttered the following words: "is not the job of the teacher to teach, it is your job to learn". Too many universities select their faculty only based on their research, not teaching ability. Seriously, I had only 3 teachers from the 30+ that I had classes with, that were any good. They hate teaching, they want to research and they have zero to nil pedagogic instincts.

One of my first jobs, when I was 15, was as a computer teacher at my former school. We had 2 months of classes, both on the legislation and on teaching methods. I worked there for 2 years, so ahd a bit of experience on teching. During my undergrad I dated 4 years with a Education Student. I would go out with her and her classmates to pubs and discuss a bit about education. I spent 4 years shocked both by their naviety and total lack of real world experience and by what they were taught in class. Teaching education is doomed here in Brazil, and if I'm able I will probably homeschool my kids, even with the social handicap that comes with it, than put him\her on the hands of those "educator".
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Tuuli Mustasydän
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Days 7-9
I'm making this a weekly feature, now that I've caught up.

====

Week 4 (con't)
Day 7

Going down the street away from campus this morning, I went to get some coffee and breakfast before class. Which is when I run into my instructor going the other way, to our class.

When I got to the classroom with my coffee, her bag was there but she wasn't. The TV was there too.

In a moment she comes in carrying a box full of magazines from the 1950s. The magazines have sticky notes sticking out of them. She explains that she'd been reading them for her research and she wanted us to look at them and find evidence for some of the historical politics in educational administration/policy that we'd read about in the timeline-esque reading for today.

I think we had more fun looking at the old advertisements. $35 round trip Edmonton to Vancouver by bus! The magazine I looked at had a rather difficult-to-take-seriously-but-intended-totally-seriously article on "chronic complainers", complete with a list of self-reflective questions. I really want to find that article again so I'll try to request it from the library sometime. Since my instructor has the paper copy, I may have to go to the microfiche (ooh!) copy.

Anyway, after that, she lectured a bit on teacher shortages through the ages (there's never not been one), as well as a summary of the Progressive Education movement of the 1930s-1940s, using the points from the reading.

("The Teachers' Association had been warning of a shortage as early as 1939, but 'nothing was done until 1944.'" -- Hey, maybe it was that war in between!?)

A guy pushing a wheeled locker comes into the room at 8:25. She notices this and comments that a librarian is coming in at 8:30 to give a presentation.

Then she goes through some questions on her slides, like "what is progressive education," thankfully without elaboration. There's a few slides with just a quotation on each and she gives a few seconds to see if we have any comments on those quotations. We don't.

On Day 2 with the signup thing she had made a one-sentence comment about there not being a student presentation today because there would be a library workshop. I had made a note of this for some reason, so I was totally expecting the kind of thing like in freshman English class where we go sit down in the library computer lab and a librarian walks us through how to search for journal articles online.

But this man with the wheeled locker is bringing the lab to us (even though the library is less than 50 metres away). He passes out a laptop to each. (Then everybody either gets on Facebook or reads the news.) A librarian appears and she just shows us where to find the citation formatting guidelines and demonstrates how to look in a database for articles. And "the difference between a magazine and a scholarly journal is the peer review process."

Yeah. Really. This is done in every freshman English class. This is a THIRD-YEAR course. The vast majority of us are after-degree students and probably have written zillions of research papers.

This takes up the remaining 40 minutes of the period. "Many of you have been using [Youtube] videos to make connections to the readings [i.e. to demonstrate understanding and application of the content], but now you know how to find and can use journal articles too."

One of my classmates remarked that in a class in which (as surveyed at the beginning of term) most everyone knew how to do this stuff already, it probably would have been more time-efficient to provide information on who to talk to at the library or when public workshops are offered there, for the benefit of those who need help.

Mispronunciations of the day:
(I really hate making fun of people's language, but I really need to provide some illustration.)
* "pro-MISSING teachers"
* "add-minnis-TRAITORS"
* "in-TER-per-EH-tive analysis"

Something to think about:
If coming to classes in order to participate in discussions is so important, why have there been so few opportunities to discuss/debate the content?


Week 5
Day 8

That stupid TV by the door...

Student presenter was here way before class. By the time our instructor walked in the door, she had her Powerpoint slides open and ready to go. Today's class is on Aboriginal segregation as implemented in the residential school system.

Instructor wants to show two videos and have a discussion. At least she's got the idea to have discussion at the end.

The presentation was nice because the student didn't read from the Powerpoint but off a separate and longer set of notes, which is what was later posted on Blackboard.

After the presentation, the instructor said that she was going to skip the first video she wanted to show because it would have been the same thing as some of the stuff in the presentation. I secretly wonder if it's because she realizes that we don't have enough time for it. She pops the tape for the second video into the VCR, turns on the TV, and then realizes that she needs to rewind it and cue it up.

