Archive for the ‘University of North Georgia’ Category

University Students with Misplaced Senses of Entitlement   Leave a comment

I have read students’ evaluations of me; fall semester evaluations became available to read today.  The consensus was that I was an awful teacher.

The real story is in the comments about why I was allegedly so bad.  I did not teach a textbook.  I assigned the free textbook for the course, but I never referred to pages.  I did not type out notes and post them to D2L (Distance Learning).  I did not use PowerPoint.  I did not spoon-feed the students.  No, I expected them to take their own notes.  I did not create “study guides.”  (Don’t we call those notes?)  Also, I refused to post test questions prior to tests.  (How dare I not help them cheat?)

I have not been inside a high school classroom in years, but I can gain an understanding of what is happening in many of those classrooms by observing and listening to students fresh from high school.  I realize how much the quality of student’s writing has declined, even in the last few years.  I notice how they expect me to teach them and to what they feel entitled.  Many of them feel entitled to receive ready-made notes and to see test questions in advance, apparently.  I see blank expressions on their faces when I say “style manual.”

I, as a mere mortal, understand that I am imperfect and do not know everything.  I know that I can improve in various tasks and learn more.  Expecting students to take their own notes and making them see test questions for the first time on a test day are not faults, however.  I also recall that the teachers, instructors, and professors who taught me the most were the most demanding ones.

Many of these students were graduates from one of the two high schools in Oconee County, Georgia.  Oconee County authorities enjoy bragging about how high their schools’ test scores are.  High test scores do not necessarily translate into academic preparation, though.  And, given how commonplace teaching to the standardized tests has become, results I have witnesses in university classrooms do not surprise me.

When I was a graduate student at Georgia Southern University, I admired Dr. Timothy Teeter’s favorite mug.  It read, “READ, DAMMIT.”  I hope to find one like it eventually, for there must be one for sale somewhere.    I like the sentiment and attitude.  More students need to read and take more academic initiative, not be so passive. The more they put into their educations, the more they will get out of them.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 8, 2020 COMMON ERA

2020: Best Wishes   2 comments

Above:  The Middle Oconee River at Ben Burton Park, Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, December 8, 2019

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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I find myself at the convergence of turning points as 2019 comes to an end.  On the personal front, I deal with two deaths.  Professionally, I look to the future with a combination of confidence, hope, and uncertainty.  The result will be better than what it will replace, I affirm.  However, I do not know what will happen between now and then.  How long should I remain in Athens-Clarke County?  What I do not know outweighs what I understand.  I know, however, that I must not make rash decisions, especially while I grieve and adapt to my “new normal.”

Experience is a fine teacher.  A wise pupil heeds it.  One lesson experience teaches me is that a grudge is a burden one should never impose on oneself, regardless of how righteous one’s indignation may be.  I acknowledge objective reality.  (Why should I not?) I know that a particular professor at The University of Georgia (UGA) fired a torpedo into the bow of my doctoral program and sank it like the Lusitania.  I also understand that my anger over that example of academic abuse burned out years ago.  Whenever I walk on the UGA campus, I feel simultaneously at home, in a familiar place, yet on virgin territory different from a place I have ever been.  The area does look different than it used to, due mainly to construction on campus.  It is a place I want to call home again.  A relationship, however, has more than one party.

My congregation, St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, keeps providing incentives to remain in town.  I am active in the parish, in which I have found my niches.  The emotional and spiritual support members of the congregation have been providing to me since Bonny’s death has become a source of much gratitude.  I can never repay them.  Perhaps I will have opportunities to “pay it forward” in time, not that I seek grief for anyone.

Praying for one’s needs is not sinful, but being selfish in prayer is.  With that in mind, I issue the following prayer:

May God’s best for each person be that person’s reality.  May you, O reader, receive all the help you need and provide all the aid you should.  May the light of God shine in your life, attract others to God, and strengthen the faith of many.  May 2020, by these standards, be a better year for you than 2019 has been.  May it be a better year for all countries, nation-states, peoples, and refugees.  May 2020 be a better year for the planet.  Amen.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 10, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF KARL BARTH, SWISS REFORMED MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR; AND HIS SON, MARKUS BARTH, SWISS LUTHERAN MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF HOWELL ELVET LEWIS, WELSH CONGREGATIONALIST CLERGYMAN AND POET

THE FEAST OF JOHN ROBERTS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF PAUL EBER, GERMAN LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ROBERT MURRAY, CANADIAN PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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Really?   2 comments

I teach challenging courses.  This is appropriate, for I teach at a university.

