Thoughts on Teaching – 05/16/2012 – Wrapping up the semester
I know I’m a bit late here, as I finished up the semester almost a week ago now, but things have not slowed down since. Now that we have time to work on our new house, we’ve been doing that every day. As well, my wife graduated with her BA over last weekend, so we had celebrations for her graduation. Also, Diablo III came out yesterday, and that is eating up my free time as well. So, summary of all of that is, it’s been busy.
However, I did want to wrap up the semester here. It was a pretty good semester overall. I tried out some new material, writing a new lecture and piloting some new assignments in my classes. Both my new in-class activities and the chapter quiz activities that I was using were quite successful and will be part of my core redesign next semester in my classes. The base class went well also, with few major problems. There were a few instances of cheating to deal with, and I didn’t devote as much time to the class in the second half of the semester because of our house hunting. Overall, it was at least a typical semester. I crunched some of the numbers from the semester, and it was about as bad as normal in the raw numbers. That’s the way with community colleges, we have a high non-success (a D, F, or withdrawal) rate. My overall non-success rate for the semester was 44%. So, 44% of the students who started the semester finished with a grade of D, F, or W. As I said, it is sad, but that is typical. We have a large portion of the population who is on the edge of whether they should be in college or not. For a lot of them, they are trying their best, but they really can’t deal with the level of work required for a college education. For others, they don’t really want to be there. They are in college because it seems like the right thing to do, or they have been pressured in by their family, or they just don’t have anything else to do. A lot of those don’t make it very far. Another group fall victim to the too-many-obligations curse. They are a full-time student, work full time, have family to take care of, and so forth. School starts out as a priority but fades over the semester. Even worse are those who are teetering on the edge of being able to do school and then have something bad happen – with a job, family, health, or something else. All of those things contribute to the high non-success rate. In fact, in my class, if you show up and do all the work, you are probably going to get a C or better, so almost all of those who are not successful are that way because of the reasons above. It makes it hard to fix from my end, because there is little that I can do in my class to make it better for those students.
Anyway, as I said, I just wanted to wrap up the semester here. I’ll have more substantial posts later, but this will tide everyone over, I hope.
Thoughts on Life – 3/19/2012 – Wrapping up Spring Break
Spring Break is nice. We took some serious time off and tried to rest up. I did a fairly minimal amount of work, but after about 2 1/2 weeks of grading, I was happy to have a break.
We did some house searching and found one that we really like. We are going to see it again soon so that we can fully evaluate it. We have also been pre-approved for a loan, so we are right on target. We don’t have to move out here until the end of July, but we are trying to be active here in looking for a house and coming up with the best opportunity for us. We found a 2700 sq. ft. house in our price range that seems quite perfect for what we are looking at. Plus, the kids would get to stay in their current charter school, which is perfect as well. We are continuing to look, but that house that we’ve found so far is really going to have to have something else perfect to beat it. It is exciting to look for a house, but it is also stressful. I have not slept well for days as I keep running ideas through my head rather than sleeping.
We also had one of my friends visit for a couple of days. The kids went off to stay with their grandparents for a good portion of the week, and we spent some time just hanging out as adults, something that is hard to do with three elementary-aged kids in the house. We also did, as my friend called it, a culinary tour of the city. We ate all over the place, avoiding chain restaurants and hitting various types of cuisine over the several days he was here.
Beyond that, I can’t say I got ahead on any work that I needed to do, but then, do any of us ever get as much done over Spring Break as possible?
Thoughts on Life – 3/13/2012 – Buying a house
We have made a big decision. We are looking to buy a house. My wife (ok, girlfriend when we started) and I have decided it is time to stop renting and time to get in a house. There are a couple of reasons for this.
- First, we really do not like the place where we live right now. This apartment complex is tolerable at best. We are surrounded by loud neighbors, and this has been true of whatever neighbors live there, as the turnover is high. The maintenance level at our complex is also really low, and has been for a long time. This means that everything is old, most of it has been patched together multiple times, and many things break every year. So, we have to put up with them coming in over and over and not fixing things over and over.
- Second, this apartment is just expensive on our budget. Yes, I know a house will be expensive too, but it will feel less like flushing money down the toilet with no chance of improvement ever. Right now, though, the money is hard to justify, especially considering the condition of the place. Plus, everything is exactly the opposite of energy efficient here, and we could hopefully rectify this in a house.
- Third, we can actually afford a house big enough for us right now. Yes, there aren’t a whole lot of 4+ bedroom, 2+ bathroom, 2250 sq. ft. + houses out there for under $150000, but there are some. That was not true not that long ago, but the housing prices have dropped far enough for buying to be a realistic option for us.
So, I have now scheduled our first viewing of a house we are interested in. Oh, and, yeah, we have no idea what we are doing at all . . .