No Fancy Name
Saturday, November 20, 2004
let me join the fray of grumpy people, pt 2
What's the deal with people who don't like to follow directions, or think specific directions are "optional"? Really, if you're taking a class in a subject you know nothing about (or even if you do know something about it), what on earth would possess you to deviate from the very meticulously presented (and tested) set of instructions written for you to perform a task...especially when the instructions are prefaced with "do not deviate from these"? Do students really think it's a test? Are they really arrogant enough to think that perhaps I, the teacher, will lead them astray because I am an idiot? I just don't get it.

Not only are instructions not optional, but requirements are not optional, either! They're requirements. If they weren't, they'd be called suggestions. So when I say "do not use Dreamweaver or other WYSIWYG editors to work with your PHP code, use a text editor", don't ask me "can I use Dreamweaver MX because I can just drag and drop some PHP code into the document". NO. NO, YOU CANNOT, and if you do, I will be able to tell, and I will fail you for it. The goal of the class is for you to be able to write the code yourself because any monkey with a keyboard can manage to drag a widget into a document. Oh, and if you continue to do this, I guarantee you'll be lost in the next lesson, as my lessons are cumulative. So if you get to Lesson 4 and you don't understand the structural concept I'm explaining because in Lesson 2 you dragged and dropped a widget, you'll get no extra help from me.

And another thing—stop copying the code in the "share your work" area. Just because a good student took the time to complete a lesson successfully, got a good grade and wanted to share it with the rest of the class, that doesn't mean you can copy from him. In the real world, you can do whatever you want, and freely sharing code is common (unless you're building proprietary applications and that's a whole other story) but let me tell you, copying code and still not being able to make it work still isn't going to get you a passing grade either. Looking at the work and getting an idea from it, and doing your own work based on it, that's not so bad. But you know what? What I show you in the lesson should be more than adequate to complete the exercise, and the instructions I give you in the exercise itself, which are literally step-by-step instructions about what you should do, those should be adequate as well. If they're not clear, then you ask me and I explain them to you in a manner that addresses your particular area of mis-understanding. Don't beat yourself up for two weeks, then copy something from someone else, not get it to work, and actually submit it for grading.

Another thing, what's so hard about coming up with a specific question? If you say "it doesn't work," you really need to say what doesn't work, or where something is breaking, or at what point you stopped understanding what I was saying. Because I guarantee you that saying "It doesn't work" is only going to get a response from me along the lines of "worked fine when I did it" because yes, I am just that snarky. Ok, that last part only happens in my job, when a client says "it doesn't work" and I say "it sure does" until they realize that in order for us to duplicate the "problem" they're having, we need to understand the environment and circumstances around the action they are attempting to perform. Only then will we be able to help them in their time of need, by saying something like "well yes, to navigate to your Web site and see the changes, you must first turn your computer on."

But back to my class—I've lost three students. Two were the problem children and thankfully were finally convinced to withdraw. One left on her own before even getting to the first lesson. But I've had others sign up and plenty are moving through the course, so I'm sure they didn't drop because I smell or something. In fact, I asked the head education guy if I should be concerned and he said absolutely not, that my class is very difficult yet in-demand, and losing people is natural and indeed I do not smell.

Despite this ranting, I am really very very nice to my students and take way more time to grade their exercises and answer their questions than I should. But I don't mind that when they're putting forth an effort. I seriously mind it when I'm repeating myself over and over and they refuse to hear.


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