I have noticed steeply declining grades and quality of writing during the last few years.  I should not have to define words such as “partisan” and “meddling.”  This is interesting, given that most of my students are recent graduates of local high schools with high scores on standardized tests.  I know that the way to such high scores is to teach the tests.

Many of my students blame me for their poor academic performance.  They wish that I would send them notes via email.  They pine for PowerPoint.  Some of them wish I would teach a textbook.  (I assign a free textbook and recommend it as a reference for them, though.)  Some students even ask if they may see the test questions before the test or if they may photograph tests.  I refuse, of course.

To those who blame me for their substandard academic performance and wonder how to succeed, I say, ask the pupils who earn grades such as 88 and 94 on tests.  I say to study well and often.  I say to read a dictionary.  I say to learn proper English.  I say to accept responsibility for one’s own education.  I ask, where do you think you are, your old high school?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 7, 2019 COMMON ERA

Posted November 7, 2019 by neatnik2009 in University of North Georgia

Temerity   4 comments

The temerity of some postsecondary students never surprises nor ceases to appall me.

Late last semester, I decided to abandon written assignments in my (history) courses at the University of North Georgia (the Oconee Campus, to be precise), effective this semester.  The cumulative effect of so much bad writing and inability or unwillingness to follow the assigned style manual, combined with persistent (and frequently denied) plagiarism, wore me down.  I took pity on myself.  I stripped out the essays, the book report, and the weekly quizzes, and replaced them with four tests, including the final exam.  The restructuring of my courses has necessitated the rewriting of my teaching notes (in progress during this semester), as well as the writing of possible test questions before and after classes.

The first test of 50 questions for Monday, February 4.  Grading will be easy, for I know where the Scantron machine is on campus.

My test bank for the first test has grown to more than 50 questions.  After I have mentioned the test bank in class, some students have asked if I will post the test bank on Distance Learning (D2L), so that they may study the questions.  I have given these pupils the looks they deserve.  No, I have said, pupils will see the questions on February 4, when I distribute the tests.

I am not alone in noticing the sense of entitlement rife in the undergraduate population these days.  My disgust with this attitude is evident in my new syllabi, which contains a bullet list that begins with the mantra,

You are not entitled to….

Sometimes I think about younger generations and feel generally positive about the future.  On other occasions, however, I ponder certain young people and mourn for the future.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 29, 2019 COMMON ERA

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Posted January 29, 2019 by neatnik2009 in University of North Georgia

Students’ Individual Responsibility   3 comments

Above:  A Portion of My Home Desk Area, November 5, 2018

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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When I was an undergraduate at Valdosta State University, Valdosta, Georgia, taking upper-level history courses, a research paper was part of every such course.  The format was Turabian, of course.  In 1993-1996, my time at Valdosta State, I used an electronic typewriter to create my written assignments.  Almost always the professors were kind enough to permit endnotes instead of footnotes.  Those professors also never took any time to explain the Turabian format.  Doing so was not their job, and I never imagined that it was.  No, my responsibility vis-à-vis formatting was to consult and follow the style manual, then in the fifth edition.  My copy of the style manual was an essential volume in my library.

Many of the students I teach at the Oconee Campus of the University of North Georgia apparently lack the initiative to consult the current Turabian manual (ninth edition) or an online Turabian guide.   Many of them seem to think that my job is to tell them everything about the Turabian style, especially with regard to footnotes (easy to do via computer) and bibliographic entries.  Many of them ignore my written guidance (more than any of my professors gave, that is, none) and plead ignorance.  Yet ignorance, especially the variety born of laziness and apathy, is not a good defense.

Many of my colleagues and I see the same disturbing pattern:  pupils, overall, expect proverbial hand-holding through tasks that should be simple for college students yet prove challenging.  Furthermore, proverbial hand-holding often does no good anyway, based on results.

As I tell students, the more they put into their education, the more they will get out of it.  Regardless of what they did or did not learn at their high schools (some of which report high test scores), they are responsible for showing the necessary initiative.  Instead, many of them give up and avoid taking any of my courses again.

