teaching machines


May 16, 2012 by . Filed under Uncategorized.

I want you to learn, create, and have free discussions with me. That’s more likely to happen if you avoid certain practices.

TODONT #1: Visit me unannounced outside of office hours.

You and I both have a lot to do. You can bet my day is scheduled before you even wake up. What’s it busy with? Preparing for lecture, grading, drafting homework assignments, conducting research, developing my own skill set, serving the administrative needs of the university, writing letters of reference, and seeking out grants so that I can enhance your learning experiences and get you paid and off to bright futures. Interruptions fracture your instructors’ focus and ultimately backfire on your education.

TODO: Safeguard my time to focus. Use Piazza to ask questions. Email me to schedule appointments at times outside of office hours.

TODONT #2: Email me to ask if I’m available during office hours.

You won’t get a response.

TODO: Visit my office hours without heralding your approach with trumpets. By the very definition of office hours, you may freely visit me during them without any notice.

TODONT #3: Cite long lines as a reason to request an appointment outside of office hours.

First, the only way to keep lines short is for me to have a lot of office hours. This takes time away from other things that you should value. See TODONT #1. Second, the line only gets shorter if you take your place in it.

TODO: Wait in line and bring a cell phone or read Dr. Tan’s bulletin board to occupy your anxious mind. Or at least come up with a better reason for a non-office hours appointment that doesn’t reek of privilege.

TODONT #4: Ask for a reference letter with ho-hum performance.

If I barely know you or you didn’t do something awesome in one of my classes or on a research project, I will be sure and let your potential future employer or graduate school know.

TODO: Do awesome things in my classes and work with me on a research project.

TODONT #5: Expect help in the evening or on a weekend.

I will neither meet with you nor respond to email requests when I leave the office. I have a family. I desire to be a balanced person who is not consumed by work. You are on your own after 5 PM and on Saturday and Sunday.

TODO: Consider your professor’s boys and wife. Work well ahead of deadlines. Structure your schedule around my office hours.

TODONT #6: Provide the least information possible in an email exchange.

“It doesn’t work” doesn’t work. Such messages take a very low priority in my what-message-do-I-respond-to next algorithm.

TODO: Describe your problem in detail, including exact error messages, screenshots, etc. Minimize the number of back-and-forth volleys.


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