Friday, September 29, 2006


You Know the Class Observation Went Horribly Wrong When...

It's class observation season again. I have 25 (so far) in the next six weeks, and each one requires a writeup.

Having done this for several years now, I've developed a number of lines I've dreamed of using to prank some of the faculty. (Obviously, none of these is even the slightest bit true at my college, where everybody is practically perfect in every way. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.) Since that would likely be a Career-Limiting Move, I'll post them as hypotheticals instead. You know the class observation went horribly wrong when...

“The good news is, Prof. X is a charming drunk.”

“The popular perception of Prof. X's body odor is slightly exaggerated, at least to this back-row observer.”

“To be fair, some of the alleged facts were actually true. For example, it was Wednesday.”

“Happily for all concerned, Prof. X eventually zipped his fly.”

“Prof. X opened with a darkly-amusing anecdote that, if true, probably should have led to criminal charges.”

“While Prof. X's attempts to appropriate the argot of youth culture are well-intended, I would strongly recommend reducing the repetitions of the word 'fuck' to the single digits in any given class meeting.”

“Although some of Prof. X's observations about Brett Favre had merit, their relation to differential equations was, at best, obscure.”

“To our mutual relief, several students eventually showed up.”

“I was impressed by the scope of the technology at hand, and the fluency with which it was used. Students can do amazing things with cell phones these days.”

Do you only observe non-tenured instructors?
Nope. Tenured and Non-tenured alike.
Are these for formative or summative purposes? If for formative, you could train a few other people to do them and you wouldn't have to do soooo many.

I LOVE the comments too...
Professor X appears even handed in his hatred and contempt for the students.
I think my favorite was the one with the fly. That may be my immature, just-left-undergrad mentality working.

Speaking from the same mentality, though - I still remember a few times when a professor dropped the "f-bomb" and got our instant attention. These occasions were, however, rare.
Do a version of this on comments you would write on papers. Oh man.
"The blackboard enjoyed the eye contact and learned a lot."

Back in real life, I did hear of one grad student who received a written student evaluation comment, "The best part about class is when (TA XX) writes on the board." This predated Clarence Thomas' nomination hearings, if I remember correctly.
As someone who frequently uses football as an example in teaching calculus (although not differential equations), I demand a swift apology.

Lousy administrators eating up the budget...
Wait, for SURE you can use differential equations to analyze the changes in speed and altitude of a football pass or punt, changes in spin, and maybe the changing levels of pain killers in a ball player's system. Oops, did I say that? I meant steroids, yeah... or, um, well, how about um... /em drifts off in confusion.

Alas, I'm being observed tomorrow. I hope my observer has more positive things to say!
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