I accept my responsibility to my students.  They deserve my best efforts to prepare them for the world.  One lesson I hope I teach is the importance of showing initiative.  Another lesson I strive to teach is working hard through struggles to emerge better off in the end.

I ponder the causes of the problems I recognize in many students.  A partial list follows:

  1. The sense of entitlement commonplace in Millennials;
  2. The results of helicopter parenting;
  3. The failures of schools, especially the coddling of students, often for the purpose of raising scores on high-stakes tests;
  4. The endemic lack of time-management skills;
  5. Short attention spans; and
  6. The plethora of distractions, mostly technological.

Responsibility is both collective and individual.  Regardless of the negative influences of others on one’s life, one does have much agency.  Those other influences may not cease to exist, but one can, at least, consult and follow a mandated style manual in a university course.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 5, 2018 COMMON ERA

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Generational Experiences, Memories, and Knowledge   Leave a comment

Tomorrow I will begin to teach my Fall Semester 2018 sections of United States History I (through 1877) at the Oconee Campus of the University of North Georgia

Whenever I prepare lessons, I think about generational experiences, memories, and knowledge.  The birth years of my students range from 1995 to 2001, with the greatest concentration of in 1999 and 2000.  Given that my memory reaches back to the 1970s, I am beginning to feel relatively old.  I find that PowerPoint is not a useful tool for teaching history; besides, most people who give PowerPoint presentations seem just to read their slides.  (I can read slides; why are people reading them to me?)  Neither do I teach from a script.  No, I teach from skeletal notes.  This means that, after I prepare and as I teach, I speak not quite extemporaneously.  I understand the material, but have no prepared comments.  This means that I have to watch my references.

Technological and cultural references are especially tricky.  I recall that once I confused a student when I said “typewriter.”  My Saturday Night Live references from the Dana Carvey-Phil Hartman era fall flat as nobody recognizes the reference to the Church Lady.  (“Isn’t that special?” “Could it be Satan?”)  These students have no memory of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.  Most of them have little sense of historical perspective; the 1990s might as well be ancient history for them.  If they do not remember it, it is ancient history, by their standards.  Books seem to be objects of curiosity for many of my students, who are addicted to screens anyway, and who mistake searching via Google for conducting research.

I come from a certain bookish background and a particular time.  Nine thick dictionaries and a thesaurus are on my desk.  I do not need nine dictionaries, but I like them.  The smell of old paper inspires great joy in me.  I like to hold a book. read, and turn pages.  I have no television or streaming service, and want none.  Days pass without me turning on my television set.  I enjoy screening foreign art movies as well as Marx Brothers films.  The original, British version of House of Cards (all three miniseries) is superior to the American version, I know.  Torchwood:  Children of Earth breaks my heart every time I watch it.  Tom Baker is the best actor to have played the Doctor; that is obvious.

I perceive the world differently than my students do partially because I have more and different experiences than they do.  My students are, for better and worse–hopefully more of the former than the latter–part of the future.  I hope to contribute to the shaping of that future, for the better, as I pass on to my students much of what I know.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 19, 2018 COMMON ERA

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Unprepared for College, Part II   Leave a comment

Spring Semester 2018 at the University of North Georgia is nearly over.

This night I have concluded the process of grading final essays and posting all grades at the proper electronic destinations.  The contrasts between two classes have proven to be quite dramatic, by the numbers.

Consider these numbers, O reader:

Class Grade = A

  • Class I–46%; Class II–27%

Class Grade =B

  • Class I–30%; Class II–6%

Class Grade = C

  • Class I–8%; Class II–17%

Class Grade = D

  • Class I–4%; Class II–0%

Class Grade = F

  • Class I–13%; Class II–50%

Plagiarists on the Final Essay

  • Class I–4%; Class II–22%

Plagiarism results in a zero on the assignment in question and an “F’ in the course.

Each class has its distinct collective personality.  That personality comes down to the luck of the draw–who enrolls in it and who stays.  I present the same material to the different groups and observe different results.  These results force me to conclude that more than half of one of these classes was not prepared for college.

I also notice that many students have little or no concept of plagiarism, despite my oral and written explanations of it, as well as the efforts of others to explain it.  They need to learn that concept now.  I wonder how many of them will learn that lesson now.

The semester is over.  Now I enjoy that fact.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 3, 2018 COMMON ERA

Posted May 3, 2018 by neatnik2009 in University of North Georgia

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