Two down, two to go. As academe is wont to do, the most difficult is saved for the end. Sleep deprivation, the mind a jumbled collection of disparate ideas, unable to neatly categorize that which must be regurgitated logically, concisely, and accurately. It is true…….the brain needs time to digest, just like the stomach. As your mother taught you not to go swimming right after that delicious lunch on the beach, fearing a cramp, so is it inadvisable to go to an exam directly after cramming. I fear a major brain cramp. Ohhhh……woe is me!
Archive for April, 2007
Time waits for no student, and so it is for this newest member of the hampster wheel. Mercifully, most of my exams are not cumulative, but, still, the volume of material covered since mid-terms, in late February, is staggering.
From being expected to remember footnotes in books, and the when, where, and why thereof, to sweeping questions like the Fall of the Roman Empire and precise execution of the union of functions that are irrational, it is a stressful time for mind and body.
And, for the first time, I get the mind and body thing. Both need rest, and more importantly, exercise. The brain is in pretty good shape, but the body is going to need a lot of attention soon. So, another lesson learned: it’s all about balance and harmony. Keep the mind and body fit, and both will work at high levels for extended periods of time.
Maybe I can get the balance thing figured out in time for next semester.
Classes are over! Exams are next! Then, 10 glorious days of rest, relaxation, golf, and re-familiarization with my wife before we start all over again.
In honor of the occasion, a little Hamlet:
What is a man,
If his chief good and market of his time
Be but to sleep and feed? a beast, no more.
Sure he that made us with such large discourse,
Looking before and after, gave us not
That capability and godlike reason
To fust in us unus’d (4.5.35-41).
Hamlet didn’t have to write two papers in one weekend, and then study for some difficult exams.
Writing the Hamlet paper. As I think about, and try to put into my words, Hamlet’s lamentation of his condition, Merle Haggard sings softly in the background.
I have of late – but wherefore I know not, – lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises; and, indeed, it goes so heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory….
What a piece of work is Man…
And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me…
Says Merle Haggard:
Wishing all these old things were new…
Ahhh, the human condition.
Today was the last day of classes for all the Tuesday/Thursday courses. Monday is the last day for the rest. Exams start next Wednesday. Still have two big papers due Monday, hopefully without that all-night nonsense of a few weeks ago, and then the final blast of studying for exams.
You might be asking how I feel. The answer is tired, stressed, mildly confident, and ready to move on. The acquired study habits, and the practice of same over the last 12 weeks, the restoration of the long-term memory and rehabilitation of the short-term memory, plus the knowledge that I have mastered the material of this semester all give me a comfortable sense that I can get through the next 10 days. But it is not about getting through. It is the challenge of maintaining the best possible grades; holding on to the value of the work already committed to the process.
And I’m gonna hold on……
As the late, great Jim Morrison said: “Break on through to the other side”.
From the Analects:
The Master said:
He who exercises government by means of his virtue may be compared to the north polar star, which keeps its place and all the stars turn toward it.If the people be led by laws, and uniformity sought to be given them by punishments, they will try to avoid the punishment, but have no sense of shame.
If they be led by virtue, and uniformity sought to be given them by the rules of propriety, they will have the sense of shame and moreover will become good.
Grades. Are they the measuring stick of academic achievement? By most accounts, potential employers, graduate school admissions committees, and even the school of your major care immensely about the quantification of your achievement. Here’s a link to an article by a professor that scares me witless:
I’m just back from a committee meeting at which the subject of grades and grade distributions came up, and it became clear to me that academics (even at the same institution, even in the same field) have wildly different philosophies about just what grades ought to mean.
There are the normal-distribution folks, who think grades ought to convey how you are doing relative to the other people taking the class. The average grade is a C, no matter whether that average corresponds to demonstrating coompetence on 40% of the content or 90% of the content. The grade you get is dependent on how many standard deviations above or below the mean you are. (It should be mentioned that there are universities — including some with very high tuitions — where the mean is more like a B than a C, but where the general approach is still a normal-distribution approach.)
Then there are the grading-on-mastery folks, who use grades to identify how well you have mastered the material. An “A” paper will be one where you’ve mastered almost all of the material, while an “F” paper is one where you show little to no mastery of the material. Folks who approach grading this way often have nice rubrics that will spell out the virtues an “A” paper must instantiate, those that a “B” paper must instantiate, and so on.
I fall squarely on the mastery spot. To me, effort and results, as measured against the expectations of the professor, should be the only factors, with results far outweighing effort. How many times have I heard, in the business world, “I don’t care about effort, I only care about results!” Results should count…….not my position on an arbitrarily imposed curve that meets the expectations of the department chair. Give me, Professor, your expectations at the start of the semester, measure my performance against those expectations during the term, and give me a final evaluation before I can be promoted. That’s life in the real world, and that’s what we studnets ought to be learning in the academic world.