Fall semester is winding down in the USA. We are past the stages of “Reaching our stride,” mid-terms, “Finally getting the hang of it,” and “Running out of time.” We are not yet at the stages of “The end is near,” or “It’s all over but the shouting.” Crunch time starts with a little less than two weeks of class remaining before final exams.
Crunch time is a stressful, pressure packed time for college students and professors alike. IMO there is too much stress, too much pressure. Neither students nor faculty are particularly fragile, but it is called crunch time for a reason.
After four years of undergraduate crunch times, students will be transfigured for life. Last week in a local coffee shop, a middle-aged woman admitted that she still had nightmares about final exams. Her most recent: being 30 minutes late and still unable to locate the room of the exam. Yikes! She never missed a test in her life, but still has fear. I occasionally have that same dream.
Crunch time is no fun for students. Homework still needs to be completed, lessons learned, pre-final tests crammed for and taken, major term papers and projects written and turned in. There is too much to do, too little time to do it in, and no one wants to fail.
Other profs provide the most sarcastic advice: “Start earlier next time.”
I try to be helpful, “Cancel your life.” You need to be focused and study every available minute of the day. A lot of things can slide. Here are three.
No, I’m not talking about what happens in the morning prior to a flushing of the toilet.
Professor dump happens near the end of the semester when a professor assigns a major paper or project. It’s all in the timing. A major assignment might strike with the force of a whining mosquito if made at the beginning of a semester. However, if the assignment is made with time running out, students can feel as if they are down in the toilet bowl looking up.
How you feel about professor dump depends on whether you are the dumpee or dumper.
I have mixed thoughts about professor dump. I feel obliged to enrich and legitimize my courses by adding papers and projects. There are two reasons for feeing obliged. First, I know that students learn more deeply by doing papers and projects instead of taking tests. Second, I don’t want other professors to view me as a wimpy wuss. And they might if my classes are too basic, only containing tests.
On the other hand, I wonder if I’m only checking off a box. By the end of a semester, students are tired from the long haul. How much can they learn from a project or paper if they are physically, mentally and emotionally stressed? Students compound their misery by burning the candle at both ends in an attempt to add time to the working day. In turn, they become more tired and less able to learn.
The one thing professors need to remember is that every paper or project assigned to students will come back and require copious amounts of grading (aka grading jail). This grading comes at a time when the professor is exhausted, and will take longer as a result (aka grading disaster).
– – David Albrecht