June 26, 2008

Conversations with students

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Me: What does it mean for the researcher to be a tool of data collection? This is a bit of a philosophy of science kind of question. M., my philosophy major, what do you think?

M: [with a stoned, sleepy expression]………Um…..could you, like, repeat the question?

Me: What do you think it means for the researcher to be a tool of data collection?

M: [long period of silence followed by several snickers from other students] Wow. Like, duuuude.

Me: Is that really all you've got for me?

M: [closes eyes and nods solemnly in affirmation]

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[S. comes up to me prior to the beginning of class and apologizes for missing the previous class. He hands me the paper that was due along with a doctor's excuse.]

Me: Thanks. Are you feeling better?

S: Huh?

Me: How are you feeling? Are you feeling better?

S: Well…I still have diarrhea really bad. So if I have to jump up in the middle of class and run to the bathroom it's because I'm about to explode.

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[T. shows up to take the exam an hour after everyone else, when most of the other students have already finished and handed theirs in.]

Me: What's the deal? Why are you so late?

T: Oh, I couldn't go to sleep last night, so I took, like, a bunch of sleeping pills at 5am this morning.

Me: And that seemed like a good idea knowing you had to take an exam at 9am?

T: Yes.

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Me: [as E. is handing in her exam] How'd it go?

E: Oh…okay, I guess.

Me: Just okay? What did you have trouble with?

E: [hesitates] Well, I'm kind of embarrassed to say this, but it's true. None of my other classes test me on whether I understand something I read. You know how you would ask us questions about the main ideas and arguments in each of the articles? And whether the author would agree or disagree with a certain statement? Well, I just never have to do that. I mean, it's bad, I know. It's disturbing. All my other tests are just about recognition. I don't really have to understand anything.

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