Sunday, August 26, 2007

What Happened Here?

This summer I taught my last class for USU Tooele. It started off predominantly, and ended up being entirely, full of concurrent enrollment (high school) students. Now that's fine with me. I don't mind teaching high school students. What's got me shaking is that I just finished grading their final exams and posting their grades. It was utter red pen carnage. Ink flowed like blood on a battlefield.

What pisses me off the most is that these kids are all taking courses at their high school with names like "trigonometry" and "calculus" and "Algebra 2". But when you give them a polynomial division to do and instruct them to "perform the division", they immediately go and use every algebra mistake in the book, except for the one student who multiplied the two polynomials instead. They don't reduce their fractions, they leave things half simplified, and other manifestations of general half-@$$ery. Their attendance record left a lot to be desired too; for weeks I would show up to class only to find that there were only two students present, then the next class it would be a different two students and they would both be scratching their heads because neither of them had attended for a week and had missed an entire chapter's lecture. I admonished them over the need to be thorough, to finish problems all the way or risk losing points, to show your work in at least a semi-legible manner. All for nothing. Only three of them passed the final.

I labored for seven weeks and I taught these students nothing. I am so disappointed. I'm disappointed in them, because they could have done so much better. I'm disappointed in myself, for not being able to find the way to get through to them. I'm disappointed in a school system that would fool these students into thinking that they were some kind of advanced math geniuses, when they can't even factor a quadratic trinomial or solve a linear inequality.

I can only hope this has been a wake-up-and-smell-the-coffee experience for them, that they realize that they are being ill-served to function in a college environment, and that they correct either their expectations for the future or the level at which they're willing to work. That's the only possible benefit I can see for them coming out of this fiasco.