Friday, February 3, 2012

Helpful Tools for the Teachers of Today

When I was little, but not too little to do math, my mom who was a public school teacher asked me to check exam papers for her. After I finished checking, I had to write down the scores of her students in what was more popularly called then as a “class record”. This booklet, to those who don’t know, was a columnar notebook which contained the names of all the students and was used by teachers to manually input all of the scores. Of course, the scores would not compute themselves into a final grade. I then had to add up all the scores for the students and my mom would compute the final grade using a calculator. How many students did my mom have? Hundreds at a time. She even had to submit a handwritten lesson plan to the principal every school year. And she had to do that for 35 years.

Talk about tedious. Now that we have *.xls worksheets, I really find it unimaginable to manually compute for anything, let alone the final grade of hundreds of students. Had my mom continued teaching until now, I guess it would take just a few hours to accomplish the same thing which originally took her days to finish. Well, I’m not actually just guessing. I know that for a fact. I am a teacher now, too, you know, and what better time to be one than now? There are so many resources that make a teacher’s job—difficult it might really be—actually a lot easier.

Sign-up Genius. One thing I have had trouble with my classes is how to get a consensus from them, say, if I want to know when I could hold a make-up class or which students want to arrange a consultation. Getting a coherent and unanimous decision from a class of 30+ teenagers in their sophomore year of college (and with so much to say) is such a chore, believe me. Everyone has their little concerns and, just like law students, each one thinks their one personal concern trumps everyone else’s that they deserve to be prioritized. It really stresses me out. I eventually found out that it would be less troublesome if I ask them to sign-up. I was curious if there was an online sign-up sheet of sorts just so I could lessen face-to-face interaction with them. If I just give them clear instructions and ask them to sign up ONLINE, they’ll have no opportunity to negotiate with the terms. It will thus be a take-it-or-leave-it situation. And of course, when I googled “online sign-up sheet”, there actually was one. I was able to seamlessly organize consultation sessions for all 70+ students of mine. Thank you, Sign-Up Genius.

MS Excel. Computing grades, as I have already said, was one hell of a task when it was still done manually. Microsoft Excel Workbooks of today, however, are such a big help. Not only does it add, subtract, multiply, and divide for me, it also combines grades from different quizzes and departmental exams (using the vlookup function) and prepares bar charts for me (to let me see if there’s some semblance of that sought-after bell curve).

Just last semester, I devised yet another way to avoid being personally bombarded and ambushed by students as to their class standing. If law professors traditionally give out “smoke-up lists”, I, on the other hand, send my students an *.xlsx worksheet where they could check their grades by just entering their ID number.

Before entering the ID number...

After entering an ID number...

I was able to inform everyone of how well (or how bad) they were doing, even how much they needed to pass the course, without me leaving the comfort of my own home.

Meme comic builder. I teach accounting and even I sometimes find it really boring. I don’t really expect young students to appreciate everything that I talk about or take interest in matters that are, to be honest, very technical. It always helps, though, when I discuss something and make a joke out of it. For some reason, students get the concept better if it sounds familiar and funny. That is why, every now and then, I insert meme comics in my handouts just to get their attention and give some color to an otherwise monochrome set of study materials. There are sites which allow you to create comic characters and strips. I’ve used the Lego Comic Builder and the more popular Rage Comic Builder. Caveat, though. I promise added color, not impeccable humor.

It might sound a bit corny and self-righteous, but I do exert large efforts to make sure that I’m being the best instructor that I could be. Good thing there are now better things than class records and lesson plans.

Ma. Eliza Christine Gomez, Entry #7

Previous posts: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6

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