Skip to main content

'Worst Semester Ever'

(The hyperbolic title comes from this piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education)

This semester has been wild. Like all semesters, I have great students! But I also have a lot of students who vanished, and I need to vent.

Part of this is on me, because I record my lectures and have a laissez-faire approach to class. But I’ve always done this.

Last Spring, I taught two sections of calculus 1, and my ending the semester F rate (no students ended the semester with a D) was 18% (8 of 44 students). That’s, of course, pretty bad, but 2 of those students cheated multiple times and so received a failing grade in the course. If we ignore them, it’s 14% failure rate (6 of 42 students that matter). For calculus 1, that’s actually not bad. I’d love for more people to pass, but our three year institution DF rate for calc 1 is 30%.

This semester, though, has been something else…

I do open book, open note, take home quizzes that students have nearly 3.5 days to complete (you read that correctly, they have between Thursday at 1pm and Sunday at 11:59pm). Towards the end of the semester, I had 16 of my 65 students still enrolled who did not submit anything. I’m likely the easiest possible calc class for my grading policy, and 25% of my students weren’t even trying at the end.

I have a very crude saying about how I teach: “I will give you the softest toilet paper in the world, but you have to wipe your own ass.”

I’m not confident some students could find their ass even if they took a minute to get their head of out it.