She orally dictates two of the planned discussion questions, which were really straightforward and factual and were entirely answered in the student presentation. When she finally has the movie cued up for the clips she wants to show, we sit there and watch bits of it. (Typical Canadian production - the artistic direction is ... blah and the dialogue is really really transparent.) After that she runs through some slides on some other kinds of racial segregation in the school systems of early Canada and then has a couple more discussion questions with the aim of having us "make connections" between these and the Aboriginal schools.

But this second set of questions came at 9:20. "We're out of time so we'll discuss these questions next class."

Is anyone reading this surprised at all? I'm not.

Awkward pronunciations of the day:
* "a-simm'-LAY-shun" (assimilation)
* "preh-d'KAY.TUD." (predicated)

Day 9
I came in just as the instructional resource people wheeled in the projector and the TV.

One classmate gets followed to the classroom by the cashier from the cafeteria, hounding him for paying short five cents. The cashier threatens to call Campus Security on him. Apparently this cashier had given my classmate a mean look when he used a bagel from home on the cafeteria toaster last week.

We started off with a little bit of wrap-up discussion on the movie clips from last class. It was pointed out that the discussion questions were posted on Blackboard (and that, as I've already noted, a bunch of the lecture outlines were also there), but no one admitted that they'd checked for them.

Today's presenters were really great. They brought in a box of Girl Guide cookies. The presentation was on the structure of Canadian schooling but they chose to focus on and illustrate different types of alternative public school programs in Edmonton. We then had a really great debate and discussion about the idea of ethnocentric alternative programs.

The instructor did a quick survey of our experiences with alternative programs, and then read a timeline of the history of these programs in Edmonton off of her computer, since she had some trouble connecting her computer up to the projector. She finishes this little lecture at 9:15 and she wants to show a video on charter schools in Calgary. She wants to take a vote on whether to start the video today or wait until next week. "Let's just put it on," we agree.

Naturally, we only get about three minutes in, but she's determined to show the rest of it next class. Heck, I'm determined that we see the rest of the video. It's about Calgary schools and I'm getting just a bit homesick here.

Instead of pitching myself out the door to get to my next class (as I normally do), I spotted the remainder of the box of cookies lying on a desk and tried to find someone to take it home. Nobody wanted it, but in that little moment of pause, my instructor caught up to me and asked me if I had a moment. I could spare a couple of minutes, I said.

She asked me what I thought of the class. I said that I really enjoyed today's class because there was a lot of productive discussion and not just questions like "What are the three types of _______?" She says that she does those (and the outlines on Blackboard) because some people like to have pointed out for them the important points to study for an exam. (I disagree with this, but I may address it in an email to her at another time.) I said that if, as she says, coming to class is about participating in the discussions, then there needs to be more discussions like today's discussions about the presentation.

She said she was willing to have a second presentation on the reading that I originally wanted (see Day 3), and I said thanks but no thanks, because I ended up with the reading that I actually wanted (my 'second choice' was actually my first choice, but it didn't say "assigned reading" next to it on the syllabus so I had assumed that she didn't want a presentation on it).

Mispronunciations of the day:
* "PARE-ental"
* "pro-GRAMS"

Next week:
* Can she pull off my suggestion for more substantive class discussions?
* Will she say anything more about the reflection paper due in two weeks? It's kind of about time she said something about it.
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João 'Finding a new way to make you WTF today' Marum
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Small example of me giving class on the economics' faculty:

Hello students, today we will research Riemann's Hypothesis.

Class: WTF!!!!!!!!
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Amy Wiles
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See how the first test is. Then you may want to drop. I understand you just want to get out of there, but sometimes dropping a bad prof is the best thing.

And I wouldn't hesitate going to the next level to complain.

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Tuuli Mustasydän
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Dropping the class would mean having to take an overload next year. Which I'm not allowed to do without permission from the Dean, and I really wouldn't want to do anyway after experiencing overloaded terms when I was in Engineering. (At least in Engineering the assignments were essentially math exercises. Here, I read 20 to 30 pages of material for each class per week, often more.)

I'm sticking it out. I just want to see things improve. After all, teachers don't give up on their students either, and teachers recognize that learning is a lifelong thing, so why not the other way around? meeple
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Phil Sauer
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I used to have a professor who used to insist on

PARTY SPATING.

In fact, we were graded on it.

But seriously dude... you should go to China and try to teach a Sociology class.

Then you have the right to criticize (or, as you would put it, criticise). Just my opinion... it's just that everyone is a critic.
 
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This thread is a real downer. The class sounds like a bad one, but I think you're letting a few legitimate issues (like PowerPoint and reading from the book verbatim) create an incredibly hostile response that gleefully latches onto trivial details. Like the accent. And the "unfairness" of losing a topic to a student who asked for it after class. And the distinction between journals and magazines (3rd year or not, I'd bet money that you vastly over-estimate the preparedness of your peers). Drop the class or say something to an administrator.
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